Teen cleans up at Kenai hotel job

Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Teen-agers' reluctance to pick up after themselves or clean their rooms is legendary. But 17-year-old Carisa Doty is enthusiastically tidying up after strangers this summer.

Doty is into the second month of her first job, housekeeping part time at the Kenai Merit Inn.

She folds laundry and cleans up rooms: making beds, washing mirrors, wiping down surfaces, vacuuming and even folding that little point on the toilet paper roll.

"I like it, actually," she said Monday during a break from her duties.

Doty's friends tried to talk her into working at a fish processing plant, but she worried that the long and erratic hours would leave her no free time. Instead, she begins work at 9 a.m. and finishes up three or four hours later, five days a week.

"Their hours make it so I can go out and do things at night with my friends," she said.

Getting the job was her idea, but her family has been supportive. Her sister tipped her off to the vacancy at the inn, and her parents bought her a car -- a 1991 Pontiac Grand Prix -- so she could get to and fro. They even pick up the costs of her gas and insurance.

"It's nice," she said.

Working in the adult world has not changed her life significantly, she said, but getting paid the first time was a thrill.

"It was awesome," she said. "I got my first paycheck, and it was, like, I've got money!

"It makes me feel like I can pay for stuff instead of always taking my parents' money."

Doty, who will be a senior this fall at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, plans to save most of the $7-an-hour earnings toward college. She plans to study nursing at a school in Idaho.

She will set aside a bit "to play around with," she said, eying the cinema across the street.

She enjoys her co-workers and has been making friends with the older women. She praised them as helpful and understanding.

"I like working here a lot," she said. "They are really nice."

But Doty admitted her real-world job involves more pressure than high school.

"They expect your best," she said.

Her boss, Lila Arness, agreed.

Doty is doing a fine job, but most other teen-agers have not worked out well in the hotel, said Arness, who owns and runs the it along with her husband, Joe.

The job is physically hard, she stressed. Housekeeping workers are on the go throughout their shift and sometimes have to scrub floors on their hands and knees. Also, the students cannot work during the school year, because the housekeeping hours directly conflict with classes.

"The older girls are more dependable, and they know what dirt looks like," she said.

"So many (teens) don't have to work, so their hearts aren't in it."

Her hotel employs four or five part-time housekeepers and four full-time front desk clerks this summer. Despite the tourist season, the summer schedule does not include as many extra hours as job seekers might expect.

"You have to have those rooms turned around by 2 p.m.," she said.

Arness has some no-nonsense advice for teens interested in finding work at hotels.

"Clean up your own room first. Then come down and see how it's really done. If they don't like their mom nagging them, they won't like me."

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