We’re All Here Because We’re Not All There.”Anonymous”
Before moving to The Keys I worked strictly in Retail. Since moving here, I have worked in Hospitality for the entire time, a major industry here. This includes Vacation Rental Business, Time-Share Business, Major “Flagged” Hotels, Resorts, and a small “Mom & Pop” owned Resort. I’ve pretty much worked in all divisions- “Front of The House” and “Back of The House”, as they call it. Both sides.
For the most part, I’ve liked working mostly “Back of The House”. I thought Retail would be the same as Hospitality. Sell a dress, sell a room – what could the difference be. BIG DIFFERENCE!! Huge difference altogether. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking, it is not at all the same. But back then how could I possibly have known then what I know now.
Staffing – for one thing. On this Island, as it is everywhere in the Keys, Staffing is nearly Mission Impossible. The workforce here suffers from what is commonly known as “Keys Disease”. My first hint of this is when, during an interview for a Major Retail Sporting Goods company, one of the questions during the 3rd and final interview was. “Do you think you’ll suffer from Keys Disease after you move here? My jaw must have dropped when I stared at Ms. “Muckety Muck” and blurted out “What’s that, what does that mean”. She pleasantly explained that this was when employees did not show up for work – went to the beach all day, or out on the water – and spent their time drinking. I was appalled! I was what I call viciously insulted. There I was, in a business suit, educated, with an impeccable resume performing a Five Star Interview and the head of Human Recourses ask me that! I carefully explained, through gritted teeth, point by point, just exactly why this would never occur with me. I thanked her for her time and smoothly departed. I got the job offer alright; it was a good one. But I never took it and I never called them back. I decided there was something either seriously wrong with that particular company or that this particular woman was insane.
I found out much later that the are many people living and working here with “Keys Disease” mostly in the Food Industry. I’ve never had it and have never hired any staff that had it. But it is real, and it is chronic. Many of the viable work staff here are either bussed down from Homestead or hired through pre-set governmental work exchange programs, hiring groups of people from other countries. Russia, Germany, France – mostly young people doing a “gap” year from University, etc. The whole thing is an odd setup. A house of cards that could fall apart at any time, a vicious circle. I’ve developed my own methods of getting around it. Hiring friends, people I’ve met socially that are “normal”, retirees. But I must say though that anyone I have interviewed for staff I have never ever asked that question. I still get irked when I think of Ms. Muckety Muck and her interview techniques, and I always supposed her actions were a loss for that company. Their problem is not mine, but I learned from it and suppose that this is all that really matters about that.
I like people, meeting them, talking to them, I like Hospitality. I love tourists, I’ve met people and made friends from around the world. It’s a happy environment – people are on vacation they are euphoric. Who wouldn’t want to be around that all day? What I don’t like are the questions they ask me.
Do you live here? Huh?
What do you do? Huh?
I mean when you’re not here. Huh?
Where do you get your food? Huh?
Do you like it here? Huh?
Why do you live here? Huh?
My all-time favorite is “What was the Hurricane like?” Complete with a litany of add-on intrusive questions.
In my head, I think of a thousand sarcastic answers. “No, I’m “Choppered” in daily from Miami”. “I drink beer and lay on the beach”. “I order all my food from “Blue Apron”. “I’m in the Witness Protection Program and I have to live here”. “It was hell, like a war zone, I wept when I saw my home. I still cry when I think about it”. Out of my mouth come demure elusive responses. This, I suppose is how a Zoo Animal might feel if they could talk and people were staring at them taking pictures. My friend Odessa says I need a plaque around my neck stating “Indigenae Femina Locus Huius Insulae Floridae”.
They have those at Zoos, you know, it explains the animal you’re viewing she says”. She thinks it should list preferred foods and nocturnal habits; although, there should be a “Do Not Feed” clause. “I’m an artist I could make you one….” There are lots of artists in the Keys. It’s impossible not to know one. Or know someone who thinks they are one. The Island is riddled with them.
Odessa is busy on the project now…..