Sunday, January 6, 2013

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality is Jacob Tomsky's hilarious account of his years spent working in the hotel industry. I'm glad I'm not particularly fastidious, but his anecdotes will probably make some people cringe, thinking, for example, about the times you've used a clean-looking water glass in your hotel room.

"You know what cleans the hell out of a mirror, and I'm talking no streaks? Windex? No. Furniture polish. Spray on a thick white base, rub it in, and you'll be face-to-face with a spotless mirror, streak-free. However, I am not recommending you take this tip and apply it in your own home. Though using furniture polish is quick and effective, over time it causes a waxy buildup that requires a deep scrub. Another dirty secret I didn't uncover until much later: I walked in on ladies with Pledge in one hand and a minibar glass in the other. Keeping those glasses clean 'looking' was also part of the job. Do you see any dish soap on a housekeeping cart? Usually hot water and a face towel equals clean. But to be absolutely sure they won't be singled out for spotty glasses, they might spray furniture polish all over them. So the next time you put a little tap water into the minibar glass and wonder to yourself why it has a pleasant lemon aftertaste, that's because you just took a shot of Pledge. Honestly, furniture polish might be more sanitary than simple hot water and a wipe down using the (hopefully untouched) hand towel from the previous guest. Either way, sorry about that."

Before he worked his way up to housekeeping supervisor, Tomsky was a parking valet at a luxury hotel in New Orleans. One newly-hired valet couldn't drive a manual transmission, so the captain of Tomsky's crew had a plan: "Listen, keep an eye out for a stick-shift overnight ticket. Something grimy, not too nice. Take him up to the top stretch, and learn him on it, dig?"

"And that's what I did. We burned the life out of a guest's clutch teaching Eddie to drive. It smelled like a metal-and-oil barbecue up there."

On his first shift on the front desk at a hotel in midtown Manhattan, Tomsky got an intimidating pep talk from a bellman:

"Listen very closely to me, FNG. I see you handing guests their own keys, I'll stab you. I hear you asking them if they need help with their luggage, I'll stab you. You don't ask them shit. You call 'front' and hand the keys to a bellman. Let them tell me to my face they can take their own luggage and my baby girl has to starve. I catch you handing them keys, I figure you're the one who wants my baby girl to starve. In which case I will find out what train you take home and collapse your throat as soon as you step into your borough."

Tomsky also shares useful advice on such things as the most effective way to complain, to receive special services, to guarantee that you'll have a room ready if you know you'll be arriving hours before the official check-in time, and how to avoid paying minibar charges. It's no holds barred and highly entertaining.

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