Recently in Malta as I was getting to my room the first time (in an addition to the main building) a middle aged and robust looking maid was waiting to use the small elevator as well. It was very small so I was going to let her use it first and then get to my room but she energetically gestured that there was enough room and proceded to toss my suitcase on the cart full of clean towels she was moving (okay, there was a plastic cover, but still…).
I have a habit when staying in a hotel of leaving tips for the maids that clean the rooms, usually between one and two Euros a day. So that they know they can take the money I leave it with a note saying ‘thank you’ or whatever (usually in the local language).
Around the second day I noticed the maid had left a message too (very rare). I had written merħba! (hello in Maltese) and she wrote “marhba bek!” I assumed the maid wasn’t Maltese and somehow got it into my head she might be Turkic and ‘bek’ was a dialectal variation of ‘pek’ (very). She added her first name as well (I’ll use Anna as a pseudonym).
Anna was not the most efficient maid I’d ever come across – she didn’t always leave the right amount or type of towels and the way she made the bed was very unimpressive (though the way the bed was in a narrow kind of alcove made it more difficult that usual) and there were other shortcomings. Still, I kept leaving money wondering what fractured answer she would make up next. Her penmanship was such that I had the idea that she was not used to the Roman alphabet and realized that ‘bek’ was probably a phonetic rendering of ‘back’. I didn’t know whether Anna was the maid from the elevator since for various reasons I left each morning after breakfast and didn’t get back until late afternoon.
My next to last day was Easter Sunday and not long before I was set to leave the hotel for the day there was Anna, the maid from the elevator. She wanted to say goodbye since she had the next day off and she wanted to thank me for being so polite and kind and spontaneously shook my hand and hugged me. I didn’t ask her where she was from or how she ended up where she was though I was curious about both (I’m a natural born snoop). That day I left a couple of Cadbury eggs with the tip and wrote Happy Easter! When I got back she had written what looked like” Good Poison!” on the note. Well, actually I figured out it was probably meant to be “good person” (or at least I hope so).
Some people just have a…. life force that makes an impression. I’ve met and forgotten many people in my life, some might be intensely important for a few months or years and then later can barely bring any distinguishing features to mind. But whether this person continues doing her slapdash job at the hotel or moves on to something else I wish her well. We interacted face to face for less than two minutes but I don’t think I’ll forget Anna anytime soon….