June 13, 2009 - Leave a Response

Mmmmmmmmm Friday.  Armies of weekend wankers swarming upon the hotel like a plague of locusts, and that’s a slight upon famine inducing locusts.  Sorry, locusts.    Locusts are more organized, have better manners, and have better taste in food.

Hmmmmm...biblical plague?  Must be Friday.

Hmmmmm...biblical plague? Must be Friday.

There’s something about Fridays – being cut loose from the week and thrusting themselves into the weekend – that puts people in a fucking frenzy.  Understandable, but for someone who’s weekend typically starts at 11pm on a Tuesday?  Fuck you.  I’m no more amenable to your acting a needy, arrogant twat because the horrendous traffic is putting your massage appointment (or – satire adjusted for current economic situation – your consumption of deep dish pizza) is being put in jeopardy.  And of course when my shift starts – 3pm – is when guests seem to be whipped in to the greatest of froths.  I swear our front doors somehow magically caffeinating each and every already agitated spazwit coming through them.  But then that wouldn’t account for the very first phone call I picked up today, from Philadelphia, which only served to frame the rest of what was an archetypal Friday:

  • Larry from Philly calls and before anything else wants to know about strip clubs in Chicago (in hindsight, I’m shocked this guy was able to refrain from saying “titty bars” at least once).  He’s vetting what are ultimately the only 2 strip clubs near downtown to make sure they’re worthy of bringing his girlfriend.  Great.  And once I assure him we’re dealing only with places of the highest quality where lonely boners go to be teased, he inquires about getting a limo to take him and his girlfriend there.  Ya know – gotta do it right.  And when I tell him his options, he is sure to ask if they’re classy – “They’re not old, right?  They’re nice?  Classy?”  A classy limousine is like a classy leopard thong.  But I ensure that I will enlist only the finest of carriages to transport him and his vaginal punching bag to – and since Larry is splashing out tonight….FROM! – the house of $20, two minute dances that have more to do with pastie-obscured nipples than they do laps.  Arranging such a high class operation requires a call back, and Larry tells me that when I do, he may be forced to be aloof because – although his girlfriend is fully aware they’re going to a strip club (he yelled to her while on the phone with me “BABE – WHAT TIME?”), the weinermobile was a surprise.  And FYI – he asked, but $250/hour and a four hour minimum was too rich for Larry’s blood.
  • While I’m on the phone with Larry, I’m watching the pockets of Minnesota Twins fans, in town for their first trip to Wrigley Field in eight years, navigate the lobby, the first built structure they’ve been inside in presumably the last 20 years without copious amounts of stained hardwood.  Hey guys!  Love your frayed ball cap bills and sandals!  I suspect Wrigleyville apartments will suddenly find themselves 20% more rented after this weekend.  Ditto for douchebag Wrigleyville bars – this could be like Muslim pilgrims stumbling upon Mecca after eight lonely years in the American League.
  • Who’s next……you sir!  A one way car rental to Cincinatti,  Ohio?  Great!  Sure you wouldn’t rather just have me direct you to the nearest cliff to drive off of?  No?  Ok – dead man walking!
  • Then on to the Eurotourist who won’t leave until he is 110% certain Magic Slim (“mah-jeek sleeeem”) is playing at Kingston Mines.  I’m sure Magic Slim is looking forward to singing just to you, Fabrice.  Can’t wait for the connection you guys will make when he’s wailing about losing his wife/job/life – definitely a metaphor for when you can’t find your kids the Nintendo DS game they want at Best Buy.
  • Then the lady who wanted a birthday cake in her room upon arrival.  The card should read “Happy Birthday Barb.  Love, Jen”  Great – shall I send up a pack of hockey cards, a softball glove, and 6 pack of Fruit of the Loom tighty whities as well?
  • Next – couple who decided against having me order theater tickets before them because they’d end up being about $20 over face value.  Eek!  And the loudmouth fucking Boca Raton bystander who couldn’t stop telling them how great Jersey Boys is.  I SAW IT IN NEW YORK!!!
  • After that, the winner who had to know “the best” way to get to the Allstate Arena.  Andrea Bocelli concert.  Thank you for having me explain in regimented detail the intricacies of taking public transportation there, as well as devising a mindbendingly convoluted plan to catch a cab back (“yeah, I think walking 4 blocks to a Pizza Hut and waiting 30 minutes to catch a cab is a great plan”) and then revealing you have a car and are willing and able to drive.
  • Finally the guy who said he had a really Dumb Question – “Can you bring wine glasses to my room?”  Why yes!  That is a dumb question!  Not as dumb as you having the wine store, where you purchased your wine, open the bottle for you because you didn’t think a 4 star luxury hotel would have a corkscrew, but pretty fucking stupid nonetheless.  Will you be calling us later with another Dumb Question like “are you able to replace the towels we’ve used with laundered ones???”

And that, my pets, was the FIRST FUCKING HOUR of my shift.  Seven more to go!  Plenty more fun after that – shitheads to need heart to heart talks on “REALLY GREAT restaurants” where they can wear man sandals (mandals – it was 70 degrees tops in Chicago today), and stroller pushing twits who demand “REALLY GREAT restaurants” they can bring their 2 year olds.  Yes madame, may I suggest the Gilded Pacifier?!

