“Bow Down Your Bizness”

Spring, 1979-St.Petersburg, FL

I answered an ad in the paper (the antiquated way one used to find employment). My desperation for something full-time for the summer cannot be over-emphasized. I had work at a Ponderosa Steakhouse as the salad-bar girl, but it was only about 25 hours a week. I had no car, and needed to be in moped-riding distance from the apartment. When I went to the motel, the woman looked me up and down and said “We have some black ones here, ya know.” It amazed me that someone would say that…and I soon realized that this white woman was trying to tell me “you’ll be the only white maid, and nobody will think you are up for the task. You will be hated by the others.” I was undeterred and elated to discover I could start then and there, and would be provided a uniform the next day.

The first thing I had to overcome was the language barrier. I was downstairs on the two-story motel when a maid on the first floor yelled up to me something that sounded like “bow down your bizzness.” (The second thing I had to overcome was the condoms…everywhere).

I looked up at the balcony at the diminutive, caterwauling black woman. She kept screaming the same phrase at me, over and over, and she was clearly waiting for me to take some sort of action. I was just standing there when a woman I would soon learn was “the other white woman” (and the head maid) came up behind me. I was startled at first by her sneaking up on me but the real surprise was her clipboard…cradled in the crook of her miniature, crippled arm. So uniquely fitted was that clipboard to her disability I couldn’t help but stare, for what may have been seconds because the screaming began in earnest as she repeated the upstairs maid’s plea, “Throw down your linens.”

 

 

(Reprinted from an earlier blog on Tumblr.)

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