Saturday, April 12, 2014


Sloth ('the 'easy' way') is a Slippery Slope

Sloth, or taking the easy way, has become accepted as 'normal', regardless of the damage it causes. Case in point: the true account of Helen Sanchez. (Names are changed.) 

The Helen Problem
Helen Sanchez was single and worked cleaning motel rooms. She worked three mornings a week: Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, and cleaned only two rooms each day. I was the motel's weekday manager and head of the housekeeping department. Margie was the motel's resident night manager, and Margie's sister Bella, who lived with her, worked Saturday and Sunday daytime shift with the laundry detail.  

Two days after I hired on, the owners, Jim and Nora Rydan, showed up at the motel, unexpectedly, and told me that Helen was not to be given any additional rooms because she was on disability and her income had to be kept below a certain amount. Not that I asked Helen to do extra rooms during those two days; but it didn't go unnoticed that she came in late both days. I told the owners about Helen's tardiness. They said nothing in reply to that. Instead, after a brief pause, they changed the subject, then went on to other subjects, and at the end of our conversation I was told that I could hire, but I couldn't fire. In other words, no matter what, Helen was their only permanent employee, and in a work-at-will state. It seemed very strange to me.

The Puzzle
That Helen was on disability puzzled me. She was in her early fifties and overweight; but since she cleaned motel rooms, I figured her disability couldn't be physical, even though she walked with a slow waddled. She certainly didn't look, in any way, like a disabled alcoholic or drug user, so she couldn't be disabled because of addiction. The only thing I could figure is that her disability was emotional, because on that second morning when she was leaving, she made it a point to come to the reservation window and complain to me, without my asking, that the work was too hard on her, and she was on prescription medication for her depression. When I asked her why she wasn't working at a sit-down job, answering phones or something, she said she didn't want the responsibility those types of jobs carried.

When I arrived at work the third morning, I asked Margie about Helen. Helen was hired a few months before, and Margie felt that Danny, the previous weekday manager, quit because of the Helen problem. She said that Helen is always late, and often didn't show up at all, and didn't call in. When she didn't show up, Danny called her at home, but Helen never answered, and never showed up. Margie said Helen sometimes got in her car and left after cleaning only one of her two rooms. 

The thought of all that didn't sit well with me, for sure. It would leave a room, or two undone, and I would have to ask another staff member to do Helen's job. Margie said that's what Danny did at first, and she added that the motel lost a lot of good housekeeping staff because of the situation with Helen. Helen's indifferent, 'couldn't-care-less' attitude caused undue chaos for Danny. Helen was definitely not a team player. I didn't want to have to quit my new job on account of Helen; but, I didn't know how to satisfactorily solve the Helen problem.

The Causes and the Solution
That evening, while I was at home, it clicked. Jim and Nora kept Helen as a permanent, part time employee on their records so that they could get a tax incentive for hiring the disabled; and the second that dawned on me, I knew I would be constantly shoveling sand against the tide when it came to the Helen problem. 

A few weeks later, the situation was getting old. After asking other staff members many times to do Helen's room, or rooms, they were solidly into telling me they had things to do after their work hours were over; and, of course they did. I wondered if I should put a help wanted ad in the paper. I asked Margie. She said that's what Danny did, and he got chewed out by Jim for doing it, even though, like me, he could hire; and within a week of that chew out, Margie said Danny quit. 

The next afternoon, I was sitting at the front desk, wondering how to solve the Helen problem. Angela Lugo came to the reservation window. She and her husband were between residences and had been staying at the motel temporarily. They had been motel guests for about a week. Angela said she was looking for something to do and asked me if there was a housekeeping position. It didn't take me a split second to realize that the solution to the Helen problem was looking at me. I invited her into the office and explained that oftentimes there is a room or two in need a couple of hands; it was sporadic and last minute. She said that was fine with her. I put her on the payroll, ending the Helen problem. 

A week later, the owner's wife Nora showed up suddenly. She asked me why I hired Angela. I told her. She acted as if she never knew Helen was always late, oftentimes not showing up, never called in to let us know she wouldn't be in, and when we called her home number, Helen never answered. What's more, even though Nora knew there had been a large housekeeping staff turn over because of the Helen problem, she never let on. She just said to me, "Well, you know, she's disabled", as if I hadn't been told. With the hire-the-disabled tax incentive, I knew her and Jim's game, but I didn't let Nora know that I knew. Instead, I told her what I discerned about Helen: Helen has a character flaw. Nora asked me what I meant by that. I told her I couldn't put my finger on it, exactly; but she has a character flaw. Nora left in an unhappy mood. 

Room Number 5
On Friday afternoon of the next week, just before I left for the weekend, Margie and her sister Bella told me that Margie's son and his wife, who were from a town to the west, had booked room number 5 from that evening through Sunday morning. Room number 5 is what passed for the motel's 'honeymoon suite'. They were celebrating their first wedding anniversary on Saturday. Margie and Bella were making them an anniversary dinner on Saturday afternoon in their resident kitchen, to serve to them in their tiny dining room. I thought that was so nice.

Bella added that, since Margie's son wasn't able to give his wife an engagement ring, he promised her that he would give her one by their first anniversary; and Margie said that after Saturday's dinner, he was going to present his wife with the most beautiful diamond ring she and Bella ever saw, and that cost her son six thousand dollars. 

On the following Monday morning when I arrived at work, Bella and Margie were beside themselves. Margie's son had called her Sunday afternoon after they left the motel and arrived home. They left the ring in room 5 Sunday morning when they left the motel; but when Margie and Bella checked the room for the ring, it wasn't there. Room number 5 was Helen's second room that Sunday morning, and she hadn't turned the ring into the office before she left. Margie and Bella could only surmise that Helen left work with the ring. 

An All-Points Alert
Bella and Margie focused on finding Helen on Sunday. Bella called Helen's home number. As always, there was no answer. Margie went to the address Helen gave as her home address on her employement application. Helen didn't live there. In fact, Helen never lived there. By mid-afternoon, they notified the police department, and an 'all-points' alert was out on Helen, with a full description of the car she drove to work. In addition, on Monday morning the out-of-town jeweler who sold the ring gave the police a full description of it, and verified that Margie's son had bought it. The police notified region-wide jewelers and pawn shop owners, and asked them to be on the look-out for the ring, and for a women with Helen's name, her description, and the description of her car. 

A few days later, a jewlery store owner in a nearby city to the south, saw a car meeting the description pull up in front of his retail establishment. A women that met Helen's description stepped out of the car and entered his store. She took off a ring, showed it to him, and asked him if he would give her an estimate of its value. He took the ring and said he had to go into the back of his store to examine it. In the back of his store, the jeweler matched the ring to the all-points alert, and he called the local police department. They were there in a flash. They held Helen until the police from the motel's town arrived. 

Margie's daughter-in-law got her ring back. Helen was found guilty of class 5 felony theft. The judge sentenced Helen to three years in prison, the maximum time allowable under the law, because he felt what she did was malicious.  Helen was also fined ten-thousand dollars, and she had to serve a year probation after serving her sentence. That's what taking the easy way did for Helen. 

Tina Irene Williams

From ©WilliamsScript, the author's private collection of writings
Copyright © Tina Irene Williams 2014 All Rights Reserved. 
No part of this document may be reproduced without Tina Irene Williams' written consent.