Happy Holidays… You Filthy Animals.

Well, the holidays are upon us, a time for sharing, caring and plenty of travel tales from yours truly.

Unfortunately, I’ve been distracted writing, editing and obsessing over Book Two, serving travelers to my fair city and oh yeah, being a dad and husband, to spend time tending to the blog.

Still, I’m willing to do what I can.

To that point…

My day at the hotel began like any other, dead quiet and still, much like Kris Jenner’s mindscape. Then I was called to a family suite that had been converted to a temporary howler monkey habitat. That’s when things got interesting.

I’ve been married for twenty years next year, kids. I’ve survived college in Etobicoke. I’ve dated girls that would turn a straight man screaming to the other team. I serve a traveling  public that sometimes fears and hates me every day and I have done so for almost two decades. I’ve even read Ned Hickson’s book - and you should too.

But I’ve never seen a trio of literal wall-crawling, Red Bull-chugging, Cheeto-eating, screaming-until-their-voices-are-raw, lamp smashin’, bed leapin’, law breakin’, sanity- challenging, overpowered and under-medicated rugrats like the three I encountered this morning. Needless to say, I’ve had my share of close calls with crazed toddlers over the years and so it takes a lot to phase me.

But these little monsters phased me.

They were created in perfect succession; a year and a few inches separated each of them and yet, they were in perfect sync. The boy led the way and his two female siblings eagerly followed in his destructive footsteps. Of course, the parental units were blissfully ignorant to their spawn’s collective rampage. They always are though, aren’t they? Some parents spend fifteen seconds making babies… and a lifetime ignoring them afterwards.

But back to the toddler madness. I was in the room for a full two minutes before all Hell really broke loose. The boy gave me a very strange look, much like a cheetah eyeing a gazelle. And then…

“HEY, SIR! GOTCHA!”

He ran straight up to me… and sacked me.

Yep.

Men, feel free to wince and cover your groin. Ladies, feel free to chuckle – but not for long. Personally, I’m taking a bit of pride in the fact the little monster had a big target…

As for the aftermath of the run-by sacking, let’s just say the little guy fit nicely in his father’s suitcase and leave it that, shall we? To say anymore would be to court death – or a at the very least, a visit to HR.

Again.

See you in the lobby, kids…

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How To Travel With Kids During The Holidays – Without Killing Them.

HOOK’S NOTE:  I figured I’d keep the title simple, seeing as parents always seem to have a million thoughts running through their heads at any given time. Moving on…

I’m no travel expert like Sarah Pittard and I’m not what eggheads would refer to as a “responsible parent” but…

Wait, I’ve been a bellman for seventeen years and parent of a still-living, productive child for sixteen.

Never mind. Where were we?

Oh yeah. It’s the holiday season and my lobby is slowly filling up with moms, dads… and far too many over-medicated, hopped-up-on-sugar-and-Red-Bull rugrats. The cynic in me is itching to grab some sacks, black bags and one-way tickets to Cuba, but the humanitarian side of The Hook has another idea. In that spirit, here are some tips to help parents mold their little hospitality terrorists into model guests.

1)  LAY DOWN THE LAW.

Today’s parent seems to be more concerned with being a cool best friend than a guide/warden. Being popular is great (or so I’ve been told), but let’s face it, parents who apply a soft touch become pushovers and their kids become mini-Kardashians. I grew up with a girl who was a true hell-raiser; she smoked like a chimney, drank and cursed like a sailor, and boys climbed in and out of her bedroom window with frightening frequency. Her parental units went easy on her (unlike the boys who were anything but gentle, according to local legend), and they were soon rewarded with a new title: Grandparents.

I’m not suggesting you crack the whip 24/7, but trust me, your kids will grow to appreciate and more importantly, respect you, if you establish ground rules early on. Like, from the womb, shall we say?

His reputation may be in tatters at the moment, but I’ve always been partial to Bill Cosby’s immortal line about parenting:

“I brought you into this world.. and I can take you out.”

Boy, if I had a nickel for revery time my mom employed that line… Bill Cosby could borrow it to pay his lawyers.

Perhaps we should move on. What do you say?

