Book review: Heads in Beds

Heads in BedsThis was a breeze to read—it only took me two days! That’s how entertained I was by this book.

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality is written by Jacob Tomsky, a front desk agent (I’m more used to ‘officer’) for a New York hotel. Here, he writes about his experiences going up the career ladder, from being a valet to manager—with a few gossips and a lot of tips to boot.

Among his two cents: You can always get your minibar charges waived off. That ‘film which you may have in fact fapped on? You can dispute that as well. I’ve always wondered about how people manage to get their rooms upgraded—a surefire way to do so is by greasing the palm of your FDA. He gets pretty adamant about this tip: for Jacob, the FDA wields the real power in improving your hotel experience, not the concierge.

This does make sense, for as he points out, it’s front desk that’s behind the computer upon your check in, but I struggle with the idea of giving them money on your arrival. Wouldn’t they find it offensive over here in Asia? The tipping culture here is not as rigid as in the U.S. where those in the service industry demand them. I’ve had hotel experiences, wherein staff refused my gratuity. I find it an arrogant display to just start handing cash to front desk. (Also, I’ve never seen anyone do it, unless they were extremely discreet about it.) So I guess, this depends on the country’s tipping culture.

In the end though, just be nice. It may not get you a stunning view, an upgrade, or a complimentary wine, but it’s the right thing to do.

 Chapter One

I am standing on St. Charles Avenue, uptown New Orleans, a few months out of college and a few weeks into summer. It’s already extremely hot in the full sun. Which is where I have to stand: in the sun. Next to the valet box. All day.

I took a valet-parking job at Copeland’s restaurant to shake off my college-loan laziness, to climb out of the educational womb and stand on my own two feet as a moneymaking, career-pursuing adult. Educated in the useless and inapplicable field of philosophy, I quickly deduced that my degree looked slightly comical on my already light-on-the-work-experience résumé. Perhaps it was even off-putting. To a certain eye, hell, it probably made me look like a prick. But I had to start somewhere. So I started at the bottom.

This job is not good enough. Why not? First of all, I’m parking cars. Second, we have to turn in all our tips. I imagined I’d get off the first night with a pocketful of ones to take to the French Quarter, not that you need much money in New Orleans. As it turned out, however, attached to the valet box that houses the car keys, like a wooden tumor, is a separate slot for us to jimmy in our folded tips. All of them. Attached to that box, like a human tumor, is the shift boss, back in the shade at a vacant umbrella table, sipping a noontime drink that most definitely contains alcohol. It also has chipped ice and is sweating in his hand, sweating in a much different way than I am sweating.

A lunch customer hands me his ticket. I find his keys easily in the box and take off at an impressive run. His car is not easy to find: the valet company has not rented a nearby lot to service the restaurant, and so we, certainly unbeknownst to the clients, just drive around the area and try to parallel park the vehicles as close to Copeland’s as possible. Once the vehicle has been parked, it’s up to the valet to draw a silly treasure map on the back of the ticket so another valet can locate it. My co-worker Chip draws every treasure map like this: #*. Every single one. And finding the car is never easy. But I bring it back and slide up to the curb, holding the door open, the car’s AC pouring like ice water on my feet, and receive a neatly folded bill from the customer.

“It’s damn hot out here, son. This is for you running like that.”

It’s a twenty-dollar bill. Chip, now back and posted by the valet box, holds a salute against his brow, trying like hell to make out the bill. I walk up to the tip tumor and start to wiggle it in when Chip says, “No. No! What are you doing, Tommy? Don’t you keep a dollar handy to swap it out with? Please don’t put that twenty in there. Please. It’s for you. That dude told you it was for you.”

“Actually, it’s for Copeland’s Valet Parking Corporation,” the human tumor says, setting his drink down wet on the valet box.

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