By David Lund
The chapter below is an excerpt from my new book. It’s fiction but some of the characters and story lines are based on people I have worked with and events that have taken place in the hotels I have worked in. The book is a fable about a hotel manager who has some very bad habits. He must change in order to survive and the book takes him and you through the lessons needed to be a great hospitality financial leader. I’m writing ahead each month so I’m not sure how the book will end. I hope you enjoy it and if you missed any earlier chapters you can find them on my website blog tab.
I arrived home that evening a little later than normal. Ida had a warm smile and a cold beverage as usual. She sensed immediately something was up. She asked and I told her what transpired with Cedrick.
Stunned, she said, “I can’t believe I have been handed this ultimatum.”
After dinner and a lengthy discussion on nothing but, she agreed to leave me alone with my thoughts. I told her I would sleep on the decision and either way it would be okay. One, there were hundreds of other hotels in the Dominion that surely could use my services and two, an offer to transfer to the Norton “could” be seen as a lateral move or a step up. But why the mentor and 60 days? What was the point of it all?
I retired to my study with a glass of Pinot. The fire was warm, and the lights were low. I was thinking of what Cedrick said. Especially the part about being a bully.
Really? I’m not a bully, I’m just a guy with a difficult job to do and I need to manage my team. I do what any good manager does. Sure, I’m a bit of a theatrical manager at times. I make my points using the old school methods I was brought up on. How could my staff and managers not respect me or have so little respect they would talk behind my back. Is this what has been going on?
I drifted off into a light sleep, a stupor and the dream started with my office phone ringing. I was back in my early career and I had just recently been promoted to the head of the rooms division at the Crytonn. Pierre was my mentor and nemesis at the same time for years. He was the reason I was in the position. I was loyal to him. He ran the hotel with an iron fist and was a difficult task master. Following his lessons and direction was never easy. I wondered some days how he carried on with so much anger and frustration. He scared me and at the same time I was drawn to his decrepit soul. Someone must have liked this old fart. I picked up the phone and knew immediately it was him. Why? There was a marked silence, it was Pierre at nearly 6 p.m.
He bellowed as he always did, “Come to my office!” That’s the command. Like a trained dog – taught to respond without question to the edict.
What was it this time? Not answering the phone was not an option. He would find me, he always did. Sometimes I was summoned to his office for a particular task. Sometimes it was to listen to his ranting and raving about something that usually has absolutely nothing to do with me. He even once called me to his office to show me his newest bottle of wine he was adding to his collection, a gift from a guest no doubt. Often it would mean he needed company for a drink in the hotel bar. These were always special encounters as the booze would open him up a little and quite often, he would tell me stories of his youth. Amazing stories that always contained a lesson on life. These lessons were twisted and contorted affairs that required a steady and patient ear to discern. I cherished these moments as a reward for my sacrifice. As time went on and I got to know him better the tone got softer, but it was never completely safe. What would he have in store for me tonight? When I arrived, he had a look on his face that concerned me. He was hurried and flustered. “Sit,” he said, “I have but an instant to tell you want I need you to do.
“In a moment you will go to the lobby. There is a man waiting patiently for me. He will not be seeing me; he will be seeing you tonight. You must tell him I had a last-minute emergency at home, nothing serious but I had to leave. You will take him to the Arora Bar and buy him whatever he wants. He will only want scotch.”
“What’s his name?” I asked. Pierre snorted, almost a grunt-like pout, “I’m sure you will recognize him. Off you go. I must leave immediately and don’t screw this up or I may need to send you to the laundry department to iron out a few things.”
I have had some interesting assignments over the years but this one was one to remember. I headed out of his office, down the stairs into the large and cavernous lobby. It was winter, dark outside already and the foyer is dimly lit. Across the giant room, close to the bell desk, there sat a man slumped over in the large ancient chair. Dressed in a suit, tie, overcoat in his lap, he wore a black bowler hat tipped to the left. As I approached, it was obvious he was sleeping. I approached slowly and like a napping dog he showed his eyes. Immediately I knew him. The man before me was a failed and hated man by most. He was so despised for his failure and equally so for the demeaning words he so publicly used to blame his opponents for their opposition and the failure of his movement. He galvanized a nation and failed in his evil and demented quest. He was so close to succeeding but at the last-minute fate took over. He had delivered his failure and his bigotry on prime-time nationwide television with a drink in his hand. He looked at me and the confusion on his face mixed with his words revealed just how drunk he was tonight.
“Sir, Mr. Cardin sends his sincere apologies as he had to take leave and go home for a family matter,” I said, “Nothing serious he wants you to know and he asked me to come and meet with you. Would you like to go to the Arora with me for a beverage?”