I’ll leave out the bit where Larry checked in, douchebag uniform well intact (head to toe Ed Hardy – including Louis Vuitton-esque Ed Hardy bag), along with his Newport menthol spokesmodel girlfriend.  And then harped on me to make sure the limo was on time.  Then called me at 10pm when it arrived to say he’d be down for it in about 15 minutes.  Then finally came down at 10:45pm.  To get a band aid.  And take two martinis back up to his room.

God can eat a bag of shit – I’m only thankful when Friday is over.

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Sunday

June 8, 2009 - One Response

If you watch Seinfeld, or obsess over it like I do, you’ll recognize the following exchange:


Kramer: What’s today?
Newman: It’s Thursday.
Kramer: Really? Feels like Tuesday.
Newman: Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel, Friday has a feel, Sunday has a feel….
Kramer: I feel Tuesday and Wednesday…
Jerry: All right, shut up the both of you!


I think maybe I’ll write a multi-part piece on days of the week.  In the concierge world, days do indeed have a feel (though the jury is still out on Tuesday).  Let me start with Sundays, which most definitely have a feel.

They suck.  Sundays fucking suck real bad.  The majority of the hotel checks out each and every Sunday.  Occupancy typically goes to about 25% from a turgid 90-100%.  You think I’d be fucking thrilled, and believe me, I am happy to see most every one go, but I’m about as happy to have the remaining 25% left behind as I am dingleberries.  The people still lingering come afternoon, for my shift (the skank shift), either don’t know what they’re doing there, don’t want to be there, both, or are just clueless altogether.  I’m suspicious of anyone that approaches my desk on a Sunday after noon, and I brace myself (read as: preemptively drive my blood pressure to boiling and hold back exploding on those who say hi in passing) accordingly.

The dessert that 9 out of 10 baby seal clubbers prefer.

The dessert that 9 out of 10 baby seal clubbers prefer.

Today was naturally a typical Sunday, though defnitely not as annoying as most.  Observe today’s very emblematic happenings:

  • deal with a guest who asks us to reserve a suburban taxi for him – against our advice, knowing they’ll be late – and who is annoyed because the suburban taxi is 25 minutes late
  • deal with the annoyed taxi driver who is pissed the guest left in another cab, despite is egregious tardiness; that one was at least satisfying in that I was able to let the taxi driver know what a dumbshit he was being, without any repercussion;  if only more people whom I could be a complete dickhead to without career ramifications would fuck with me, I’d be a happier, healthier me
  • the guy who insists he ate at an Italian restaurant at “14th and State” a year ago, but doesn’t recognize the names of the only two Italian restaurants in that area, and pauses furtively when his wife suggests he call the concierge at the Hilton who recommended the restaurant way back when – pause all you want, fellah!  I know how this “I ate at a restaurant in ’93…” game goes, and if you want to play it with the Hilton, leave me the fuck out.
  • the guy who wants to know if the restaurant in a nearby mall is open at 8pm on a Sunday – for cake.  And then acts like any other recommendation on where to get cake on a Sunday evening after 8pm is idiotic
  • the couple who very humorlessly asked where to get strawberry shortcake – “Your restaurant doesn’t have it???”  Isn’t there some fucking absurdity (or at least shame) to asking a complete stranger for strawberry shortcake???  I’m not saying I’m exactly wandering barefoot in a bombed out Dresden in a Vonnegut novel, but Christ – who eats strawberry shortcake?
  • the obligatory “First time here, what should we do?” question.  How about buy a fucking guide book 3 weeks ago?  That’s what you should do.  The “What should we do” question could easily be interpreted as “I will stop by  your desk at least 10 times a day for the next 72 hours and I guarantee you will not see a dime from me.”
  • the woman who went through a list of Chicago’s most mediocre restaurants and casually followed them all up with “So you’d say that’s one of the best?”  Huh?  Did I give you that impression by simply not farting into the phone when you mentioned them?
  • the 40-something Spanish yuppie (my favorite!) who interrogated me about somewhere to go for live music – preferably rock – or house music, and that would have people of a “similar age”.  This encounter led to a near record amount of “Well today is SUNDAY…” utterances, as if there are rock bands and house DJs trampling one another to get to the places where they can play for shallow, arrogant, asshole Spaniards sporting khakis and Tag-Heuer watches on Friday and Saturday.
  • the girl who was fucked off I couldn’t be bothered with the question of who, other than Northwest, KLM’s corporate partners might be – and that was a hotel employee

You see, the idiotic questions aren’t limited to just the hotel guests.  And today was a glaring exception to the Standard Sunday rule of someone who’s not even staying at the hotel asking for something totally outrageous.  It rarely lacks the audacity equal to asking for a fucking kidney, and when you ask for their room number, they get all apoplectic.

I hate Sundays.

The Ocean

June 5, 2009 - Leave a Response

db11

Guests often email us questions about their trip before they arrive.  I responded to one such fellow from Dublin who replied “Oh with a name like that you must be Irish!”  I do have a real mick name, so I admitted to the guy “yeah, I’m Irish, my family comes from County Cork,” blah blah blah.  He had a few more questions and emails after that, was always excited to make his first trip to Chicago, and kept throwing in “we’re both Irish!” references like he couldn’t believe they were giving  filthy Irish sheepshaggers jobs over here in America.  But he wasn’t an ignorant, self-important asshole, like most of the emails I respond to, so I replied in kind.

