Arriving Guest, 2011
Some instincts you never forget.
In college I worked in the circulation department of an afternoon newspaper. I supervised the distribution and collections of almost seventy paper routes across a large area. I knew where each carrier’s paper bundles were dropped and came to instinctively check those corners to make sure the papers had been picked up even on the days when I wasn’t working.
Because I had to check back in with the office from time to time, I also had to know where all the pay phones were in my district, particularly the drive-up phones in tough neighborhoods. I still have an uncanny ability to identify places where the few remaining drive-up pay phones exist.
It was the instincts of my adolescent and teen years working as a bellhop at a beach motel, though, that came into play recently.
I had a great time as a bellhop. I could rake in the tips. I was supposed to be saving up money for when I’d be going to college. But still, it was crossing a great economic divide when I transitioned from cutting grass for $1.50 an hour to making five or more times that much toting luggage around the hotel.
A little over a week ago I was walking down 44th Street in New York. My old bellhop senses kicked in almost without me even noticing them when I briefly paused in front of a hotel, the same one, coincidentally, where a French International Monetary Fund official may or may not have assaulted a maid.
A van had pulled up in front of the hotel as I approached and deposited no fewer than thirty suitcases on the curb. They were all of the same size, color, texture and quality. It was an impressive pile.
When I worked at the beach hotel we used to have bus tours come through from time to time. Most of the bus tour guests were elderly factory workers from New York City. Almost all had new, cheap luggage, the kind you’d buy when you’d never needed luggage before but were planning a four-day bus trip to Virginia Beach and Colonial Williamsburg to kick off your retirement.
Let’s just say the luggage being dropped off in front of the fancy hotel on 44th Street was not that kind of luggage. It was all leather, all black and each piece monogrammed with a gold crest in the shape of a falcon.
My old bellman's instincts told me there were good tips to be had moving this luggage. But I fought the instinct. Other people, though, stopped on the curb at the sight of all that matching luggage. A movie star, they wondered? Another French diplomat? A deposed dictator?
The doorman looked up, completely unimpressed, as if such piles of expensive matching luggage showed up at his door every day.
“Thinks he’s a f---ing Persian Prince,” he said, describing the guest. “A king or something. Here for a week. They always bring this much luggage. These are just his bags. Wait 'til you see the truck with the baggage for all the rest of his people."
Bystanders moved in close to the luggage to see what it looked like. Having done my time toting bags, I moved on.
"A f---ing Persian Prince," the doorman muttered as he wandered off to get help with the bags.