He grunted a confused positive and I helped him to his feet and off we went.
At a table in the alcove away from the early evening crowd, our waiter promptly arrived. I asked my guest what he would like, and he said, “Oban, double.”
I looked at the waiter and smiled like we were both sharing a little secret and said I would have the same, with ice and some water on the side. My new friend was no stranger to the Arora or our waiter. It was but a moment and we had our drinks. We sat together for what seemed like an eternity. I asked two questions, would you like something to eat, to which he grunted, “Nah.” Would you like another drink? “No.” That was the extent of my conversation with our little friend.
Within a short 15 minutes he downed his drink and off he went into the night. As I received the check and signed for the drinks, I wondered what it was about power and how this man used that force to ruin his life. I felt a slight bit of sorrow and compassion for the man and vowed to never be intoxicated by the selfish greed for power.
Pierre did not inquire the following day about the events of the previous evening. The things I did for this man were despicable and interesting at the same time. Like watching a car crash in slow motion.
I awoke from my nap and the fire was out. I finished my Pinot and took myself to bed. As I laid in bed, I wondered why the dream about that evening with the despicable man, and why that night? Was there a lesson to be learned I have already seen?
Sleep rarely evades me. With all I do and the business of my day behind me, I always sleep well. Dreams are frequent and I look forward to my thoughts and sensations. Before I close my eyes, I pray. I prayed then that the father show me the right path to take. I gave thanks for my situation and asked the trinity watch over me and show me my way. I thought about the Stow, the ultimatum from Cedrick and my own fear. The fear people would find out just how ordinary I really am. My costume and the role I play will evaporate and I will be naked. Without the Stow I am nothing. I drift off to sleep.
My dream was a confusing conglomeration of my managers from the Stow, a meeting room with guards at the door, the prosecutor and a row of judges. We were sequestered and in this large meeting room around a grand oval table. A man dressed in a black robe addressed the room. To his right sat three faceless people. They occupied a raised table, wearing black and red robes, each with a long white wig. The man in the black robe was speaking to the judges. He told them I committed sins against my fellow man. That I used my power to undermine and demean others. He told the judges he will provide proof to substantiate the charges. He stated my crimes were punishable by death in the form of burning at the stake. He asked the court if he could proceed with his first witness.
A unison nod from the three faceless justices was returned. The prosecutor asked the first witness to speak. My eyes turned from the man in the black robe to see my executive team staring at me. Why were they looking at me? There was a moment of silence and I wondered why I was here and exactly where were we? The faces of my executive team were stained and cold.
Arthur began to speak, “Mr. Pavia, what I am about to say is based on my short tenure at the Stow. I know you have been the steward of the hotel for a long time and I want to share my thoughts with you. I am asking your permission to speak. I am also asking that when I finish you will not respond, simply acknowledge my words. Can you agree, Mr. Pavia?”
Dumbfounded at his boldness, at the same time I was curious about what he was about to say. But in the company of others? My executive and these judges! This request was like a swollen river sucking me in. It had me and I was only able to say, “Yes, I agree.”
Arthur stood. He looked around the room at the other managers and then at me. From this point forward, he looked me straight in the eye.
“Mr. Pavia, working at the Stow is an honor but working with you is a horror. Your passion and your commitment to the hotel are obvious and commendable. But Mr. Pavia, I must say your personal leadership is unbearable. The way you treat people is unacceptable. You seemingly have no boundaries and are willing to say anything you can possibly imagine to the staff and managers. When I spoke with you in your office about how you tortured Jennifer you told me it was all an act. The behavior you display is deplorable and I ask you simply stop it. If it’s all an act, then stop doing it. As far as I am concerned, it’s the one thing that is most easily changed and will have the most impact on our team and our health.”
With his sermon over Oliver sat down. Silence ensued as the eyes of the executive were all upon me.
I did not speak. I could not speak. I looked at Oliver and nodded I acknowledged his words. I was trembling inside. I was sure my executive saw this and I felt naked. The prosecutor asked for the next person to speak. It was Mary and she repeated the same chronicle and added my personal insults of her weight to her tale. Then it was James, then Michael, and one after one they all dumped their version of me and my actions. I sat in stoned silence. The words cut me like a thousand knives. I could only think of escape and revenge.
Ida woke me. I was in a cold wet sweat. It was 5 a.m. and she told me I was talking in my sleep and it sounded awful – unrecognizable words but frightened and stained. I got out of bed and headed for the bathroom. The vomit came quickly.