The Diggs, a family of four on vacation, have concluded their stay at a hotel — save for the painful process of settling the bill. (Read "Part One: Hotel Reservations and Arrival," "Part Two: The Check-In," "Part Three: Interlude and Thank You," and "Part Four: The Three-Night Stay.")
Mr. Diggs sits on the edge of the hotel bed and studies the bill for his hotel stay, which was slid under his door sometime during the early hours of the morning. The bill is composed solely of what's referred to as "incidental charges," meaning any charges in addition to room and tax. His bill has no room or tax fees because he has prepaid those expenses online. But he has yet to pay for the stream of incidental charges that drip over onto a second page and congeal into a total with which he is quite uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, his wife, Karen, is taking a record-breaking shower and has decided to dump an entire unopened mini-bottle of conditioner on her head, even though she already completely emptied a first full little bottle of conditioner five minutes ago. This is luxury, she says to herself, as luminescent white rivulets of conditioner spread slowly over her scalp and down the sides of her face.
Mr. Diggs, abandoning all hope of a shower for himself, dresses and decides to settle the bill in the lobby without his family. He is pleased to see Tim, the front-desk agent who checked him in, standing with his arms crossed, looking over the desk and out the windows.
"Do you ever go home?" Mr. Diggs asks cheerfully — though, in actuality, it's far from a cheerful thing to say.
"They allow me to go home from time to time, Mr. Diggs. Settling the bill? Is everything correct?"
"Are all these minibar charges correct? You sure you had all that?" Tim asks. It's almost as if he is suggesting Mr. Diggs do a little bit of disputing.
Mr. Diggs replies, "I'm sure they are... why is the minibar so expensive?"
Tim would rather put his face against a hot iron than answer this question. But it doesn't appear to be rhetorical, so he offers, "the cost of convenience, sir," which is rather streamlined, as far as explanations go, and then looks out the window again. The week's rainstorm has passed and it looks extremely comfortable and sunny out there. Tim considers how lucky his friend Danny the doorman is, to be off work on a day such as this.
(Danny is at home in his garage, taking huge bong rips and building a desk for his wife. The desk will allow her a decent place to study, having recently returned to school in hopes of increasing the family income. Danny leaves the garage to get another beer from the kitchen but, once he gets to the kitchen, can't remember why he left the garage in the first place, on account of the bong rips.)
"What was that?" Tim asks Mr. Diggs, having experienced a huge lapse in concentration, due to an extended workweek and the turnaround from last night's late shift into this morning's early shift.
"You never mentioned there was a charge for the rollaway!" Mr. Diggs exclaims after discovering the charge, his excitement building and naturally wishing to convert it into indignation.
"I didn't? I apologize. I'll take that right off."
"Oh, OK. Well. The rest is good. You'll charge it to the card?"
"On your command, sir. Permission to fire, sir."
"Fire away, corporal," Mr. Diggs says, his finger in the air, having a good time all of a sudden.
Tim makes a rocket takeoff sound but draws it out so long it becomes absurd, the afterburner sounds taking way too long to fizzle out.
Mr. Diggs and Tim share a moment of eye contact, due to Tim's obviously deranged and extended rocket noise. The two start to laugh a little.
Mr. Diggs and Tim both want coffee.
Karen Diggs, the loving wife, emerges from the elevators dragging the bags and children behind her with extreme effort. Charles the bellman, who is standing there waiting for something to do, wonders if she decided against calling a bellman or if it never occurred to her in the first place.
"Oof," she says, dropping all the luggage at once. "I should have called for a bellman!"
Charles hears this and raises his hands to the lobby ceiling, wondering what was God's plan, you know, exactly, when he created this life for Charles.
With the final bill printed and in the hand of his guest, Tim concludes, "It was a pleasure having you stay with us!!" actually managing to implement an exclamation point, maybe even two. He doesn't perform many of those and wonders if that might be the only one he'll muster up today.
Mr. Diggs is already successfully dragging the bags outside and loading up the car with the help of the doorman, a new guy who has only been at this hotel for a month but has clearly been a doorman for plenty of years, and those years of hotel work have made him into a hardened bastard. He isn't even getting along with his fellow doormen.
With the kids and the luggage packed in, Mr. and Mrs. Diggs take a moment to glance back up at the hotel and share a little kiss, pressing stop on the memory. Mr. Diggs hikes up his khakis and settles himself into the driver's seat, eyes on the long road ahead.
He pulls off slowly from the curb, completely stiffing the new doorman as well as the valet who brought his car around.
They both stand there and watch the car round the next corner.
The doorman says, to no one in particular, though the valet is standing right beside him: "What a prick."
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Thank you again for reading, and my deepest thanks to Powell's Books for this opportunity — I hope the world brings me nearer to your bookstore once again so I can fill my arms with your books!
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Jacob Tomsky is a dedicated veteran of the hospitality business. Well-spoken, uncannily quick on his feet, and no more honest than he needs to be, he has mastered every facet of the business. Born in Oakland, California, Tomsky now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Books mentioned in this post
Jacob Tomsky is the author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality