I blame Arthur Hailey for my lifelong interest in the hospitality trade. The incredibly tacky adaptation of his novel "Hotel" was on RTE TV during my formative years. My parents even had the book. During college I worked as kitchen porter for a rather charming old school restaurant. (One of the kitchen staff was once heard to observe that only bloody protestants ate there). I've spent the last five years working in a series of bars, clubs and hotels around Dublin.
Joining the military must be the nearest thing to working in hospitality. These people eat together, drink together, socialise together and generally end up getting off with each other. (Actually maybe its not like the military). Hotel/bar staff have to put up with each other all the time. Bonds are forged, friendships made. Me? I like to get the f**k out the moment I finish, but a lot of bar people will stay for drinks after work. The hours are long, pay is shite but the buzz can be great.
I was working on Friday night and we had an area in the club sectioned off for a private booking. Turns out it was for the staff of another hotel whose doors closed for the final time this week. A multi-millionaire builder wants to make even more money for himself and the trophy wife so its down with an old Dublin landmark (or three) and up with more apartments.
I'm no socialist or liberal bed wetter. My politics are slightly to the right of PJ O' Rourke. I'm prejudiced against several races and I fart in the general direction of Indymedia. The builder owns the hotel and maybe the hundreds of luxury apartments he intends to build (with a concierge service, health spa, gym and chemist on the ground floor) will make Dublin a better place.
The staff of the now defunct hotel were generally in good spirits despite losing their jobs.
I suspect some of the redundancy money had already been paid 'cos there were some lovely frocks on show and the jar was flowing.
In the midst of the sing song there was an older gentleman. I'd say he was in his late 50's and he was noticeably quiter than the rest of his party. While the some of the younger mob launched into a spirited rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone he slowly stood up, drained his glass and left the bar. Most of the crowd didn't notice him slip out but a woman got up and went after him. She arrived back alone some minutes later, and I got chatting to her.
The old guy would be okay she explained. He is a lovely man but seperated from his wife for years, and they have no children. She told him to call her and that he should come over for dinner with her and the husband. They're both a little worried about him. He worked day in day out because he loved being part of the hotel. And now he won't be doing that anymore.