I forget about it until yesterday when the guy checks in.  Introduces himself, and says he has something from “the homeland” for me when he gets back from dinner.  Great – I’m thinking it’s Paddy Whisky or a cable knit something or other.  I don’t see him before my shift ends, but my colleague says he went into the bar (insert Irishman in a bar joke here).  Sure enough he’s there cradling a pint of pish, and I tell him I’m off for the evening and he says “Oh great!  Come with me!  You’ve got to see what I’ve brought for you!”  I did have visions of him pulling out a hand grenade, or a teddy bear or something equally frightening, but I was prepared to run if need be.  He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a plastic bag with two store bought Clonakilty sausages – one blood pudding, one white pudding.

“Are you married?  Do you eat breakfast?  Do you know what this is?  You do?  This is sausage, blood sausage.  Have you had this?  You have?  Good.  Listen, you cut the stuff up into discs like this, and you fry it, and you cook an egg, and you have a proper – oh fook it’s so good!  I had the fookin stuff in my suitcase and I was afraid fookin customs would see it and think I had a fookin nook-yoo-ler bomb. Oh fuck!  This here is from Clonakilty, I think you said you come from Cork, yer family does, and this is made in Cork, so I brought it for you, and oh fook!”

Conakality Black

And he goes on.  And I love black pudding.  I haven’t had it in ages.  I can’t believe this guy went out of his way to go through the trouble of lugging two fucking sausages across the fucking world to a schmuck like me just because I told him not to take the airport shuttle and where to get a good steak.  I thank him profusely, and went straight to the store for butter and eggs for breakfast.  This morning I’m up at the crack of 11.30 and into the pan go the soft, coarse sausage discs; suet, fat, and various other animal products sizzling and popping.  Oh man, I forgot how good this stuff tastes.  Upon swallowing the first bite I envisioned myself cooking it for dinner too.  That good.  And I couldn’t get over the fact that a complete stranger would be thoughtful enough to make it all possible.

So I wolfed down half the black pudding, and maybe a quarter of the white pudding along with scrambled eggs and a piece of toast i made by sticking it in the pan with the pudding and letting it sop of the greasy goodness.  Fast forward about 5 hours, and, well….let me just put it this way – ever take a dump that smells like the Jersey shore?  Like you pooped out horseshoe crabs, rotting seaweed, and part of the Atlantic Ocean?  That’s when I started thinking about sausage, and how I usually see it in a refrigerator, and it’s probably not good for sausage to travel 3,000 miles in suitcases, which generally provide little to no refrigeration.  And then I started thinking how much fat goes into blood sausage, which surely must preserve it, even for transatlantic voyages.  And then my stomach exploded again, and I went into a trance where all I could see was this guy pulling sausage out of his jacket and the smell of polluted ocean with a hint of sweaty gym.

So I guess the lesson here is for me not to be so nice to guests.  I guess.

Best Guest Ever

June 2, 2009 - One Response

Well I finally encountered the ideal guest.  It’s taken me nearly 7 years, but it happened.  I wasn’t sure what shape the Best Guest Ever would take.  It turned out to be a Cool Dude from California.  Equal parts:

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car

He looked like a worn down Tom Selleck, was in the pre-leathery stages of maximum sun exposure, was unpolished, a bit brusque, but only to get to the damn point and move on, though definitely not in any hurry.  He’s from California, wine is his thing, and he likes to try new restaurants.  He made sure to mention he was going out on his own, but couldn’t promise he’d be dining alone for the entirety of his stay.  Normally that would creep me out coming from a guy with a Magnum PI mustache, but when uttered with the coolness of The Narrator from The Big Lebowski, I could only think “well sheeyut.”

I first encountered him when he came by the desk to ask about the restaurant Avec.  It is an amazing little contemporary American and mediterrenean enoteca with incredible food and wine, great informed and laid back service, a really cool crowd, and somewhere I never, ever recommend to guests.  Avec is tiny, doesn’t take reservations, employs communal seating on rigid, utilitarian furniture, serves food and wine with imagination – just waaaaaay too many pitfalls for the overprivileged, bloated, self-important, nitpicking ninnies I spend most of my time advising.  Occasionally I do get someone sophisticated (the cuisine) and equally unpretentious (no reservations accepted) enough to send over to Avec, but most often it’s still some sort of New York Times/Zagat guide badge of honor that they’ve been there, more of a trophy to check off their list.  It’s flabbergasting how many people hone their palates simply to impress others, rather than enjoy food.

But not Cool Dude.  He did a minimal amount of research about Chicago restaurants.  He landed in our friendly city, struck up conversation with people – probably over cocktails – and got their opinions on said restaurants.  He stopped by the concierge to make sure he wouldn’t need a reservation, and even if he did, hell, he might go anyway – he was flying solo and preferred to eat at the bar anyway.  And so he went to Avec, and god dang it if he didn’t love the place.

He stopped by the following afternoon to report his findings – varied, well curated, reasonably priced wines, knowledgeable servers, delicious food.  He sat at the crowded bar, went with what the knowledgeable servers suggested, and had a cool time.  He did mention that he nearly got in an argument with the executive chef, but she is, by just about all accounts rather cuntish, and he apparently relayed it to one of the restaurant’s owners, who he rubbed elbows with most of the night via sitting at the bar.  Not bad.

