To fill in the immediate gap, one of the French waiters was asked if he would like to be the
night guy. I don’t know how this came about—whether he was asked or ordered to or
volunteered—but on the first night he appeared at the front door to the hotel, ready, willing,
perhaps a little too eager, apparently able, and dressed like a lumberjack. Why the lumberjack
attire, neither my very dear good future wife nor I, her lucky future husband, could figure out,
but there he was. He had on a plaid shirt, jeans, wide suspenders and heavy work boots.
Should any trees need felling in the wee hours, we had our man already on site.
The first night I had arrived for that same job (a year or two earlier) I was wearing respectable
cotton twill pants, a reasonably expensive knit shirt (alligator, not rider with mallet) and the
most expensive shoes I’d ever purchased in my life, since by that time I knew the owner had a
thing for shoes which could be defined almost entirely by the phrase: “a revulsion for
sneakers”. I wanted to make a good impression. I came prepared to escort guests arriving like
thieves in the night to their room with some slight dignity.
On my first night as night guy, the owner himself was there to meet me when I arrived, and he
asked me if I understood my task.
“Well,” I said, “I’m here to assure the general security of the building; to let those in who belong
here; to keep those who do not belong here out; and, overall, to represent the hotel to any
guests who may require our attendance during the night.” The owner seemed somewhat
startled by this response and, after some thought, approved it with a nod.
(Just a note: I have never seen that nod of approval since.)
He then told me where I might find various things; he showed me the house phone, the security
intercom, the video monitors, and he said this: “I can not insist, of course, but I strongly
suggest that you get some sleep during the night. I think you will find this couch most
accommodating. I have slept on it myself many long nights. What I am trying to tell you is that
you are not expected to sit here in the office all night long, wide awake, bristling in anticipation
of some event which will never occur.” He pointed again at the leather couch in the lobby and
laughed to himself, “We are old friends that couch and I. In a way I am sorry to have to part.”
He sighed. “In the morning,” he said, “if you wish, please go down to the restaurant, OUR
restaurant, and have yourself a good, filling, breakfast before you leave for wherever it is you
These were perhaps the kindest words the man has ever spoken to me. I say perhaps
because I also seem to recall that on the first day I arrived to work at the front desk—after
Mariette’s glorious departure—he said to me, “Oh, you can’t go to work just like that; come
down and have a little cup of coffee with us and let us get to know one another. Why not?” he
encouraged, “You must be properly nourished in order to undertake the tasks that manning
the desk requires.”
We did in fact go downstairs and had a little cup of good coffee, but I don’t think we really got
to know each other. Now of course, it’s too late for that; each of us is convinced that he knows
the other far too well, and much much more than either of us would truly care to.
When the little waiter arrived on his first night as night guy he asked my future wife where the
pillows were and if she would leave a note instructing one of the maids to bring him a cup of
fresh coffee first thing in the morning. His hope, he said, was that he could enjoy his coffee
before going down to breakfast.
The following morning he complained bitterly that he had found the comings and goings of
people during the night “very disturbing” and that he had “a difficult night.” Those were his
words. By the time he arrived for his second night’s work he had come up with a plan to
eliminate these small annoyances. He asked the owner’s wife if he could simply unfold one of
the roll-away beds in the linen room and set an alarm clock. I think at this point it became clear
that the man did not entirely understand the nature of his job. Madame said quietly to her
husband, “We might as well pay him to sleep at home in his own bed.”
I think the little waiter would have accepted such an arrangement providing that the
compensation was suitable and the hotel paid also to have coffee delivered, before breakfast.
The night following the little waiter’s dismissal my wife-to-be, whose job it became by default,
was disturbed in the middle of the night by a person she described, in her own charming way,
in socially acceptable but somewhat disapproving terms which the rest of us might translate
loosely as “looking like a common whore”. This person insisted upon seeing the night guy.
Apparently, this person had somehow become involved with the night guy on the previous
evening and he had something of hers which she wished to recover. I didn’t like hearing this
and for the following few nights, until we could get someone to replace the lumberjack, I was
both night guy and part time fill-in desk clerk.
During my first night back, an unwashed and in large part toothless little creature with clownish
make-up, a matted blonde wig and clothes which were two sizes too small for her, rang the
doorbell looking for the night guy. I told her that I was the night guy. She told me, “No, THE
night guy. Johnny. Where’s Johnny?” I told her that Johnny had gone, and she said that he
had something of hers. I asked her what it might be and she told me that maybe it had gotten
lost on the couch or under the couch or behind the couch. I winced. Then, she thought for a bit
and said, “Or it could have been in that room in the back, where all the sheets are stacked up.”
I may have raised my eyebrows at this point, if they weren’t already in the full upright position. I
ran her off of course, but she had given me plenty to think about.
For the next several nights she came back every couple of hours or so, and leaned on the
doorbell until I came charging out of the lobby like a wounded bear.
Then, after giving me the finger or sticking her abnormally tiny tongue out at me, she ran off.
For this I found myself unforgiving of the little waiter. By what peculiarity of my own weak nature
I can not say, but I liked that whorish looking little woman less each time she rang the doorbell.
I’m just that kind of guy.
But, what kind of human being am I after all, who can not put up with the relentless nightlong
playful little pranks of a two-bit whore? This is a character flaw of mine. For this inflexibility I
suppose I should shrug on the old noose and step off into the void.
TRIAL BY GUEST
An Accurate Accounting of the Various Reasons
Why I Should Be Hung
HENRY EDWARD FOOL