Some jobs are more memorable than others

Published 3:38 pm Friday, January 11, 2019


Coffee with Mimi

I have worked at some outside-of-the-house job since I was in my early teens. Way too many years ago to count. Sometimes the jobs were interesting or fun, perhaps educational, sometimes they were the means to an end, a paycheck with which to pay the bills or have spending money.

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Some jobs were more memorable than others. My first not babysitting or fast food joint job came while in college. I worked the front desk at a hotel on the second shift so I could go to class during the day. I took the gig because it was within walking distance of my dorm. At one point in my life I contemplated a career in the hospitality industry and thought this was convenient as well as a chance to get some real experience.

People watching kept me from being bored out of my mind. There was only so much homework I could do on an 8 hour shift. The hotel, which no longer exists, was at the time on its last legs. It was old and historic. In its day it was quite something. Black and white photographs of many major society functions were displayed in nooks and crannies throughout the property. I worked in the accounting office during  the post mortem period of its closing. It was destined to be demolished. I found an old seal press while sorting documents. It has been on a shelf in every home I’ve lived in since.

There was a penthouse apartment on the top floor of the hotel. During my tenure at the desk, the penthouse was occupied full time by an elderly widowed woman of means. She took all her meals in the hotel dining room. You could set your watch by her breakfast, lunch and dinner times. At precisely the top of the appointed hour, the elevator floor light would pop on at the top and I would watch the floor number lights as the elevator descended to the lobby. These were the days when big, downtown hotels staffed elevators with a uniformed attendant. He generally had quite a lot to say in quiet moments on second shift. The guest was significant and the schedule so precise, the attendant would take the elevator to the top at the ready for her. I suppose the elevator’s descent could have been interrupted as other guests pushed the call button on one of the other floors, but I don’t recall that being the case. The attendant did his job and she rode express.

I was told she tipped well at Christmas.

I can see it to this day. The elevator door would open and there she was. She didn’t just exit the elevator. She made an entrance into the Lobby. She was petite, of course. Her hair and make-up were meticulous every day at all hours. Her outfit was beautifully cut and accessorized with significant pieces of jewelry. She wore gloves and a hat and carried a purse which coordinated with her outfit always.

Due to the precision in her scheduled appearances, the wait staff in the restaurant was prepared for her initial drink order at each meal. It was placed at her table, either piping hot or well chilled, at the precise moment she was escorted to her seat. When she sat and removed her gloves, she could reach immediately for the beverage. I am not exaggerating. I slipped out from behind the desk one day to witness the event; sure the bartender had been pulling my leg with the tale.

In my memory, I never exchanged a single word with her. Her bills and hotel business were managed by a third party firm under the terms of the estate of her late husband. I think he was in the coal business. They weren’t originally from the town. If she ventured out of the hotel for social or cultural events, it was not on my scheduled work days. If she belonged to a bridge group or a book club, I can’t say. But, I imagined I knew a lot about her as I watched from my perch behind the front counter.

While I was fascinated with the ritual I observed on my shift, the part between the elevator and the restaurant door going and coming, my favorite bit of gossip came courtesy of the hotel’s long employed bartender. She consumed two old fashions at lunch and dinner every day. Not breakfast. The last I heard, she had died at a ripe old age well into her 90’s.

She had visitors occasionally. They were similarly very well and formally dressed. They would appear and stroll purposefully through the lobby to the elevator. I knew they were her visitors because the elevator light would go all the way to the top floor. No one else lived up there. I don’t recall if there was a story about them, but in my experience, they never joined her in the dining room. So I figured they were attached to the firm handling her business.

As jobs go, it was just that. As for the memories, much better.