The Hook’s ABCs of Travel For Kids

A)  Always be respectful of others, property, and the law in general. You may be snickering, but I’ve met many a super-villain-in-training over the course of my two decades in hospitality. Just because mom and dad are busy unloading the van (with a bellman’s assistance, hopefully), checking in or searching for the room, doesn’t mean you should run amok like Tasmanian devils on crack. Your parental units may not have the energy or willpower to take notice of you but believe me… others do.

I’ve herded many a rugrat stampede in my day and I’m not above doing it again. But I shouldn’t have to. You’ll be inheriting this world before you know it, kids; its never too early to start taking responsibility for it. It’s not as boring as it sounds. After all, your Uncle Hook is considered a productive member of society.

 B)  Be nice to everyone you meet – especially hospitality workers.  Trust me, kids, you may think its fun to terrorize hotel workers but never forget, we have master keys, we know where you’re sleeping, and we have access to cleaning supplies so no one will ever know we were there.

Consider that the next time you decide to create a homage to Jackson Pollock on your hotel room’s walls in crayon – or other materials.

C)  Instead of chaos, why not create some worthwhile, lasting family memories while traveling?  Put the phones/iPads/devices down and pay attention to everything around you. This will be hard, if not impossible for you to believe, kids, but there’s a big ole, three-dimensional world out there and your parents are only half as lame as they appear to be. And if they really are as lame as Kris Jenner from the neck up? Then this is the perfect opportunity for you to turn them around. Just inform them you have all their friends on Facebook and threaten to bash them if they don’t take their parental responsibility seriously.

And I haven’t forgotten about you, parents. Here are some rapid-fire tips to help ease your holiday travel stress.

1)  Dehydration is the enemy.  Kids love to whine – about anything – so keep them hydrated but not with soda or Red Bull… please! Admittedly, water isn’t my favorite drink either, but most tetra-pack juices are loaded with enough sugar to keep Mike Tyson going through ten rounds, so keep plenty of water on hand.

2)  Hunger is also the enemy.  (Yes, travel is rife with conflict. Get over it.)  But sugary snacks and fast food are not the answer! Fresh fruit is sure to keep your little monsters balanced. Just don’t forget to clean the car out when you arrive. Bananas and the interior temperature of a vehicle do not mix well…

3)  Idle hands are a menace to your peace and tranquility.  Traveling during the holidays?  It may sound strange, but a gingerbread house will keep the kids occupied for hours. Remember to pack an old tablecloth and rags though. General crafts and for that matter, books (your kids may not recognize them but they’re the best), are a great time-killer at any time of the year. Just don’t pack anything that can destroy a hotel room if you divert your attention for a moment or two.

4)  Be fair with the radio dial/CDs.  I realize most families don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to auditory stimulation (weird sentence, I know, but you’ll be fine). However, your kids will turn on each other – and you – if they don’t have something charming to soothe their savage breasts. (Okay, I admit it… that sentence was even weirder. I’ll bring things back to relative normal. Promise.)

So try this: Play a few minutes of their favorite stations/tunes and then switch to yours. The balance should keep everyone happy and who knows? You may even bond with the little devils.

And speaking of which…

5)  When all else fails.. talk to your kids!  This is a radical concept and may be tough to absorb, but your kids are actual, albeit tiny, human beings with hopes, dreams, thoughts and opinions on many a subject beyond boogers, video games and internet porn.

So take a leap of faith and fill those travel hours with conversation. I fondly remember the good old days when people communicated without the benefit of texts or Skype or any other device or platform. Or as many a teenager refers to those days, The Dark Ages.

Believe it or not, those were good times.

**************************

I was a child of the Seventies and so my parents had a sure-fire tactic they’d employ before any family excursion. They’d select a neighborhood family that moved away months before as an example of what would happen if I decided to act out.

“Remember Jason Richards from down the street? He got out of control the last time they went on vacation.. and it was the last time he went anywhere! They didn’t move away… they hid the evidence and started over somewhere else!”

Needless to say, I was a model child while traveling. Of course, that tactic wouldn’t fly these days, not with Twitter, Skype, Facebook and a million other social media sites in play, but it was damn effective back then. My point is this: Never discount the value of a good scare when it comes to child-rearing. Kids are resilient and they watch more violent television in a week then I ever did in my entire childhood, so feel free to put a good fright into them.

The trip you’ll be saving will be your own.

