Driving through Arizona, the air feels dangerously hot. Long stretches of cactus-lined desert land, a fascination with dinosaur kitsch, and one of the only states I know where the major attractions entail standing at the edge of various abysses. Or climbing into them.
I met Leila Dilyou while checking into the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was late (though still over 100 degrees). I asked her if she was at the end of her shift and she explained that, in fact, she was the night auditor and would be up after hours. I woke up early and interviewed her as she finished up.
Leila’s history with work has played out like a walk along a precipice; precarious and teetering on possible disaster. But Leila seemed nonchalant about that. I guess one gets used to it in Arizona.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Josh Rose: What do you do at this hotel?
Leila Dilyou: Basically, the job I do is called night auditor front desk.
I run reports for the back office, the manager, the general manager, valet, the coffee shop. Telling them the arrivals, what rooms are vacant, the revenue that they’re going to be making. Letting them know how many people are arriving today. How many people are departing today. Everyone gets their copy for the day. The hotel wouldn’t run without me doing that.
So basically, I’m kinda like the bookkeeper. We all have different tasks. Nobody does what I do and I don’t do what they do.
I also have to do front desk stuff, meaning I have to be in charge of the desk. I have to check guests in. I have to make sure their needs are met. Sometimes it’s difficult because guests need, you know, certain things. I try to accommodate them as much as I can. Keep the hotel, you know, clean and in one piece until the morning shift comes around like 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m.
It’s only me and security at night, there’s no other person here. Basically, the whole place is mine.
How old are you and what was your path here?
About a year ago I moved to Idaho, from Phoenix. I just wanted a change. It was too hot. I found a job in Idaho doing customer service work at a 24 hour food store in a small town called Aberdeen. It’s really small — there was only one grocery store and like three gas stations. I worked the night shift there from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. I worked that straight for 10 months.
I’m used to the big city. I go into this little town and I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” Just to get to a Walmart or anything like that, I had to drive 20 miles. But for me, I loved it because I was tired of the big city and I wanted something different. And, that was different.
What was it like working there?
I loved it. With that job I was always moving around, cleaning. I had a checklist that I had to do. I had regular customers because the town was so small. So, everybody knew everybody. You know? People started to know me by name. It was comfortable there, and then months passed and I started missing my family. I started missing the big city.
I started getting tired of doing the job, because, there were coworkers that just didn’t want to change and they were making the day harder for me. I just didn’t see a future in that, you know? If nobody wants to grow, then I didn’t want to be a part of it.
I’ve been back in Phoenix for three months.
How did you get this job?
I called my friend, Krystal, a manager in food and beverage who I’ve known for like eight years. I was like, “Look, I’ll need a job when I get to town.” She said, “Oh. Well, come work at the hotel. They’re looking for a night auditor position.” And, I was like, “Okay.”
Nobody wants to work at night, but I wanted to ’cause I was already used to it.
It is kinda hard on my son, because I sleep all day. I don’t really get time with him. But, I found out how to level it out.
Why do the audits have to be done at night?
That’s just how it works.
Tell me about your son. How old is he?
He’s three. Right now his dad takes care of him while I’m at work. I sleep like five hours and then I get up.
I love him. I got him a cellphone; a fake one. He’s on it like it’s a real phone like, “Oh, somebody’s calling me.”
And I’m like, “Oh. Who’s calling you?”
And he’s like, “That’s Spiderman. Hi Spiderman. How are you?”
He loves Spiderman. He has Spiderman everything. I got him this thing at Walmart that actually shoots web. It’s so cool. He’s just going crazy with it.
What’s your family’s background?
I’m Indian and black, from Albuquerque, NM. I was actually born in Shiprock. I never knew my dad, so I don’t really know much about his side. My mom’s Indian — Apache. I grew up with her in Albuquerque. Then I moved to Tucson. But I used to live on a farm with my grandpa. He had a lot of land. He had a big farm in New Mexico with sheep, chickens, cows… He died when he was 99.
Tell me about your teens to mid 20’s before you moved to Idaho?
When I got out of high school in Tucson, I worked at Whataburger. That was my first job. I worked all the way up to management.
Then I got fired because somebody on my shift decided that they wanted to steal all the orange juice cartons out of the freezer.
I got another job working as a waitress at a restaurant. I liked it. I mean, I liked the tips. I was young. I had that job for a while and then stayed with my sister for a while. She has seven kids.
Then I had my one and I went back to school. The school ended up being a fraud. They ended up shutting down the school. I ended up getting my money back. It was all in the news.
What happened after that?
A lot of floating around.
Where would you like to take this, career wise?
Well, in five months I can move positions within the hotel, and that’s what I want to do. But, I don’t know what I wanna do. That’s the thing.
And they have hotels all over the world: Paris, L.A., Chicago.
I am very happy. I see this as a career, you know? The other job was just a job. Here I can actually better myself in-house.
I’m very good with customers. I’m just a people person. I love when somebody’s like, “Oh, I need this.” I actually go above and beyond to make them smile. It makes me happy inside.
I love it. It genuinely makes me happy.