Shaken, Not Stirred: Hotel people, part 2.

December 18, 2016
Jim Bond

Jim Bond

Shaken, Not Stirred: Hotel people, part 2.

#ShakenNotStirred.

A blog by Jim Bond.

I’ll repeat my opening statement of last week’s column: ‘Hotel People’ are a special breed – a group for whom I have enormous respect.

In the early to mid 1990s I started enjoying increasing business with a rather prominent west Michigan company as an independent contractor.

The company was far enough from my home that overnight stays were required for several days. Over the years my affiliation with the company increased to the point that I was spending three to five days a week away from home, 40-50 weeks a year for almost two decades. That’s a range of 120-250 days a year spent at the same hotel.

Naturally, I became friends with the full staff. I received Christmas gifts from the manager/part owner every year. I was subjected to practical jokes by the staff.

One Sunday night I checked in. When I entered my room, I saw the outline of a body on the carpet, much like the outline of where a corpse would be displayed at a crime scene. It seems the manager, assisted by his adolescent daughter, had spent an hour with first-aid tape to create the desired effect.

Once I was alerted by a staff member (in hushed tones) that a police detective was looking me.

On one occasion I was told that due to my loyalty, I was being upgraded to a suite on the third floor. It was a two-story hotel. The amenities were listed for me: a large tent, firmly secured to the roof, a garden hose running from the swimming pool for running water, and a thick orange extension cord for electrical power.

There were random acts of kindness too. A night shift worker once cleared a path from the lobby to my car in a foot of snow, since the plow hadn’t arrived yet. He had also brushed all the snow from my car. My counsel was once sought by the manager on new landscaping which was going in for spring.

I was included in the gossip, which was plentiful enough that I could actually write a book.

There was another regular guest whose amorous activities were legendary. It seems that one night a paramour of his was descending the south stairwell while another was ascending the north stairwell.

Another time it was discovered by housekeeping that another regular guest kept a stash of supplies inside the wooden bed frame under the mattress. Included were things like laundry detergent, non-perishable food items, and…um, a few other items of a personal nature. Very, very personal.

Sadly, that chapter of my life ended a couple of years ago when the business model of my client changed, eliminating the need for my services. I still share friendships with many of these ‘Hotel People’.

But a door always opens.

In this case the door was the entry into the lobby of a west Michigan resort, for which I’ve become a staff writer. So here I am, spending my time and expending efforts on behalf of the lodging industry again.

And I’m discovering that nothing much has changed.

It is a world filled with fascinating, honest, close-knit, salt-of-the-earth people, many very bright and most, very dedicated. Folks who, by and large, may have been damaged by life, and the decisions they’ve made.

Nothing has changed though in their dedication to the people they serve, whether in the events they put on, the cuisine they serve, or the planning of a wedding for their clients.

It’s a family. I’ve witnessed employees putting in 80-90 hour weeks during peak season, amid confusion and stress due to the pressure of their jobs. They do so because of their attitude. And there always seem to be peripheral personnel willing to step in to help, extending way beyond their job description.

There have been movies made about the hospitality industry: there was Hotel, based on the novel by Arthur Hailey, a prolific novelist of the time. There was also the TV show, Fantasy Island (Ze Plane, Ze Plane).

But probably best known was Dirty Dancing, a film about a resort in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains. Baby Houseman’s father makes reference to ‘those people’ in the dialogue.

(One thing about ‘those people’ referring to ‘Hotel People’, is that they probably haven’t been guilty of stealing toilet seats, as has been done by guests. Yes, guests have been known to actually unscrew the toilet seats in their rooms to take home.)

I’m not sure how long I’ll be involved in the lodging industry; but I do know that I’ll always admire ‘Hotel People’ for their tenacity, their willingness to serve despite low wages and customer complaints.

I hope you remember this article the next time you stay overnight at a hotel or motel, or at a restaurant. Remember that they often sacrifice their holidays to make yours better.

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