Well, that’s all I have for you today, folks. This is just the tip of the iceberg, obviously, but I’ll be revisiting this topic the next time a family unleashes their “little darlings” in the lobby.

 This sight isn’t that far removed from the actual reality I reside in,  friends…

 

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Biggest measure of success as a writer? When you can use it to help others

The Hook:

Read this, be in awe of Ned Hickson’s humanity, and follow his example. Thank you.

Originally posted on Ned's Blog:

image Welcome to this week’s edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I take the cumulative wisdom gained through 16 years as a columnist and, just like the unexpected arrival of a holiday fruitcake, share it with as many people as possible. Including by force if necessary.

It’s a writing feature the National Society of Fruitcake Lovers has called, “…writing tips that will stick in your teeth…”

And what Publishers’ Digest has heralded as, “…insights from a writer who has been endorsed by fruitcake lovers. We think that says it all…”

But enough accolades!

This week’s NWOW is going to be different than any I’ve done before. That’s because it’s stems from an idea I got from a reader named Sandy Wagoner. For those of you who remember my last big idea, the fact that this one came from someone else is already a step in the right…

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Saturday In A Nutshell.

Well, it’s Sunday. Again. And I’m knackered. Again.

That about covers events in my world at the moment. See ya.

Still here? Boy, you’re a trooper, aren’t you? All right fine, here we go…

My Saturday in a Nutshell

It started out with a flat-line… and stayed that way for hours. With one exception. I was summoned to our penthouse suite by two older couples with plenty of youthful exuberance – and bucket loads of sass.

OLDER LADY. (WE’LL CALL HER “MARGARET”.):  (As we entered the guest elevators.)  This isn’t a very desirable place to live.

HER HUBBY:  (HE DOESN’T GET A NAME. DEAL WITH IT.):  Niagara Falls? What’s wrong with it?

MARGARET:   Mary’s son, Tom, worked for legal aid down here and the things he saw… Oh Lordy!

That was enough for me.

ME:  You do realize they have crime everywhere, miss?

MARGARET:  Of course, I do! But Tom said the crime down here is downright strange!

ME:  Strange? Most of the crime in the Niagara region consists of petty theft and breaking and entering… not bizarre capers carried out by villains with a gimmick in colorful outfits accompanied by henchmen.

MARGARET:  What?

HUSBAND #2:  He means they don’t have super villains down here! Like Batman villains? From the TV show?

ME:  Give the man a prize.

I’ll give Margaret her due; she was a tough old bird who was unphased by my clever retort.

MARGARET:  Well, I still think this is a bad place to live!

ME:  No city is crime-free. You could always move to a big city like Toronto and get shot in the head, miss.

I know what you’re thinking, but it’s okay. They already tipped me. As for Margaret, her silence was golden.

As you can imagine, the rest of the day paled by comparison. Of course, this being the holiday season, there were plenty of corporate Christmas parties throughout the hotel. And you know what that means, don’t you? That’s right, all the staples of the holiday party were unfolding in front of me.

  • The cougar wives way past their prime, dolled up to the nines and hobbling about on high heels.
  • Hookers, young and ripe for the… plucking.
  • That bastard Johnson from the office, drunk and as lecherous as always. (Every company has a bastard named Johnson, it’s the law.)
  • “Weekend girlfriends”, bought and paid for.
  • Office hook-ups.
  • Rivers of booze.
  • Mountains of drugs. (You can hide the drugs but you can’t hide the effects.)
  • Did I mention hookers? (Because there were hookers. Lots of them.)

And we had a bus. On a Saturday night. A bus full of old folks. And we were short-staffed. Granted, the old folks were super nice, but we were still overwhelmed. But, as you’ve no doubt surmised, I survived.

But I’m knackered, so this is it for The Hook, I’m afraid. See you in the lobby, kids…

What is this young lady doing here? Let’s assume she’s an escort. Who is reading my blog. Hey, it could happen. Shut up.

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NEVER A Dull Moment In My World…

My apologies for the unoriginal title, friends. I know I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again, count on it – but it bears mentioning frequently.

JOE:  (A senior valet driver whose youthful exuberance is refreshing.)  Look what I found outside on the valet deck, Robert!

The receipt was from an establishment that caters to lovers who are serious about their vocation. In other words, it was a receipt from a sex shop.

