As a relatively new arrival to Dubai I’ve had the pleasure, like so many before me, of spending the past two months living in a hotel. Back ‘home’, in the weeks before I jetted out to the UAE, friends with whom I shared this fact would eye me jealously, no doubt envisioning some gold-plated five-star luxury. However, tell a new acquaintance your place of abode out here, and it’s accepted with merely a blink, as though living in a suite is as normal as… well, having a cleaner.
Yes, for the past eight weeks someone has made my bed, brought me clean towels and mopped up the pools of water that mount up after every shower I take. And there’s something slightly decadent about ripping open two pre-packed sachets of coffee per cup, knowing in confidence your (metaphorical) cupboard will be fully stocked at the same time tomorrow.
While I’ve quite enjoyed the perks of living in serviced accommodation, one of the hardest things to get used to was the chiming greeting of ‘hello sir’ every time I stepped into the corridor. Any more than a grunted ‘alright mate’ felt odd and undeserved; at first I felt special, until I realised that someone was perhaps being paid to be nice to me.
But these cheery hellos have proved to be my undoing. One weekend I returned from a day at the beach to find my room occupied by a cleaner. This was a head-scratching encounter; before now I’d been under the blissful impression that the overflowing bins, piles of dirty clothes and stacks of old newspapers would magically metamorphose back into order and cleanliness every time I left for work. And then there was a double take as I realised I was staring at the very same smiling man who greets me with clockwork regularity every morning.
I was face to face with the lone ranger charged with ordering the chaotic detritus of my life on a daily basis; a man who knows more about my dietary requirements, sleeping habits and personal hygiene routines than anyone in the world.
Since that day our relationship hasn’t been the same. I’ve found it hard to look my interloper in the eye, my morning greetings growing sheepish and withdrawn. Out of sheer guilt I’ve started to redouble my efforts to tidy up after myself. But I can’t make up for whatever I’ve already put this poor man through.
As my sense of shame slowly mounts, I’m finally starting to look forward to checking out of my hotel home. But before I leave, I want to reach out – I feel as though I should know this man’s name, where he comes from, his background, share some of his hopes and dreams. I should probably also leave him an enormous tip.