So we talked about what the next restaurant should be – he had gotten recommendations from people at Avec, a restaurant with good food, knowledgeable servers, and a cool crowd (how novel!), and lo and behold they were damn good recommendations.  But he wanted to think about it over a good bottle of wine he had brought with him.  He needed a corkscrew.  At 3 in the afternoon.  (Well sheeyut.)  I asked him if he needed wine glasses – red or white?  “It’s a white Burgundy and it’s just me, unless you guys want to try it too.”  I declinded on account of a hangover (and my colleague just looked incredulous), and felt not unlike The Dude when he crosses paths with The Narrator, but all too briefly and unwittingly passes up an opportunity to meet minds with some kind of Wild West oracle.  Again – you don’t hear something like that come out of a mustache framed mouth and not clinch your goosebumped buttcheeks unless it’s clearly a Cool Motherfucking Dude.

That night he went to The Publican, another altogether kick ass restaurant, sort of a sibling of Avec, and best described as a contemporary American version of an Old World beerhall with simple, but incrdeible food focused on oysters, snout-to-tail pork, and artisinal beer.  Just like Avec, it’s a mindblowing restaurant that I rarely send guests too, because, well – shellfish and pork?  Oy vey!  But naturally Cool Dude loved it.  He actually had the same server he had at Avec, and basically put himself in her hands as far as ordering.

The next afternoon, Cool Dude – presumably after smoking Marlboro Reds most of the morning – asked where he could get a good cheese plate in the hotel.  I laid out his choices, and he just asked for the simplest, since he had a “great bottle of wine” in his room and just wanted to polish it off before going out to yet another fantastic restaurant (The Bristol).  So let me get this straight – the routine is stay out all night eating incredible food, try to get some pussy, get up around 11 the next morning, scratch your ass, start drinking kick ass Napa and Sonoma wine at 3, maybe with some cheese, then go to another incredible restaurant to drink more epic wine, and try and get laid again.  Well sheeyut!

I still can’t decide if I admire this guy because he made my job so incredibly easy, or because I want to be him.  It just can’t be bad to travel to great cities – with top drawer wine in tow – and be bothered to do nothing more than eat and drink well, and maybe get ass.  I sent an email to a friend who is essentially the closest embodiment of a real life Jeffrey Lebowski I will ever know describing Cool Dude, and his response was:
“wow,
I like the sound of this dude
operates on our plane
refreshing
(respect a dude who brings his own.)”

I’m not sure how long it will be before I encounter another guest with such good taste who will forgo their self-importance for experience, or effortlessly trust my opinion, or take such easily rewarded chances in lieu of going to the shithole that the asshole next to them on the plane said to go to (I’m looking at you, Rosebud), or with such a mind melting mustache.  I am conditioned to advising complete and total wankers with endless niggling requests, idiotic requisites, and hankerings for food that speak to their offensively boring or obnoxiously convoluted palates.

Which is why I was so durned taken aback by Cool Dude.  He knew what he was doin.   I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. Cool Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh.  I sure hope he makes it back some day.

Say, friend - you got any more of that good sarsparilla?

Say, friend - you got any more of that good sarsparilla?

Can you call the Cubbies

May 15, 2009 - Leave a Response
"Coach Pinella - Mary Beth Laird of San Clemente, California wants to know if tonight's game will be played, and if so, should she bring a poncho or an umbrella?"

"Coach Pinella - Mary Beth Laird of San Clemente, California wants to know if tonight's game will be played, and if so, should she bring a poncho or an umbrella?"

A lady walked up to me two days ago when it was storming, and, cool as you like, says:

“Can you call the Cubbies and see if they’re gonna play this game tonight?”

Why yes ma’am!  There are about 38,000 other potential attendees to tonight’s game who would also like to know if it’s going to be rained out, so rather than call the guy who sits in a room at Wrigley Field and waits for me to call, I’m just gonna call right in to the bullpen phone in the dugout.  I tried Lou’s cell phone earlier – wanted to see how Derek Lee’s bulging neck discs are doing – but it just went to his voicemail.  Hold on, it’s ringing.  Lou?  It’s me.  Hey we playing this game tonight or what?  How does the Doppler look?  Uh huh.  Ok.  Hey what’s the steal sign tonight?  Yeah?  Ok.  And you’re going to rest Marmol’s arm like I told you?  Just get Guzman some innings.  Ok.  Yeah.  Alright, go get em Lou.  Call me after the game.  You, me, and Ernie Banks are supposed to go to Barleycorne.  I’m off tomorrow, let’s rage.  Yeah.  Ok.  Talk to you later.

Ok!  Looks like the game’s on!  Anything else I can help you with?

Tell Your Friends

May 8, 2009 - Leave a Response
You - on the bike...

You - on the bike...

Ok you fucking fartsniffers.  Let’s get this god damn show on the road.

I don’t necessarily mind only having, what, 12 readers?  I just feel bad for the 6 of you that have to read this garbage, then hear me tell you the same story in person.

So if you don’t this to get awkward – and I’m not above everyone feel weird – just, ya know, spread the word a little.  Not saying you have to drink any Kool-Aid.  And I’m certainly not sweating myself.  Just maybe see if that MacArthur Grant awarding neighbor of yours wants something to read on the john.

Just remember – first rule of How May I Whelp You is no mention of it on facebook.  Let’s try and not let my boss find out this time around, mmkay?  Thanks for playing!

At The Very Least

May 6, 2009 - Leave a Response

Raise your hand if you don’t know what The Blue Man Group is.