JOE:  (Giggling like a school girl.) You read it?  It’s for “ANAL STARTER”! What is that exactly?

ME:  Well, in my experience, Joe, it’s a ridiculously expensive bottle of wine. That, and an empty promise like, “I swear it won’t hurt much, honey.”

Joe pondered my explanation for a long moment and then burst out laughing. As did the three valet drivers at the desk across from mine. And the five guests who happened to be fortunate enough to be approaching my desk at that educational moment.

And that’s how my day started. Who knows where it will go from here?

See you in the lobby, kids…

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Ten-Hut! There’s an Inspection Today, So Straighten Up And Fly Right, Maggots!

There’s an inspector from Head Office (a term that shouldn’t make me giggle so much, but it does), in the hotel today and so, as anyone with a modicum of familiarity with the inner workings of bureaucratic thinking knows, all hell is breaking loose.

Vacuums are running non-stop. Brooms are sweeping back and forth in perpetual motion. Waste receptacles are being dumped after a single piece of garbage is deposited in them. (I’m having so much fun doing that.) Dogs and cats are living in sin.

It’s mass hysteria.

Naturally, I’m loving every second.

Inspections are all about nudging hotel franchise owners in the right direction, nothing more. Head Office (yes, it happened again), wants to ensure their satellite properties are running properly and serving guests with maximum efficiency while treating them like kings and queens – even if they’re paupers. Owners and managers take these visits so seriously, their butt cheeks clench tight enough to produce diamonds. (Yes, that’s how a bellman really survives the off-season, kids. He places coal has coal placed in a manger’s anal cavity well in advance of an inspector’s arrival… and waits for a diamond to fall out. It’s that simple.)

I joke of course. (What else am I going to do? It’s dead in the hotel right now!) In all seriousness, though, I fully acknowledge the importance of inspections and in that spirit, I present to you now a list of things I won’t be doing while the good inspector is with us.

1)  Rapping at the Bell Desk.

I’m no Ice-T, but I do all right. Still, it looks pretty scary. Never mind a flamingo on Ritalin, I look like a flamingo that’s been hit with 1.21 gigawatts of electricity.

2)  Launching makeshift projectiles in the lobby from a homemade catapult.

It is fun to give old folks a shock though. The challenge is to get close enough to a old man to make him crap himself. What can I say? I get bored. And I don’t have to cl ean it up, anyway.

3)  Adopt a distant look on my face as I contemplate my latest blog while at work.

So much for that one.

4)  Laugh hysterically when fifteen tourists find themselves trapped in the hotel’s two-hundred and fifty-thousand revolving door.

Which, incidentally, happens… All. The. Time.  The sensors are more sensitive than your worst girlfriend/boyfriend. And they’re tripped even easier than security at Fort Knox. I usually just giggle quietly at my near-by desk but sometimes I have to get up close and personal to the inaction to really appreciate it. Guests just don’t seem to grasp the concept of overcrowding. They jam themselves in there and hope for the best.

Which always leads to the worst.

5)  I promise not to make a guest weep by unleashing a tirade of patented, veiled insults when I’m inevitably stiffed today.

Anyone buying this? Anyone at all?

6)  All right… I promise not to tell anyone when I make a guest weep by unleashing a tirade of patented, veiled insults when I’m inevitably stiffed today.

How’s that?

7)  I’ll try not to engage in too many conversations like this one:

In front of the inspector, at least.

MIDDLE-AGED, CRANKY MALE GUEST:  (To me, while observing two smokin’ hot, very much in love – with each other – young girls.)  I don’t get the whole lesbian thing, buddy! In fact, I hate ‘em!

ME:  (Otherwise known as “Buddy’.)  That’s a bit harsh, even for a Monday morning, sir.

MCMG:  Maybe, but they tick me off! I mean, if they have each other, what do they need me for?

ME:  To remind them why they turned to lesbianism in the first place? And why they still embrace it?

As usual, my aggressive candor brought his thought process to a standstill, bu the recovered nicely. In his own way, of course.

MCMG:  Ha! You’re a smartass, buddy! I love that about you! It’s a good thing, too, or I would have had to kick your ass!

ME:  Lucky me, then. I’m a bleeder.

MCMG:  Ha!

