On Saturday, I drove my late-model compact Ford with scratches on the hood from where I’d gotten fed up after a Nor’easter that one time in upstate New York and took a fekkin’ snow shovel to it through a Florida monsoon to the costume store, where a dude with bleached white hair helped me find a bellman suit.
And so there I was, crammed in a dressing room big enough to accommodate a wispy 5 year-old Cinderella, struggling to pull polyester pants 2 sizes too small over the bulkiness of the boot that’s keeping my ankle upright until the chords at my heal are taut enough for me to complete 60 seconds of the Harvard Step Test.
I’d planned to spend my lunch hour on April Fools riding the elevator at work, helping people on and off with their briefcases, hand-bags and various unmentionables, maybe even pointing out some of the features of the facility, ya know, for kicks and stuff. That morning started with a wardrobe fail: I didn’t realize the double-breasted piece that buttons on also doubles back, exposing the red part of the vest and, in so doing, considerably doubling my confusion.
Humping my merry prankster tookus up to the 4th floor was no small order. No sooner had I leaned my crutches against my cubicle then did the sarcastically tinged exclamations of merriment ring out:
“What are you supposed to be, an Iraqi General?”
“A flying monkey from the Wizard of Oz!”
“A Russian dancer! A Cossack!”
Noon came. And so did the Work Fairy. I switched to a Polo shirt and called it a day.
But the truth is I did once hold down a job as a bellman. It was the summer of 1989. Having the benefit of hindsight, I now refer to that time in my life as the “brash, know-nothing years.” I was a 19 year-old nimrod without even the scantest notion of what good customer service looked like.
Before I tell you how I failed to uphold even the most basic duties of my post, here’s a job description of what a bellman is supposed to do:
The bellman often accompanies the guest to the room, pulling the luggage on a rack. The bellman enters the room and turns on the lights. If it’s daytime, the bellman may open the drapes. Next, the bellman should inquire about where the guest would like the luggage and point out the closets and safe and any other features of the room. If there is an Internet connection, the bellman may briefly explain how it’s accessed. The bellman should then indicate the phone number at which he can be reached for any further needs. Occasionally, bellmen may be asked to help out at the front desk or show a guest to a conference room.
My approach looked more like this:
Drive your 1974 Dodge Coronet, dubbed “The Deathmobile” for the spray-painted graffiti that covers it (shark teeth; “Nuke GM”) and the noxious exhaust fumes that seep up from the floorboards to work, and park it in plain sight of all the bus tours that arrive with silver-haired little old ladies to gape at, most likely frightened out of their wits. Don’t bother asking the customers’ names when addressing them to make them feel welcome and important. Toss their bags on the cart, point towards the elevators and mumble. When a sweet old octogenarian rings the front desk to complain about the AC not working properly in her room, wave your hand over the register and assure her, “Seems fine to me.” While assisting with front desk duties, hang up on the famous lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, not once, but twice, prompting the revered barrister to thunder into the phone, “Do you know who you’re talking to!?” (Umm, no. Obviously.) Seduce, or allow yourself to be seduced by a nubile young born-again Christian from Connecticut with all kinds of loose interpretations on scripture, nearly getting fired for your indiscretions, including showing up one night after hours in gym shorts, no tee-shirt and a jean jacket to cruise the streets in aforementioned dangerous vehicle and to indulge in various forms of mischief.
Maybe I should be thankful for the injury and the monkey suit this time around. Things might have gotten ugly.