Now, if you raised your hand, wrap it around your neck and squeeze, and use your other hand to bludgen yourself about the head and face.

I still routinely get people that have never heard of The Blue Man Group (or as cigarette wreaking Europeans call them “ehh…..zee group of….ehhh……zee blue men???”).  They’re on stage in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, and if I’m not mistaken – Branson, Missouri.  They’ve been in IBM Pentel commercials, they’ve been on Leno, and they’ve thrown out the fucking first pitch at Cubs games.  They may as well be hailing taxis for visitors at the airport.  Apart from a public service announcement, or dating Lindsey Lohan, I don’t know how else they can possibly saturate the market any more with their personages.  But lo and behold, I’m continually called upon by fuzzy foreigners and slackjawed yokels alike to explain what the Blue Men do and why they should lockstep and submit to all 278 Blue Man ads they’ve been subliminally and overtly bombarded with since getting on the airplane they took to get to Chicago.

Need a taxi?  Where to?

Need a taxi? Where to?

“It’s three blue men, a group, if you will, of sorts, who, sort of, do….things, and they don’t talk, these blue men, and they eat marshmallows, and……it’s fucking hilarious, you’ll die laughing, and just write down your fucking billing address already (I don’t give a shit it’s in the Alps) so I can give it to the snotty 19 year old popping his zits in the Blue Man box office.”

So here’s my little Public Service Announcement – here’s what I’m sick and tired of introducing to the world, Groundhog Day style, day after day, like a bad dream, to the uninitiated masses:

Wait til you try the coffee.

Wait til you try the coffee.

PSA #1: French Vietnamese Cuisine – yes, it fucking exists.  Yes, it’s fucking delicious.  Do you want a reservation?  Or do you want to guffaw and marvel at the impossibility of the confluence of – WHAT?  FRENCH?  and WHAT?  VIETNAMESE?  FOOD?  TOGETHER??? OH MAN! DWAYNE! DEBBIE!  GET A LOAD OF THIS – FRENCH VIETNAMESE FOOD! – while the line of 10 behind you rolls their cultured, or equally confounded, eyes?  I don’t know if these throngs of the awestruck are conjuring up images of cordon bleu chefs running through mine fields in 1968 Vietnam, or perhaps rice patty workers whipping up souflees, but what they need to know is my phone is ringing off the fucking hook, and thanks to some greedy French imperialists in the 19th century, we have been blessed with quite possibly the most divine cuisine on earth, and not to mention some pretty badass wicker furniture.

PSA #2: Taxis Are Faster Than Walking – I know this one seems like a no-brainer, at least I thought so, but I’m explaining it everyday. I could have also phrased this “If It’s a Ten Minute Taxi, It’s a 40 Minute Walk”, as I’m consistently met with astonished looks whenever I drop that nugget of wisdom.  And don’t ask me if you “should” walk or take a taxi.  As my duty entails, I have just provided you with a walking time, and a taxi time.  I do not know what you “should” or “should not” do.  If I suggest you walk, you will be patently offended by the notion, as walking is either far too proletarian (or too complicated) for your sophisticated (or fat and lazy) likes, or you just had some horrific mind bending foot surgery (presumably to remove the cheeto from between your fat toes) that I’m supposed to presciently infer from your voice over the telephone.  If I suggest you take a taxi, you will be patently offended that I did not instantaneously recognize you as a New Yorker, aka King Champion Pedestrian, well suited to walking 20 click sorties at breakneck clips in super fucking sophisticated footwear (but unable to follow directions beyond one turn and two blocks, and not shy about cutting me off to start over, shouting “WAIT – WHAT?  YOU LOST ME.”), or taking a taxi would be at odds with your intellectual Political Science agenda and ego, and would ruin the authenticity of the Himalayan Albino Lesbian Inuit tofu degustation you’re about to enjoy.

PSA #3: Airport Shuttles (In Chicago) Are a Blight Upon Humanity – I don’t expect anyone to know this without someone telling them.  I’m certain there are places where airport shuttles are a bargain and convenience.  In Chicago, however, they nothing short of hell’s apocolyptic manifestation on earth’s surface, but you pay $5 less than what a taxi costs for it.  And 1. I hate convincing people of this, and 2. I hate people who opt for the shuttle anyway, and then complain to me when it shows up 40 minutes late, if at all, and then takes 4 times longer than a taxi.  I want to wear a sandwich board that says “THE AIRPORT SHUTTLE SUCKS COCK.  IT ONLY PICKS UP ON THE HOUR + HALF HOUR, WHICH IS DOUBLE SPEAK FOR IF + WHEN THEY FEEL LIKE IT.  THEN THEY WILL STOP AT 10 OTHER HOTELS ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT.  EVERY ONE OF THOSE STOPS WILL INCLUDE THE DRIVER SENDING A SEARCH PARTY INTO THE HOTEL LOBBY TO HUNT DOWN THE PASSENGER FOR AN ADDITIONAL 20 MINUTES.  TAKE A FUCKING TAXI.”  There are many other evils to the airport shuttle (grifting drivers, crazy drivers, incompetent drivers, horrible management, etc.), but I don’t have to go on because you’re one of those smart people that cuts me off once I tell you that this airport shuttle company says there is a “20 minute window” which they afford themselves around the pick up time you are forced to pick.  Let’s move on.

