Summer Is a Sad Season for the Poor

This week, New York magazine and the New York Times‘ “Escapes” section both report on the overlooked yet ennobling-to-contemplate underside of the readers’ summer vacation experience: the lives of the help. Through a series of interviews with Hamptons service employees (New York) and a narrative of a day on the job with Outer Banks cleaning crews (The Times), the two publications illuminate universal details about the lives of the little people:

They get paid per unit of labor.
New York Times: “Ms. Pugh and Ms. Evans get $3 a bed, which they share. This day they will make 108 beds.”
New York: “It’s $125 if I go to their house, $115 if they come to the club.”–Chris Numbers, tennis pro

They get worn out working so hard.
New York: “I’m usually too tired at night to go out, which is the case with a lot of people who work out here.”–Wendy Schmid, stables owner
New York Times: “‘All I want to do now,’ Ms. Stallings says, ‘is go home and have a drink.'”

They work with automobiles, which are also status symbols.
New York
: “What kind of car is that? An XK150, a 1960 Jaguar. It’s a nice little car to drive around town–a little tough on maintenance.” Peter Ortiz, body-shop manager
New York Times: “At just after 8 a.m., Vickie B. Stallings, 41, drives up in a metallic blue Ford ZX2 that was repaired in the auto body shop where she works sanding and prepping cars for painting.”

They experience–and participate in–gestures of generosity between the classes.
New York
: “Do they win sometimes? Very rarely. Only if I let them.”–Chris Numbers, tennis pro
New York Times: “When he reaches the top floor he finds a chilled bottle of sparkling wine and a $20 bill on the kitchen counter.”

Certain details of their lives blur class boundaries.
New York
: “My house is in Southampton, one house away from the water….I bought it for $260,000 two years ago. Now it’s probably worth $425,000.”–Hook Lavinio, East Hampton Airlines pilot.
New York Times: “Paddison Huspeth, a 25-year-old lawyer from the area, vacuums sand from the bottom of the house’s pool.”

They bear witness to vacationers’ bad behavior.
New York
: “A lot of celebrities believe they deserve special treatment and they can just walk into a place and just, you know, be rude.”–Wendy Schmid, stables owner
New York Times: “Watermelons get tossed from balconies, tipplers vomit in hot tubs, shaving cream gets sprayed on living room walls.”

They clean up your used condoms.
New York
: “What’s the worst thing you’ve found in a share house? Used condoms in the bed, of course.”–Caroline Purcell, housekeeper
New York Times: “‘I should get the golden condom award because I’ve found so many under the beds,’ Mr. Sanchez says.”

Summer Is a Sad Season for the Poor