Everyone decides to travel for many reasons. But usually the main reasons are they are running away from something or someone. Sometimes they are running from bad relationships, bad debt and maybe just a bad life. Sometimes people travel because of genetics – their DNA is comprised of the travel bug. Whatever the reason, the eclectic hodge podge of persons that end up becoming friends thanks to their mutual interest and a similar lifestyle, makes for amazing memories and great stories.
My adventures started after living in the United Kingdom for 5 years. I was working two jobs – one was a typical 9-5 preparing personal pension plan annual reports, and my evening job was working behind the bar in a nightclub. I really hated my day job. It was so boring. It was so boring that I had the most sick days ever – so much so, I was summoned to head office in London to explain if there was something wrong with me. It was at that point that I knew I was not destined for a life behind a desk, behaving like a robot. Every other day I was being reprimanded for being too loud, laughing too raucously or talking too much.
I decided it was time to quit! Enough was enough. I wasn’t going to allow my personality to be beaten out of me. I would find a job that would allow my personality to shine…problem was…there was none! I had to move back in with my dad to try catch my feet in the meantime. While I was home I was still bartending at night just to keep me going, but I was actively job hunting on the internet. I applied to hotels in London, I applied to be cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic, I researched working in the US as a camp counselor, and I was even tempted to try my hand in a travel agency.
After a couple of weeks of actively trawling and emailing CV’s to no avail – I finally got a response! It was as an assistant concierge in a VERY affluent hotel London. The job requirements sounded pretty snazzy and it definitely suited my personality – I could talk, laugh and be personable and engaging – that was after all, the job of a concierge. My family was pretty thrilled that I found what was going to be my dream job. I would be in the heart of the city, meeting and greeting, schmoozing with the big wigs and generally having a blast as a 20 something young woman just starting out in life….one small problem though…where was I going to live?
In that instant of trying to figure out where I would live, my beautiful dream started to unravel. Something so simple as a roof over my head was quite a daunting idea. Where did I begin? How could I afford accommodation in London plus transportation costs and food ? Oh dear – it wasn’t looking very promising. Until my knight in shining armour swooped in and saved the day….ok, well he didn’t swoop in, he definitely wasn’t wearing armour…and he wasn’t a knight…he was my grandpa! He called to tell me that he had a friend who lived one commute on the tube train away from the hotel. It was a great location. I could lodge with his friend and pay her a little sum for a month until I found my feet and found somewhere of my own. This was it! My dream was back on! I started seeing myself touring museums, eating in trendy restaurants, meeting famous people and simply feeling like a Carrie Bradshaw out of ‘Sex and the City’. Heaven!
The day had finally arrived! I was going to become a real woman! I was going to live the dream in the city! When I turned up at my temporary new home I was thrilled. It felt like something out of Oliver Twist – and not the slum part where Oliver lived with Fagan – but where he lived with the kind old man who ended up being his grandfather. Oh yes! Talk about landing on my feet – great location, nice comfortable house – I could have gotten used to that lifestyle easily. It was certainly where I felt I belonged. As I lay in bed that night – I was excited about my first day – I knew was going to be just perfect!
I woke up the following morning bright and early to catch the 6am train. Luckily the train station was around the corner and the hotel was one stop away. It was all really convenient – I couldn’t have asked for anything better – or could I?
I was taken on a tour of the hotel, and shown the ropes as best as possible in a couple hours. Little did I realise I was about to thrown into the deep end…without a safety device. Until that moment, I had no idea that the bowels of a hotel was where it all happened.
Beneath the hotel it was a sea of passageways, exits and entry points, where hundreds of staff traversed on a minute by minute basis. It was a whirlwind of faces as news traveled that there was a ‘new kid on the block’, there was ‘fresh meat in the market’, or whatever term of reference was used. I will be honest, I felt very intimidated – I felt like I was the freak at the circus that everyone wanted to look at. I didn’t realise I could have felt so alone, lost and frightened. The first couple of hours were daunting – my immediate thoughts were – “if this is how I felt now, how was I going to get through the rest of the day, much less the first week?”
My first day was certainly eventful. I answered questions, booked reservations, delivered packages and newspapers to rooms , and I was sent on a mission to find stockings, insoles and some kind of perfume. I accompanied the concierge assistant manager – who I was shadowing – and he was quick to warn me that next day, I was on my own. As result, I was told to pay attention to the road signs, the landmarks, the stores and above all, I was to make special note of where the hotel was so I didn’t get lost. Now, if anyone knows London (which is similar to New York), every road looks the same, there are people, more people and cars. If you don’t keep your wits about you, you can go for a stroll and end up MILES and MILES away from where you really need to be. My first day was definitely filled with lots of movement. By the time I got home at 6pm, I was pooped…no trendy restaurant for me…a box of Kentucky Fried chicken and bed was as trendy as I could manage that night.
