Are you being served?

While on holiday in Mauritius recently (and yes, I promise that’s the last time I’ll start a blogpost with those words, ok?) I started thinking about the relationship between hotel guests and staff. This was the kind of resort where staff outnumber guests and someone was always nearby to serve you. So how do the staff feel about that? I mean, I’m sure most of them enjoy their jobs and are well paid, but even so, to spend every day waiting on someone who’s relaxing, swimming and sunbathing – wouldn’t there be a little envy there? “Lucky bastard gets to sit by the pool all day while I have to run around getting him drinks and cleaning up after him…”

Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a job serving others where I envied the client. The only service jobs I’ve done were in shops, and I never caught myself thinking “Ooh, if only I were like you, buying that DVD, rather than being me, selling it to you”.

There was also the added complication that being waited on hand and foot by African or Indian people inevitably makes me feel a little…well… colonial, particularly when they’re being all smiley and chatty and eager to please. And particularly when my country has a somewhat contentious and blood-stained relationship with theirs.

Then again, maybe I’m just projecting. Maybe the thought never crosses their mind. I suppose I could have asked one of them, but how do you start a conversation like that? “Excuse me, I was just wondering – do you resent me?”

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3 thoughts on “Are you being served?

  1. paola May 6, 2009 / 12:38 pm

    It’s not just a “colonial” issue… I have the same slight embarassment when the cleaning lady is around and I always try to make sure I am out of her way. Otherwise, what do you do: help? Sit and read and pretend she is not there? Never quite sure….

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    • Erik R. May 6, 2009 / 5:01 pm

      It’s always awkward when there is someone in your house doing something that you are paying them to do. Best to retreat to another room.

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  2. J May 8, 2009 / 4:18 am

    I worked in hotels for awhile, and never had a problem with people on vacation. I take vacations, too, so it doesn’t bother me. Perhaps if they were going somewhere I knew I could never afford, I might be a bit jealous. But mostly, no.

    The colonial thing is different. When we had someone come clean our house before putting it on the market, I was much more comfortable with the white cleaners than the Mexican ones, and it was because I wondered if the Mexican ones were making a living wage, etc. Ugh.

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