Some people are just special. They have a certain charm about them and a smile that can have an ability to light up any dark spot by anyone who encounters them. This person I am writing about is named Maria.
Maria is a girl I encountered on my last year cruise vacation. Every night as my husband and I walked up to the fifth floor dining room, there was Maria, happily mopping the marbled floors. Being that I am friendly with everyone and don’t judge others by their occupations and class in life, I always smile and say hello when passing people on the ship, whether it be fellow passengers or crew. Surprisingly I noticed that there were many who looked down on these staff members with menial jobs as if they were somehow better than them because they were lucky enough to be a passenger on this luxury liner. For me it is all about kindness and karma.
Every night I passed Maria in the hallway working diligently, I would say hello to her and acknowledge her by name as it appeared on her mandatory name tag. We engaged in little chats as the days passed and I commended her on her hard work and her shining personality. I remember thinking how happy she was to be mopping floors and when I asked her how long she had been with the cruiseline she had told me it was her first eight month contract and she was so grateful to have the job. Something about Maria had warmed my heart. She was a small girl with brown longish hair and she had a zest for life in her shining brown eyes and a smile to win anyone’s heart.
Before the cruise ended, I made sure to say good-bye to her and gave her a hug and told her I hoped to see her again next year.
On my recent cruise on the same ship, one night after dinner, I went to the ladies room on the fifth floor and the attendant in there looked vaguely familiar to me. As she greeted me by holding the door open, I smiled and said hello and within a moment, Maria said, “Hi beautiful lady from last year, remember me?” I blurted out “Maria?” with a huge grin. Then we hugged. What had caught me off-guard was that she had cut her long tresses into a pixie cut which she explained to me had to be done because the humidity was making her hair too much to handle while working on the ship.
I told Maria that I had filled out a guest comment card last year, letting guest relations know how cheerful and hardworking she was. These comments are taken very seriously by the cruise ships and thus they are very precious to cruise staff. The comments made can literally bump them up in position or send them home. Many employees come from Slavic countries, Indonesia, Philippines and many other places where it is hard to get a job. All the staff I had talked to seemed so grateful to have whatever job they had on the ship.
Maria is from Honduras. Every evening I went to that washroom just to visit Maria for a few minutes only as I didn’t want to interrupt her duties and get her in trouble. She had told me that she was happy she got bumped up to bathroom attendant and thanked me for my comments, as they were read back to her. I felt like I had a special bond with Maria and I wished that I could talk to her longer and find more out about her and it seemed that seeking her out at her post was the only way I could steal some time with her. When her duties are done she disappears to the ‘down below’ where the staff live and are not able to fraternize with the passengers. I detected that Maria was not only lovely but well-spoken and my curiosity got the best of me.
One day, a few days before my trip ended, I made it my business to find her in the morning while she was on short shift. I told her I came to say good-bye while it was early in the morning and the bathroom wasn’t too busy like at night near the dining room. I asked if I could take her picture (in the lounge, not the bathroom) and I spent a bit more time with her. She told me how much she wanted to work in hospitality and her goal was to work herself up to food and beverage. As the minutes passed, Maria continued to fill me in on her life as women entered the washroom in and out, all the while Maria opening the stall doors for them and handing them paper towels.
Maria told me SHE WAS A LAWYER. I just about flipped. I knew there was something more to that girl that met my eye. She told me her mother is a lawyer and her father is a doctor. She was going to be a doctor but she was too empathetic around sick and wounded people so she went to law school instead. Then she had a case where a husband was abusing his wife and Maria went out of her way to help the woman beyond the call of duty and later felt she couldn’t deal with the corruption going on with the system and decided she wanted to get away from everything and see the world. Quote from Maria, ” If my mother knew I was cleaning toilets she would have a fit.”
Maria had the courage to leave her position and boyfriend behind and start a new career where she could see the world and she didn’t flinch at the thought of starting from the bottom. Quite an admirable quality we don’t see much of in our North American world. I told Maria I’d love to write this post about her and asked her if she would mind if I did and also if I may use her picture. She was elated. I had also given her a copy of my book Conflicted Hearts one night and the next day when I saw her, she was quoting off parts of my book. She told me she got strength from my book to persevere through life’s bumps. I was touched beyond words.
I truly felt sadness leaving my Maria behind. We hugged and kissed and I told her I’d see her again next year and that she would be serving me a drink or working at the front desk after I got done filling out a comment sheet on her. Many women who came and went into that washroom had the same affection for that sweet girl and many said they would write good comments for her. I didn’t want to chance that to hear-say so I went right down to guest relations and asked for some paper and directed my letter to the hotel operations manager whom I had previously had a drink with. I wrote a lot about Maria and specifically noted that this girl was a waste of personality to be hidden away in a bathroom.
Keep on smiling Maria! Your time to shine is coming!