Hey girls!  Know where we can get some really boss shrimp dejhonge?  HOLD ON - Blackberry's ringing.

Hey girls! Know where we can get some really boss shrimp dejhonge? HOLD ON - Blackberry's ringing.

PSA #4: Gibsons Is The Best Steakhouse In Chicago – is it?  Of course not, but if you’re big enough douchebag to ask me like I’m some kind of used car salesman to negotiate with, then that’s where you’re going.  I’m only sorry you can’t punch me in the arm and call me brohski on your way out.  Have fun eating your steak with all the other Mark Shale spokesmodels and 45 year old tiddiemongers slurping down martinis in rayon mock turtlenecks.  Which leads me to….

No witty caption needed.  This is where douche happens.

No witty caption needed. This is where douche happens.

PSA #5: The Viagra Triangle – say fellah – in Chicago to move some product, hopefully meet Billy Mays, eat a $60 steak, smoke a cigar, hit a piano bar, and get some pussy all in the same night?  Well listen up sport!  The Viagra Triangle is where your concierge is sending you!  Get your Tommy Bahama and/or offensively patterned JC Pennies blazer the fuck out of my face and get your ass down to Tavern on Rush to score a Johnny Walker Black and scope the poontang post haste!  Be sure to have some really authentic Italian cuisine (chicken parm!) at the place the douche bag sitting next to you on your plane ride told you you have to go – Carmine’s – and then shuffle your shiny loafers and pleated dockers down to Jilly’s for some piano bar music that was hot 30 years ago!  Be sure to hit on the orange skinned, yellow haired cocktail waitress with the 36DD tiddies that help support her Newport Light and appletini habit!

The Tuesday Night Crowd.  Slightly larger than the Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday night crowds.

The Tuesday Night Crowd. Slightly larger than the Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday night crowds.

PSA #6: Aint Shit Happening Tuesday Night – I know 10:59pm Tuesday is when you’re ready to pound a few margaritas and rage til Wednesday breaks, and since Chicago is bigger than Kansas City, or Boise, or Boca Raton, or Ypsilanti, or where ever the fuck you came from, you assume it’s Las Vegas and we’re dropping the ball in Times Square seven nights a week.  I mournfully regret to inform you that isn’t the case.  I’m more than happy to recommend some clubs for you (or point you to the Viagra Triangle if you sport a class ring like you won the Super Bowl in ’72), but don’t harsh on me if they’re fucking empty.  IT’S FUCKING TUESDAY!

PSA #7: Al Capone Didn’t Stay At That Hotel, Cubs Tickets Are Expensive, Traffic To O’Hare Is Bad, The Lake Is That Way, It’s The Magnificent Mile – Not The Miracle, Miraculous, or Major Mile, Michael Jordan’s Restaurant Closed Eight Years Ago, and Oprah Doesn’t Give A Fuck How Long You’ve Been Waiting To See Her.  Next in line?

Bucket

May 5, 2009 - Leave a Response

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I worked Saturday night.  Around 9pm two girls walked into the hotel, one under her own power, carrying a waste paper basket, and propping up her visibly ill friend.  The healthy girl sat the wobbly one down on the couch – with the bucket – and ran to the front desk to sort something out.  All eyes were on the potential vomiter.  I think I speak for us all when I say there is no greater Theatre then when someone really lets loose a proper vomit fountain.  And this girl had clearly eaten some stinky clams or something.  She was like a turgid garden hose when you put a kink in it just before unleashing a high pressure stream.

But alas, no fireworks.  She got on the elevator without an incident.

Lost & Found

April 26, 2009 - Leave a Response

I’ve never read any concierge manual, nor any outline of what my duties as a concierge entail.  Typically, and in tow with the tradition of the concierge profession, I deal in restaurants, transportation, sightseeing, amenities, and general information brokering.  These fields are somehow subliminally acquiesced upon by 99% of hotel clientele, as most of the time this is the shit I’m asked about.

How, then, and by what perverse accordance of logic (or total lackthereof) can a complete and total stranger – albeit a hotel guest – part ways with a personal item somewhere out there in the big bad world, wholly independent of the hotel, and insouciantly transfer the responsibilty of finding that item – somewhere in the ether – to me?  I wasn’t in that fucking cab with you.  I was never holding that massively important briefcase of yours before you left it on the fucking curb at O’Hare.  How the fuck are you going to implicate me in tracking the thing down?

Hey!  Look at me!  Free at last!!!

Hey! Look at me! Free at last!!!

Nine times out of ten I’m affronted with idiots that have left items in cabs.  No one is an idiot for leaving something in a cab, but idiot status is attained for stretching logic to think that after leaving something in a taxi in a city of 9 million, the best person to enlist – no – place in charge of finding this item is some schmuck behind a desk that wasn’t in the cab, didn’t see the cab, doesn’t comingle with cab drivers in their spare time, and by all accounts is better suited to talking at length about Chicago-style deep dish pizza, than presciently locating inanimate objects.  This is the concierge desk – you want an oracle.

“Well can’t you call the cab company???” is the typically snotty retort.  Mind your attitude dear!  It could get significantly more difficult to find that Blackberry the shittier your tone gets!

I’ve heard this story and been down this road possible 200 times?  I’ve lost track.  I know the ropes.  So I’ve got my MO ready:

“Oh no!  You did?  You lost your Blackberry?  The one you were unable to unlock your gaze from while I was trying to explain to you how to walk to the Starbucks a block away?  Drats!  Of course I can call the taxi – what was the cab number?”

