The icy, unfeeling, unrelenting grip of wintertide has tested my soul as it never has before, numbing my fingers and freezing my mind’s processes in place for moments that stretch to hours.
However, hope springs everlasting. It certainly doesn’t feel like it at the moment, but the spirit of summer is waiting in limbo to live and thrive again, my friends.
Not only does summer’s return signal a new chapter of my ongoing saga and a desperately-needed rejuvenation of my financial well-being, it also brings with it a new crop of hospitality worker wannabes. To those applicants among you, I have the following portents to impart. Heed them or be subject to ridicule and suffering.
1) In the hospitality hierarchy, bellmen reign supreme. Okay, to be honest, servers, as long as they’ve been fortunate enough to score a position in a high-end dining room, are at the top of the food chain. But servers are a different breed all-together. It requires real skill to serve food to an ungrateful populace in an efficient, charming manner. Bellmen are the less-accomplished-but-super-cool cousins to servers.
(Let the debate begin.)
2) You’ll need to spend a pretty penny on a pair of well-constructed shoes. Or several pairs of poorly-constructed pairs of footwear. The choice is yours. Either way, you’re going to spend more time on your feet pacing back and forth than a call girl on a lonely stretch of urban hell, so be ready.
3) If you’re not comfortable being the center of attention for bewildered guests scrambling about a hotel lobby, run. Run hard. Run fast.
4) You’re going to have to learn to be comfortable as an updated version of the Invisible Man. When you’re a bellman, no one ever sees you coming – even when you’re in the room delivering luggage. It’s not personal. It’s human nature.
5) Expect the unexpected. That’s fact, not hyperbole.
(I was tempted to say “That’s the cold hard truth”, but the fact is, truth has no temperature, nor is it rigid or flaccid. It simply is. My apologies to Kevin O’Leary.)
6) Bellmen often say “Never a dull moment!” while dealing with the rigors of the job, but there are dull moments to be had. And how. The downtime will try your patience more than an evening at a strip club accompanied by your mother-in-law.
7) You’re going to see more hookers than a twenty-year veteran of the NYPD vice squad.
8) You’re going to hear people – and the odd animal – having sex. Hotel room walls are basically tissues with wallpaper slapped on by the lowest bidder.
9) You’re going to see people – and sorry, but yes, the odd animal – having sex.
10) Being able to pack fifteen bags into a trunk designed to hold five is a required skill for any bellmen worth his salt. You’ll hear “It’s just like Tetris, right?”, so often you’ll become immune to the words and a weak smile will simply appear on your face instinctively.
11) You’ll learn to fake your emotions so expertly you’ll put this chick to shame…
12) An irrefutable truth will become clear almost instantly:
People are capable of anything.
13) Muzak is the Devil’s creation – and Ole Lucifer is charge of programming what you hear in hotel lobbies and elevators.
14) Facial recognition skills that put an FBI profiler to shame are necessary to ensure returning guests feel extraordinary.
15) Discretion is key when dealing with returning guests who feel it necessary to bring their mistress and spouse to the same hotel on a regular basis. I once had a colleague who was literally shoved out of a room by a panic-stricken wife who refused to risk her sugar daddy’s wrath because some impudent bellman had the audacity to recognize her.
16) The moment will come when you’re forced to choose between making a buck and following the rules.
17) If you’re inclined to choose the love of money over the rules of the house and your own principles, stop reading now.
18) A guest will ask you to to procure a bottle of liquid ambrosia long after the bars and taverns have closed. They may ask for nourishment after room service packs it in for the night. They may even ask you to secure an item of a living nature. The possibilities are endless.
19) In some cases following your conscience can actually be synonymous with making a buck, providing you can live with yourself afterwards. As always, the choice is yours.
20) You will encounter gamblers, some of the softcore variety, others of the “How much will you give me for Little Sally’s prosthetic arm? I’m on a hot streak!” variety. Gamblers are ridiculously bi-polar; you’ll consider yourself fortunate to be in their orbit when they arrive and if they hit it big – and you’ll curse fate when they leave under the dark cloud that surrounds all those whom chance has chosen not to shine on. In other words, duck and cover when a hardcore gambler loses his sweaty, free martini-stained shirt.
21) There will be days you’ll wish you could wish every guest in your radar away to that cornfield Rod Serling introduced us to all those years ago.
(If you are now consulting Google to determine who Rod Serling is… stop reading.)
22) There will be days you’ll wish you could wish yourself away to that cornfield.
23) Guests will ask you to transport items other than luggage on your bell cart. Babies – both in and out of carriers – kids of all ages, drunken bridesmaids, goldfish, hamsters, dead, frozen cats (all will be explained in Book Two, trust me), antlers, and a million other items too bizarre to consider. Just go with it.
24) YOU ARE NOT A BABYSITTER! Never deliver luggage to a room filled with children and no adults. Never take possession/responsibility for children while parents check-in or disappear to wherever irresponsible douchcopters disappear to. There are times when it sucks to watch your own kids, never mind those who do not share your DNA, so don’t do it! Never mind the size of the promised tip, stay away from situations like this:
25) Cougars are going to grab your ass. Get over it.
26) Cougars are going to attempt to squeeze your crotch like they’re picking out fruit. Don’t let them! Unless there’s BIG money involved – then you can go nuts, so to speak.
27) You’ll be carrying bags with all sorts of items that buzz, vibrate and move in a variety of ways. Ignore these bags, even if they shake their way across the storage shelves.
28) Know when to draw the line; never ask the following question: “How was your stay?” This may run counter to your training, but trust me on this one; my uniform has decade-old bloodstains that tell the tale.
29) If you’re married, don’t tell your wife where rule #26 came from or I’ll kill ya.
30) It will be your duty to move items from one room to another while the guest is off doing whatever guests do. There will be “packages” – some will be hidden in places like the back of toilets – that will need to be moved discreetly. The word discretion is the cornerstone of our business. Learn it. Live it. (Strange advice coming from a blogging bellman, I know. But do as I say, not as I do, and you’ll be fine. It takes decades to achieve my level of hypocrisy, kids.)
31) You’re going to meet many a veteran like myself. (You’ll call us “old pricks” or some other term of endearment.) We may be full of ourselves but we know what we’re talking about and sooner or later, you will too, ya young prick!
One list will never sufficiently cover all there is to say and do as a bellman – but it’s a start.
See you in the lobby, kids…