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OPINION: Bill Walton, Cleanliness

Cleanliness is next to godliness
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Cleanliness is next to godliness is an old saying that some of may have heard. I’m certain that I heard it used by a few preachers in my church-going days but not so much lately. St Peter is reported to have uttered the words in some context and people of the Jewish faith found the phrase useful in determining what was clean and what was unclean – in the spiritual sense. I do not recall hearing my mother use the phrase while she was scrubbing play dirt off our hands, faces, knees, necks and behind the ears, but she may have.

Then a few days ago my wife said it. Or something like that as she looked around – nay, inspected - the motel room we had just rented for the night. We had been on the road for three days and stayed each night at reasonably higher-end motels, hoping to find a good bed, quiet rooms, a decent breakfast in the morning and, a clean room. A good restaurant nearby was also essential to revive the body and calm the soul after driving for eight hours on an Interstate highway where transports run at 75 miles per hour and are passed by all but the more feeble of cars.

Even when you apply all the discounts, loyalty cards, and coupons you can easily drop more money for a room than you ‘earned’ that day from your pension plans. Therefore, you expect clean sheets, clean floors, and especially a clean washroom. Okay, you might find a dust bunny in a corner but still, you don’t want hairs from yesterday’s occupant in the sink or tub.

We were not keeping score but the motels on the trip south were about the same as the ones on the trip home. None passed the godliness challenge.

Cleaning hotels rooms is at best a lower end job requiring only some English or local patois, the ability to do cleaning and tolerate messes left by unclean hotel guests. The pay, one suspects, is not high. The hours may be irregular and the benefits few. These are jobs for those hoping to move on up to better positions or those too old to start a new career. A lack of formal education and job skills leaves not much except these kinds of jobs. Those were some of the arguments or excuses I tried to make to my wife about the unclean rooms. Didn’t work.

Finding a shoe under a bed or a hair dryer on a chair says that whoever gave the once over to that room was not very conscientious about their cleaning job. Where was the pride of workmanship? Well, I argued, maybe it is hard to have pride in minimum wage jobs like cleaning hotel rooms. My wife, who as a teenager had cleaned cottages on the South Shore, did not buy that.  No matter your job or profession, you must have some pride in your work. Otherwise, you get sloppy results, shoddy repairs and half-assed workmanship whether it be in painting a house or building a bridge.

So it was with great surprise that I heard my wife say, “at last – a clean room!” This was at the Best Western Plus in Woodstock, Ontario. Now, I don’t know what encourages the housekeepers at that hotel to do such fine work, but they should share their secrets.

Which started me wondering about how all the guests at the City’s recent curling championships found the rooms in our hotels and motels. If our rooms passed the Cleanliness is next to godliness test then perhaps that is something the City ought to advertise. The Cleanest rooms in Ontario might just be the ticket to attract travellers and tourists. The pride of being part of the system that can make that boast might make our cleaning staff feel a little better about their wages and important work.

Now, I don’t want to start a sign war of “The Cleanest Rooms in North Bay” but it would be okay to advertise the Cleanest Rooms in Ontario. Just saying.




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