Day 2 and 3 took on a similar feel. Concierge I came to learn, is actually a nice term for a ‘slave’. A concierge does nothing except be at the beck and call of the guests 24/7. Concierge must have a permanent smile plastered to their face and they must always be at their station and paying full attention. They can’t be seen idly chatting to other members of staff. There were a ton of rules and regulations to adhere to, and even though I didn’t feel like my personality was being stifled – just yet – I was beginning to wonder if I had made the right career choice after all.
The hotel staff was comprised of a rainbow nation – there were Africans, Serbians, Russians, and tons of eastern Europeans. On this particular day however, day 4 to be exact, a pretty high profile guest needed a job done urgently – a job I thought was VERY simple, but turned out that no one volunteered for – either because they didn’t know how, or because they knew something I didn’t – either way, I volunteered. Even though I had to stay 5 hours after my shift had ended to complete it, I got it done – and I was given a tip of 100 pounds (US$145) – not bad I thought.
By day 5 I was starting to feel comfortable maneuvering through the underground passageways of the hotel, and had even made a few friends in various areas – from housekeeping to maintenance. I was definitely feeling more ‘at home’ – for want of another word. But day 5 was not going to start out as an ordinary day – and it sure wasn’t going to end like one – it was going to be the catalyst for change!
I woke at 5am as usual, to catch the 1st train to work. As I had said before, the hotel was only one stop away from where I was staying. Which is great, because there are same crazy whackos that seem to venture out at all sorts of hours – and the longer you are trapped on the train, the more opportunity they have to approach you. I guess this particular morning was just not my morning to escape the loonies. As I was sat on the train that fateful morning I was approached by a very friendly young man who told me I was very beautiful and if I had ever thought about modelling. I thought to myself this could be my big chance to be discovered by a model scout – I would become the next Naomi Campbell, or someone equally as fabulous. How wrong was I! This young man kept going on about the virtues of a beautiful woman and asking me if I would model for him – in my naive mind I thought he was probably a new up and coming designer, trying to proposition potential models to work for free – be broke my meandering mind when he said – ‘I’m a student, and I am looking for models to paint… posing nude’.
Gasp! Shock! Horror! I think he saw the look on my face which was one of complete disgust because he laughed, and told me in a very assertive tone I shouldn’t look so shocked. Thank goodness my stop was next – I darted out of that train and ran as fast as my little legs could carry me. My day had got off to a rocky start but little did I know it was gonna take a turn for the worse.
I had finished work at a reasonable hour that day and after such a shocking start, I decided I was feeling very homesick and missing my friends. I had been in London 5 days and I hadn’t seen a museum, spotted a celebrity or had a drink in a fancy bar like the girls on ‘Sex and the City’. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself so I decided that I was going to pop into the internet cafe near the house and catch up with emails and hopefully if any of my friends were on instant messenger, I could have a little laugh and a giggle.
I was in this nice internet cafe for about an hour – I had sent emails and I was gossiping with my friend, and feeling much better than I did earlier. I started to notice that the noise level had intensified a little, and I looked up from my computer and scanned the area. There were a group of guys by the door and they were laughing and joking around, but their decibel level was a little on the high side, especially for a quiet internet cafe where heads are bent in concentration. I was a little annoyed that they didn’t have much consideration – until it happened….
I looked down for what seems like a split second and the next thing I knew, 25 guys had circled my little cubicle and they were leering at me. After what felt like an eternity, the crowd parted like the biblical reference to the Red Sea, and this short guy (not a midget), with gold chains hanging around his neck, gold bracelets around his wrists and gold rings on almost all his fingers, came and perched on the end of my table. He looked me straight in the eye – considering that wasn’t too difficult given his height – and asked me what a beautiful girl like me was hanging in a place like this. Please remember that while this gold-dripping-short-man had cornered me in my cubicle, this friends/bodyguards/minions were still surrounding us like a protective barrier. My first thought was I needed to escape, while my second thought was not to offend goldman in the process. I will admit, I turned on my charm and I used the timeless classic , “I’m sorry, I just need to pop to the bathroom real quick. I will be right back”. The only back he saw was mine, as I hightailed it out the door and ran as fast as my little legs could carry me (for the second time that day).
Lets just say that my time in London was short-lived. That night I called my dad and told him the city life wasn’t for me – I was a small town girl, with small demands. Who needed trendy restaurants and cool bars anyway.