In Part One, the Diggs, a family of four, booked a hotel vacation over the Internet. At this point, they have managed to get inside the hotel lobby! And now they deal with the matter of checking in.
"Mr. Diggs! Checking in, Diggs!"
Being that there is no line and little reason to yell information from a long distance, the front desk agent, Tim, pretends as if he didn't fully understand what was yelled at him. His fingers do, in fact, type in the last name and press Enter to search while he waits for the family to fully approach the desk before asking Mr. Diggs to repeat the name.
"Sorry about that! Diggs. It's under Stanley Diggs."
Tim is looking down at a screen containing 15 reservations with the last name of Diggs. Five of them are cancelled and five of them occurred in the previous month, but the remaining five are for various dates in the future, including one for today and another Diggs for tomorrow. However, nothing under the first name Stanley.
"I have several under Diggs but no Stanley. Could it be another first name?"
"It's under Stanley. Or Stan. Diggs. D-I-G-G-S."
Tim has spelled "Diggs" correctly. After years of hotel work, Tim is extremely adept at spelling last names. He is hoping Mr. Diggs will say the first name Karen, probably his wife, standing beside him, busy corralling the children. "No other possible first name?"
"Stanley," Mr. Diggs says again, diving into his wife's purse to begin the quest for paperwork.
"Is it under Karen?" asks Karen.
"Yes, it is. Wonderful. Three nights, checking out Friday. Nonsmoking?"
"Nonsmoking," confirms Karen, who has decided to take over the check-in process, for the good of the union.
"Yuck... smoking," her daughter proclaims, making a yuck face that draws Tim's eyes away from his computer screen.
Tim is a smoker and is pretty sure his fast-approaching smoke break will be the best five minutes of his entire day. He is also pretty sure, looking at the family here, that his next question is actually more of a fact than a question. And it's going to be a problem:
"Umm, wait..." Karen says, actually pausing to take stock of her own family.
"No, no. Two queens," Mr. Diggs states, abandoning the quest for paperwork even though now is the time he will need it most. "I requested two queens."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Diggs, but I don't see that request noted. And our double queen rooms are fully committed. I am sorry."
"No, I had that confirmed."
During the next five minutes, Mr. Diggs presents Internet printouts with minimal info regarding requests while Tim explains the difference between a "request" and a "guarantee" and points out that outside agencies have no authority to "guarantee" bed types. As indignation and anger grow in Mr. Diggs, a rollaway is offered and the family resigns itself to one child on the rollaway and one child in the bed with them. But the whole family, en masse, is displeased.
No one notes this displeasure more than Charles the bellman, who is posted at the end of the desk, waiting to escort the Diggs up to a room they already hate — and then probably not get a tip.
(Danny the doorman is still lingering in the lobby as well, spinning his hat in his hands, close enough to the packed bell cart to insinuate ownership.)
Resigned as the Diggs are to their fate, they don't seem to like the desk agent and appear to think he is at fault somehow, though Tim is not. He is doing one of the things he is paid to do: control bed types. The seven-year-old boy makes the world a little better when he focuses through a candy high and says, "Daddy, hey, he has my name!" pointing at the front-desk agent's name tag.
Tim and little Timmy smile at each other.
With room keys now in hand, Mr. Diggs is determined to head up to the room, but then Danny the doorman mentions he "must go back outside" and wishes the whole family a pleasant stay. Mr. Diggs raises his eyebrows in thought... then brings out his wallet. Danny smiles gratefully and superfluously adjusts the luggage on the cart. Mr. Diggs gives him a folded bill and a "thanks for the help." Seeing that, Charles the bellman feels much better about his lot in life, and even Tim seems relieved.
"Hey, what do you say we trade name tags?" Tim asks the little boy.
"Wha?" Timmy says confused, hiding behind his mother. "I don't have name tags!"
"You don't? Well, you better take mine then," Tim says, unpinning his tag and handing it down to the little boy, who receives it with intense awe, as if it were a bubble that might burst.
(In less than 20 minutes, Tim will get reprimanded for this, for being at the front desk without a name tag, and his explanation will not help him. He will spend most of his smoke break ruminating on this and producing variations along the theme of: This job suuuuuucks.)
Timmy is walking off to the elevators, staring at the name tag like a zombie, following his Dad who is doing the whole leading the charge thing again. With him is Charles, who is seconds away from opening his mouth to ask the first question he always asks a guest: "Where you coming in from?"
Karen Diggs puts a hand on her daughter's head to steer her toward the elevators, realizing the desk agent's name tag probably has a sharp pin on it and should be taken from Timmy immediately.
Up in the room, I'm pleased to report, things are about to get better.
But rain is coming.
Some hotel employees are partially aware of this.
Danny the doorman, stepping back outside, slides Mr. Diggs' tip into his vest pocket, looks up at the sky, and is absolutely sure of it.
÷ ÷ ÷
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