A few more weeks under my belt, and I learned not to question when a guest expresses a preference for a particular room attendant. It is often innocent — the guest appreciates the way an attendant arranges their toiletries on the sink or fluffs the pillows. But there are instances — a guest calling for service at 11 p.m. — when you don't want to know why the guest is requesting someone in particular. More to the point, although you may not want to know, sometimes you cannot ignore that you do know.
After a few months, I started working night shifts. Hotels become very different places at night. While the lobby bar may be buzzing downstairs, the hustle and bustle on the guest room floors fade, and you begin to realize just how long the hallways are and how dim the lighting suddenly seems. A new group of housekeepers work the evening shift, and that meant I had a new system to learn.
On one of my first nights with these ladies, a room attendant, Tamara, who had been at the hotel about as long as I had, confided in me about her discomfort with one of her guests. She had been working in his room the day prior and had felt a bit uncomfortable with the way that he had been looking at and speaking to her. She went to the room at a different time the next night, hoping that he wouldn't be there, but he was. He trailed her around the room, brushing up against her and bumping into her. She apologized as it happened, trying to move away from him and act as though it had been accidental. But after the first few times, it became clear that it wasn't.
Understanding her discomfort, I apologized to Tamara and promised to discuss the matter with our executive housekeeper to see how to properly proceed. I left word for the daytime managers before leaving for the night, certain that at the very least the room would be reassigned so Tamara wouldn't have to face the unpleasantness a third time.
When I came back in, I was called into a meeting with Tamara and the executive housekeeper. He explained that "we need to be accommodating and welcoming to people of all cultures in this hotel" and encouraged Tamara not to take offense to the man's actions. He explained that where he comes from, this behavior is probably not uncommon. And we should strive to be more tolerant. In hindsight, I can't believe I didn't speak up further on her behalf. But I was still new to the job and I wasn't sure what to make of what I was hearing.
When I reviewed the ladies' evening assignments and saw that Tamara had been assigned to the room yet again, I realized that management wasn't going to do anything about the guest's behavior. I wanted to protect Tamara from this situation, so I did what I could. I found Fred, my favorite houseman on duty (who was conveniently also the largest) and, without getting into the details, I told him I didn't want Tamara to be alone in the guest's room tonight. I asked Fred to prop the door open, clean the room alongside her, and not leave her alone on the floor at any point throughout the night.
He nodded knowingly. No further explanation required.
Interesting. Tamara and I were relatively new to the industry and were therefore appalled by the guest's behavior. Frank's reaction indicated that such behavior wasn't all that uncommon.
I called my grandmother on my break later that night and suggested that perhaps she was right, after all. I really should have given med school or law school more serious consideration.