8)  I won’t slap any cougars on the backside and say, “You’re a tall glass of water, aren’t you, sweet stuff?”

Wait, cougars say and do that to me. Never mind.

9)  I promise not to comment on the holiday-themed vase on our desk filled with Christmas ornaments and say, “Boy, we sure have a lot of balls!”

I’ll wait until I get to the Front Desk to say that. Maybe.

And finally…

10)  I won’t fall to my knees in the lobby like Willem Dafoe in Platoon and scream, “WHY, GOD? WHY?” whenever Wrecking Ball is played in the lobby.

And trust me, it will be.

And that, my friends, concludes my promises for the day. Don’t ever say I’m not a team player.

See you in the lobby… Unless the inspector is around. In that case, I’ll be hiding in a specially-designed cubby hole…

ONE LAST THING:

It’s World Aids Day, so educate yourselves, okay? Knowledge is power.

 

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Well, I’m no Detective William Murdoch of the Toronto Constabulary, but…

I do all right.

To begin with, it has to be stated for the record that I’m one lucky son of a bitch. It certainly doesn’t feel that way, but its true. As a bellman I’m in a unique position to observe people at their best… and their worst.

Two young girls – giggling all the while – stood beside me this morning as I waited for a guest elevator to take me to my first call of the day. They were so enthralled in their conversation they drifted from reality, barely squeezing their tightly-wrapped, nubile, twenty-something forms through the elevator doors in the nick of time.

They were Lucy and Ethel for a new age; a towering blonde in classic librarian glasses, a form-fitting, black-as-night sweater that left nothing to the imagination (wasn’t that sweet of her?) and impossibly-tight leather pants and her bubble-headed BFF, a statuesque fiery redhead in a wet-t-shirt-ready white blouse that was woefully insufficient to withstand the chill in the lobby air (but I imagine she planned it that way), and a pair of faded blue jeans that one can only assume she was poured into, that’s how tight they were.

As I was saying, they were wrapped snugly in their own world and so they paid me no mind.

Thank God.

Girls like this make my job so much easier.

“LUCY”:  Well, last night was the night.

“ETHEL”:  What are you talking about?

LUCY:  We finally did it!

ETHEL:  You guys always do it! You even did it in an RV while your parents sat up front!

Have to admit, I liked these girls immediately.

LUCY:  NO, you whore, I’m talking about “IT”. I finally let him do “IT” to me!
Never mind the insult, Ethel just kept on rolling. I guess her whorish status was a badge of honor.

ETHEL:  Wait… do you mean.. you let him put it… there?

There? Ouch.

LUCY:  (Wincing slightly at the memory as she answered.)  Yep.

ETHEL:  It wasn’t his birthday? Because I let Gary do that. Once. But only for his birthday. And only after he got me really doped up and drunk. Was it his birthday?

Nice. Who says romance is dead?

LUCY:  (Still ignoring my presence.)  No, it wasn’t his birthday. But I decided to give him a present anyway!

A tie or a smartphone probably would have been sufficient, but oh well, to each his own. 

ETHEL:  Well?

LUCY:  Well, what?

Seriously?

ETHEL:  Well, how was it? Did you enjoy it?

At that moment, Lucy just froze and shivered slightly, no doubt recoiling from what I imagine was a very unpleasant experience.

LUCY:  Uh, well… it…

I could stand it no longer.

ME:  It hurt like hell, didn’t it?

I was the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs’ entire civilization, the father that walked in on the slumber party confessions and the cop that put a stop to the Inspiration Point make-out session – all wrapped up in a drab bellman’s uniform.

The girls froze. For a moment at least.

LUCY:  How did you know?

ETHEL (Giggling all the while.)  Yeah, how could you possibly have known what we were talking about?

ME:  Well, I’m no Detective William Murdoch of the Toronto Constabulary… but I’m not a moron either. I’m assuming you didn’t book the Sodomy Suite when you checked in?

The girls – as girls like this usually do – pondered my statement before breaking out into a fit of laughter that continued when I exited the elevator.

My apologies for any frustration you may be experiencing at this moment but that’s how my life works. I walk in and out of guests’ lives, observing as much as I can for a few fleeting moments before processing those events and passing them onto you.

I hope this tidbit was satisfactory, friends. Onto the next one. See you in the lobby, kids…

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