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Swellboy on… hotel check-in chatter

Among the world’s most irksome questions: ‘Did you have a pleasant journey, sir?’

Swellboy on… hotel check-in chatter

Image: Brijesh Patel

November 23 2010
Nick Foulkes

One of the more irritating aspects of arriving at a hotel is the pantomime attendant on check-in. Although I love places with flunkeys, I find myself fighting off their attentions from the moment the taxi pulls up outside.

Inevitably I have spent the journey from the airport reading some improving news media, or conducting a telephone and email exchange on the BlackBerry; my jacket is probably hanging, travelling salesman-like, on one of those hooks; and yet there is the insistence on yanking the door open and standing over me, impeding the flow of traffic in the street, and generally making me feel as though I am either slow, or in the way, or both.

Then, once out of the car, I have to intercept the bellhop who will be halfway to the door with my bags. Having had my bags go missing for up to 30 minutes on the journey from hotel door to room, I no longer wish to chance it and am quite happy to lug my own luggage.

Then of course there is check-in. The laws of international hotel-keeping dictate that the receptionist is obliged to ask whether your journey has been pleasant. I grit my teeth and do my best to refrain from asking them what planet they are occupying. No journey today is pleasant; triple security checks, removal of clothes at the metal detector, flight delays, gridlock… if a journey is satisfactory, it is unusual enough, but pleasant?

And then there is the bit where you stand in the room while the young person on the management trainee programme who is doing a six-week stint on reception, offers instruction on how to extinguish the lights, open the mini-bar and switch on the television. Resisting the temptation to ask if the hearing-aid greige device by the bedside with the handle, the curly wire and the keypad will enable me to converse with the hotel staff or indeed the world beyond the hotel, I shovel a few coins or notes into their hand, and tell them to go and treat themselves to a packet of cigarettes.

The only bearable part of the ritual has tended to be the interval between leaving the reception desk and taking one’s masterclass in operating the mini-bar; there is usually a silence in the lift, mildly uncomfortable perhaps, but allowing vital time for my irritation levels to drop. However, I now notice that staff have been instructed to fill this brief respite with inane observations; thus on the walk to my hotel room recently I was treated to a running commentary on the various facilities that we passed, all of which had been personalised by the addition of “your” before each one.

‘This is your courtyard.”

I nodded sagely.

‘This is your infinity pool in which you can enjoy your sunset.”

I murmured in gentle assent.

And then, sensing that things were going well, my interlocutor clearly took me for the highest rank of guest, namely the international business traveller, as for some reason I was suddenly introduced to the boardroom, or to be accurate “your”, ie my, personal boardroom, where, after I had enjoyed my courtyard and my pool and my sunset, I could repair to hold my board meeting.

But the most priceless observation was offered when we passed the business centre where I was reassured that there was a printer “for printing your important documents”.

It was the adjective “important” that really got me.

“Oh really,” I said, “but where do I go when I want to print my trivial documents?”

The remainder of our walk passed in an agreeable silence.

See also

People, Hotels