Chatting to one of the cuntractor’s staff today was a bit of a revelation. He worked at the Waldorf Astoria about 10 years after I worked at another equally prestigious location. Both five star hotels in central London with a mix of business and ahem … high class tourists, I imagine we have plenty of stories to tell each other.
I am not sure why hotels always bring the naughty out in people. Perhaps it is a combination of that sense of isolation from real life, crisp sheets and anonymity that breeds bad behaviour. Also, most staff on the lower rungs of the hospitality career path are paid abysmal amounts of money so someone who has been a cleaner for 20 years may well just enjoy the job but also, sometimes it is because they are so clueless they can only actually tell a broom from a shovel because of the bristles.
Put the two together and it is a recipe for chaos that makes Fawlty Towers look like a reality show.
My last bit of hotel work is well documented on this blog but I haven’t written about my previous role, some 17 years ago now. There I was, an up and coming girlie, in my first management role. I was only in the role because the woman who ran the business centre was a complete and utter fruitcake, dependent certainly on pills and probably on alcohol.
She made a small fortune out of screwing her staff (and her clients) over. We had endless fun trying to outwit her. It was a game I played for 18 months until the stakes got very high indeed .. but that is another story…
There was the time when I got into the lift. In it already was the most gorgeous woman, in a floor length fur coat (grrr). She was absolutely stunning and incredibly well made up (she looked completely natural but beautiful).
I must have stared for a second because she smiled, moved slightly and I realised that she had not a single stitch of clothing under her coat. She caught my eye, smiled again, rather knowingly and I got out of the lift, very red-faced but laughing my head off.
Then there was the time the cleaner decided she was going to steal and sell off the very sought after, very expensive dressing gowns from the spa downstairs. It was such a vaunted place, I never ventured there … however offering them to me was stupid beyond compare and I told her so. I knew she had been working there for years and I knew that if I shopped her she would lose her job and probably her pension, so I hope a word in her ear in private stopped her.
She was the same woman who caused a major security alert when (in the days just before mobile phones were taking off and in an age of heightened security) a guest left an entire set of bagpipes in the hotel payphone kiosk. And then stood there, telling everyone to come and have a look. She then proceeded to try and obstruct me when we were told to evacuate and I was trying to get guests out of the business centre, eventually got yelled at by the general manager and stomped off downstairs to evacuate.
There was the Lord who appeared the epitome of a cultured Englishman, with the equally cultured English Rose personal assistant, blonde, bouncy but very, very bright indeed. His work was so secret that we were told not to look at it, and dutifully copied it with our eyes mostly closed. This was a serious disadvantage when it turned out that his secrets were state secrets and one of his staff members had been selling them off to a middle eastern country.
Unfortunately, when questioned, we honestly couldn’t tell Lord Hooha what his staff member had asked us to copy because … you guessed it … we had done exactly as requested.
All we could do is give him the few documents we had typed up and dates and times his employee had requested work.
Lord Hooha thanked us fulsomely, first with a bottle of very, very nice French red wine (which we finished) and then with a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon, which we finished most of before sending the remainder in a cab to our boss, who complained that it was flat when it got to her (a journey of 10 mins). However, that was vintage Bosslady.
Two very pissed young women attempted to exit the hotel via the main entrance several minutes on, something the conceirge remembered several years later. Apparently we had a small problem with the revolving doors.
Lord Hooha turned out to be doing very secretive work indeed for a government agency I shall not name and I have no doubt that his ex-employee is currently located in a nice reef bed somewhere. I did try and google him a few months back and needless to say, Lord Hooha doesn’t exist and never has.
I had a fantastic team, which almost made up for the constant poison of a boss who insisted we all be friends, insisted we spend unpaid hours working our socks off for her and who would pull tricks like refuse to pay the staff their overtime (which often topped 30 plus hours a month) in the same phone call where she was ringing to say she was at Harrods and wanted my advice on buying a Persian carpet for £4,000.
She once famously rang me at 2am after a 20 hour shift to witter on about buying her daughter (who was 2 years old at the time) a pony, invited herself to a dinner my boyfriend at the time and I were going to (something very rare indeed as we were both battling for money) and then ate food off his plate in front of me and tried to feed him, we paid for everything (we weren’t expecting her to pay but it would have been nice if she had paid her share) and she then invited him to dinner when I was away in South Africa, visiting family. He was not impressed with her at all.
The best bits were the Nigerian fraudster bits … we happened upon the fact that we were being used (as were several other business centres) and to cut a long story short that is how I met and fell in love with R, who happened to be one of the policemen investigating the frauds …
That is a whole other story but one of the best bits (apart from the near escapes we had in being Scotland Yard’s most unofficial official narks) was when the fake joke call thing came out. Bear in mind that R worked undercover a lot of the time, bear in mind also that for him to be in downright dangerous situations was not unusual. Then add a boyfriend with an extreme sense of humour who leaves a message asking me to call this number and I get a joke phone line telling me he has been kidnapped.
It was very well set up and it took me a few minutes to realised that (a) I had been set up and (b) I had called a premium joke line on our work phone. So it took me no time at all to set up a call to his paging company, explaining that we had another live one and it took no effort at all for my colleague, when he rang, to give him a stationery order (our code: one box of floppy disks = one fraudster, two boxes of floppy disks and a box of paper = two fraudsters and one victim, etc).
We embellished a little because there was a Mr Big who R had been trying to get for the longest time, so when the ream of paper became a “Big” one, we knew it would get him to the hotel faster than a speeding bullet.
R left work immediately, commandeered a black cab outside of the hotel and sat in it for half an hour, watching everyone coming in and out (delighting the cab driver who really, really wanted R to order him to chase someone – “Cabbie, follow that cab!”). After half an hour and a little weirded out at seeing me (as I couldn’t resist going downstairs and seeing if I could see the team), he popped upstairs to find the two of us very calm and sedate and not a fraudster or victim in sight.
“You’ve just missed them”, I said. “No”, he said, “you have just gotten me back.” At this, we burst into peals of laughter, swiftly curtailed by his next sentence … “now what the fucking fuck do I tell the Commissioner about the two CID teams I have just pulled from a murder enquiry and the seconded team from the Fraud Squad I have sat outside?”
I think we can count that a 2:1 win – he was of course talking a whole lot of bollocks but he had me going for a full five minutes …
I miss them days …