No one ever knows the cab number.  Ever.  I always ask.  It’s tantamount to twisting the knife, but again – I know where this road leads and how little enjoyment is ultimately in it for me, so I take pleasure where I can.

“No?  Didn’t get that cab number?  No problem – what was the cab company?”

No one ever knows the cab company.  Ever.  I always ask.  And this is where it always gets shitty.

“Well it was a white cab…..”

I know it was.  You know how?  They’re all fucking white.  Sure there is a large fleet that is yellow, and another that is maroon, but no one ever seems to lose anything in one of those cabs.  It’s always a white cab, of which there are 50? 100?  200 different operators?  I then explain that the problem is that any enterprising young chap can start a taxi company, get a license to operate, slap their logo on the side, and with one car – voila – a cab company.  The response is almost always the same:

“Well can you call a few?”

I’d rather not, sir!  Er – I mean of course!  I’ll call the secret number I have for the Taxi Central Nervous System of Chicago and they will telepathically channel an all points bulletin for your Blackberry so you won’t lose important confidential company information, or fall behind in your fantasy baseball!!!  Did I mention that even if cab companies have radio dispatch systems, only about 10% of drivers use them?  And that’s if someone found the otherwise-expensive-but-now-totally-free-to-punt-on-to-the-next-schlub Blackberry and gave it to the driver, who I’m sure won’t hold it ransom for a hefty reward when he turns down fares left and right to drive across town through rush hour traffic to lay it on your doorstep in a basket of downy feathers and fragrant lilies.

There are, unbelievably, occasions where I’m able to ascertain the exact cab the item of value was left in.  Guests often believe this is it – problem solved!  But here is there inherent problem – you have lost an item of value.  Stay with me here – an item of value.  This means that the item you coveted so dearly until you could no longer resist the urge to splash out large sums of money to have and make other people covet, is now floating around amongst the general public in the backseat of a cab – a vessel in which the general public enters and leaves, with high frequency, for short periods of time, in total anonymity.  The valuable item which you purchased to turn the public at large green with envy is now free for the taking, yet you assume only good Samaritans –  like yourself! – are forking over the $5 necessary to shuttle between the baby seal orphanage and Cure for Horrible Diseases Invention Laboratory.  I very recently explained this rather cruel dynamic – in more soothing and diplomatic language and metaphors – to a very important looking German businessman with a handlebar mustache.  He reasoned that I should try to track down his eyeglasses (that he left in a “white cab with a colored driver” – thanks for narrowing THAT down, chap!) because “they were quite expensive.  About $1,000.  Prada.”  Ah yes, mein Herr.  What is that word you chaps invented?  Ah yes – schadenfreude.

Hey! Look at me!  New Blackberry!

Hey! Look at me! New Blackberry!

You can see how totally ludicrous the whole “lost item” premise is for a concierge.  But it gets far more ludicrous.  We are often stung by rashes of “found” items – quite possibly just as bad as lost ones, as now we are transferred ownership of the fucking things.  An example – this week a lady was in a cab and picked up a set of keys – about 30 keys on two rings, attached to a lanyard – that she “thought was her husband’s”.  Really lady?  Are you married to a fucking janitor?  What to do when she realized the keys were in fact a burden?  Pawn them off on the concierge!

But that pales in comparison to the Japanese lady that frantically approached my colleague tonight.  He had been talking to her for a good 15 minutes when he tapped me and said this lady, who speaks very little English, had lost her wallet on a Metra train between Chicago and Aurora, and do I know anyone we can call that speaks Japanese?  I thought about calling the sensai at my dojo, but then remembered it breaches the sanctity of my ninjitsu oath.  Long story short, we come to find out that this woman didn’t lose her wallet, but in fact found a wallet at the Metra train stop in Aurora, and was turning it over to us.  Um…..ok.  What the fuck?  Are we playing hot potato?  My colleague reasoned that in Japan, however, it is a crime to find a wallet and not turn it over to the police, which was, in fact, what she was trying to do.  I won’t even get into the debacle that was calling various phone numbers found in the wallet, but needless to say, this is no easy fix.

So if I can impart just one bit of wisdom to the public at large, if you take anything at all away from reading this, it’s not to pat yourself down when exiting a cab, or anything smart like that.  It’s this:  there is a reason we label items lost.  Think about it.  Lost.  Gone.  Forever.  Not misplaced.  No one misplaces a cell phone in a cab.  If something is lost – and it’s what you’re calling it, not me! – say goodbye.  Set yourself free.  Set your cell phone free.  And for christ’s sake – don’t bother the fucking concierge with it.

Business

April 22, 2009 - Leave a Response

“How’s business?” you might wonder.

Well it sucks.  A big cock.  That being said, it could be a lot worse.  Some hotels are downright suffering.  Ours is shaping up to emerge relatively unscathed, but that is really only by comparison (i.e. no massive layoffs or furlows, no ghost town occupancies for months at a time, etc.).  The truth is, as a “luxury” hotel, we’ve gotten a little skanky.  Well we haven’t – we’re still running around in our ostentatious costumes, exhibiting our hospitality pedigrees, and “anticipating guest needs”.  But it turns out that years of high expectations of employees from guests, has in turn cultivated high expections of guests from employees.  And let me just tell you – these motherfuckers are not living up to their end of the deal.

