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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

Heads in Beds- A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky
Published by Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-53563-2
Hardcover, $25.95
Publishes on November 20, 2012
If you've ever checked into a hotel and wondered how to get an upgrade or a complimentary bottle of wine, this is a book you will want to read. Born into a military family and used to moving around a lot, Jacob Tomsky wanted to see the world and put his philosophy degree to good use. He started as a valet in a brand new New Orleans luxury hotel and worked his way up to managing housekeeping. Having visited New Orleans, I particularly enjoyed his story of living there and of the hard-working people with whom he worked.

He eventually makes his way to New York, and works at a hotel that is a bit on the run-down end of things, yet still manages to attract famous clientele like Brian Wilson, although it was during the days of his unfortunate mental breakdown stage. Tomsky really sets the scene there, as we meet the valets, the doormen and bellmen, all of whom are wonderfully sketched. We learn how important it is to tip your bellman, as they depend on tips to raise their family, and the jockeying by the bellmen to get the big tipper. And a well-placed $20 to your front desk person can get you a long way. I love the New York slang we learn, such as a 'brick' is a $100 bill. Someone could create a TV show set in this hotel.

Tomsky writes of his loneliness living in New York, knowing no one. He rented a room in an apartment with three women, and each morning he would return from the night shift, drink beer in his bedroom and try to fall asleep. Other than work, he really had no friends. I think anyone who has moved to a big city on his/her own might recognize his feelings.

A co-worker successfully tries to unionize the hotel workers, which Tomsky is not interested in, but he signs to be one of the guys. Good thing, because when a conglomerate buys out the hotel, things change. First up: all non-unionized employees are fired.   However you feel about unions, this section of the book is fascinating. The hotel becomes very corporate, and loses most of its charm. They also lose much of their old clientele, as the rates skyrocket with the new owners' renovations. The new management does their best to get rid of the union workers, and Tomsky's job is frequently on the line.

The appendices contain such helpful information as 'Things a Guest Should Never Say', 'Things a Guest Should Never Do' and 'Things Every Guest Must Know'. I know I plan on using those tips on my next trip.

Tomsky is a good writer, he draws you a vivid picture of the hotels he has worked in, and the people he worked with, and I enjoyed spending time in his world. If you like memoirs set in the workplace, this is one to pick up.

rating 4 of 5

1 comment:

  1. I don't stay in hotels very often , but this sounds very interesting. I would not have picked it up to look at if I had seen it in the bookstore, but after reading your comments, it is very appealing.