You see, the suits that sit for long hours in dark rooms that stir witches’ brews and cast spells to come up with a magic concoction that is a room rate have decided that rather than keep prices high when times are tough, it’s best to lower the rate and at least keep a revenue stream flowing.  Makes enough sense, right?  The problem, of course, that as a “luxury” property (i.e. 4 star hotel), part of the charade is the exalted company you keep as a guest.  And should you drop the rate too low, you bring in the sort of shitheads that make your target clientele realize they’ve just been fleeced for the last 6 years.  When the rates go back up again, your problem is twofold – hillbilly shitheads want to come back at bargain rates, and hifalutin twats think you’ve become a Motel 6.

I’m glad it’s someone elses job to endlessly pour over numbers to figure out what the perfect balance is, but I do have a message for that person based on recent experience:

RAISE THE FUCKING RATES.

I realize the thrust of this blog has long been my constant whinging about the unbearable cuntiness of the overpriveleged.  But when the shit really hits the fan, it turns out they may be much easier to deal with than Ma and Pa Slackjawedyokel who are living it up at the insistence of that cocksucker William Shatner and his blasted priceline.com.  We’re taught not to disdain the .com booking channels in the hotel biz (expedia.com, priceline.com, hotwire.com, hotghettotrashoutforanightonthetown.com, etc.), but fuck all that noise.  It’s more or less a knee jerk to pull up someone’s reservation for a looksee when they’re being a real fucker, and chances are it’s going to have a nasty little .com attached to it.

FULL DISCLOSURE TIME:  I, too, am admittedly and unashamedly part of the proletariate that books through these same discount channels.  It’s just a tool, and a nice one at that.  Guns, after all, do not kill people.  Hillbillies do.

This past Sunday was a great opportunity for me to murmur the RAISE THE FUCKING RATES mantra under my breath.  The lobby was looking like a fucking daycare – kids climing the walls, screeching, crying, moving at high rates of speed toward finely crafted Italian furniture with sharp, angular edges, while their parents – well I don’t know where the fuck their parents were.  Trying to find out where to watch the fucking hockey game?  Some shit.

It was about 10am when, in the midst of a really groovy space out, staring out the front doors, I watched a college aged kid stumble and fall down right at the hotel’s front entrance.  He looked like he wanted to pass out for a second, but then he lit a cigarette and his friend came over and started tugging on his hoodie.  Luxury abounds!  I called security, but when it took them forfucking ever to get there, I just asked our biggest, baddest, blackest bellman (RESPECT) to kindly have a word with these two bumbling, stumbling fucks.  He shooed them off real quick like, but they were back in about two minutes, and this time the drunker of the two started coming inside.  He made it through the revolving door but was centrifugally spun into a wall and subsequently slammed into a guest sitting on a bench.  I’ve never slept in a gutter after a meth binge, but I have to imagine this is what you look like afterward.  It was if he was suspended from above and dipped lengthwise into a sewer, the entire left half of his body covered in filth.  And his eyes were like two crusty used coffee filters – no pupil, no eyelids, just dark, zombie-like circles.  Security finally arrived on the scene to give the bum his bum’s rush, but alas – he’s a registered guest!  Luxury!!!  Security puts him on the elevator and escorts him back to the room he booked on hotwire.com at an obscenely low rate and our Sunday marches on.

Yes sir, right this way sir.  Your suite is ready.

Yes sir, right this way sir. Your suite is ready.

I was mortified for the next guest to come to the desk and rue what a circus our clientele has turned into.  But then I didn’t expect the next guest to come to the desk and impress upon me a reminder of the Chicago to Cincinatti schedule on the………MEGABUS.  Huh?  Megabus?  At first I thought she was just really primeval and was referring to a full size charter Greyhound bus as a “megabus”, like she called commercial jets “megaplanes”.  No she said.  Then I asked her if she was referring to the super skanky bus that people used to ask me about at my previous (and super skanky) hotel that runs regular routes between Chicago and Madison and God knows where else.  Nope.  The name of this fucking operation is actually MEGABUS.  Apparently it’s some sort of outfit that shuttles white trash throughout the Midwest for shockingly low fares.  Luxury!

Next was the college aged girl in gym shorts and a t-shirt that asked me for “like, a couple trash bags?”  Great.  Need to pile in all your Natty Light empties so as not to give the housekeeper you’re unsophisticated once you check out?  Nope.  Need a poncho for the Cubs game?  Nope.  What did this girl need trash bags for?  LUGGAGE.  She and her school emblazoned sweats wearing dormmates came down an hour later, trash bags filled with clothes in tow, to gather themselve in the lobby, too unsavvy to request an hour late check out.

I half expected the next guest that approached the desk to have me point them to the monster truck show, or pitbull fight.  But sprinkled amongst the hood rats in search of Michael Jordan’s restaurant that closed 7 years ago (“Dats OK.  We’ll go to Weber’s Grill.”) are our regular guests, finely knit Marino cotton sweaters draped over their shoulders, asking which way to Tods.  How do I balance the two?  When someone asks me for a “good” restaurant (and it turns out that unbelievably shitty descriptive powers can be attributed to all classes and income levels), are they thinking of Outback or Blackbird?  Is Blackbird even nice enough for them?  Is Outback too nice?

Just raise the fucking rates already.