At the Hotel: Out of the Blue

November 3, 2008

Part of my role at the hotel had me working the graveyard shift from 11 pm to 7 am. Working the graveyard shift was never something I thought of before I started working at the hotel. My only previous encounter with a night clerk was staying at a hotel in Syracuse, and getting a phone-call at a weird hour to ask a stupid question. I can’t remember the question exactly, but I do remember it was something that could have been handled at another time. Little did I know that little encounter would have a lasting effect on me. The reason being, as anyone, and I honestly mean anyone, who has worked in a hotel will know that it takes a certain person to work the late shift: a kook.

I say that in the nicest way possible, because to me, the night audit shift is purgatory. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. By that I mean falling asleep. It is definitely the hardest part about the job is keeping yourself entertained enough to stay awake. Reading a book doesn’t cut it all the time, computer usage is limited, and late-night television is rather boring. Fortunately for night auditors, the night time can present some of the best entertainment out there that makes some of these nights go much quicker than expected.

The possibilities are endless:

  • Conversations with friends while they drink draft beer at the Front Desk.
  • Downloading and playing World of Warcraft.
  • Kicking out someone from the hotel and having a finger get broken on a first or second shift
  • Watching couples argue through the lobby to the elevator and watch them return twenty minutes later in tears.
  • Hanging out with forty other people in the lobby waiting for taxis, while they’re in full costume.
  • Playing Johnny Cash loud – and thinking you are Johnny Cash.
  • Checking people in around 2 am, then checking them out at 6:30 am.
  • and, my personal favourite, the hotel getting shot.

If I were half the writer that Robert Service was, I would start this with rhyme like his Shooting of Dan McGrew.

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.

Instead, I’ll give you the skinny of what happened.

It was a Friday, on a humid August evening. The bars were clearing out and the people were moving up the street towards the hotel to take advantage of the cab phones in the lobby. I always kept the doors unlocked to allow people to come in, because I was too curious to hear about their nights. My curiousity may be the death of me at some point, and nearly was this night.

While I stood talking with a young couple at the desk, a mob started to form in front of the hotel doors. There was quite a bit of yelling going on, and then one person separated out from the group to head up the street, still facing back towards the mob. I saw his hand go down to his waist, pulling back his jacket, keeping his hand on the ready. I watched as if I was a part of a movie, because it sure felt like it. Other people in the lobby were watching the same thing I was. The only thing missing was the popcorn.

As the mob moved further up the street, the young couple took a step outside to wait for their cab. I turned to work on something else when I heard one clear sound.

POP

The couple came running inside and down the stairs to the basement area. I picked up the phone and called 9-1-1. While I was on the phone with the dispatcher, I heard it again.

POP
POP
POP

The police arrived on the scene fairly quickly after that. As it turned out, there was a stabbing at the bar next door, and the police just happened to be huddled outside of the doors half a block away. They never realized what was happening five car lengths away, though. While the police searched the area, things were quieter until the night janitor came in. I explained the whole thing to them, and they were in disbelief. At that same moment, the first RCMP officer stepped inside the hotel lobby to talk to me about what happened. They disappeared for another while, and I carried on with my business.

Another thirty minutes passed, and the RCMP officer returned, requesting that one of us may want to come with them to look at things. I locked the front of the hotel, and walked up the street to see what the fuss was about. The gun had been fired four times in total, and three of those shots had been in the hotel’s direction.

  1. One bullet struck the hotel fairly high up on the side of the building, in line with the emergency stairwell.
  2. One bullet struck a rental car parked on the side of the building.
  3. One bullet went right through our emergency stairwell door, and into the wall.

The investigative officer arrived on the scene and told us that he had to extract the bullet from the wall inside the staircase. The night janitor said that she could call maintenance in for the morning to do it. His response was that it had to come out tonight one way or the other. Sure enough, within the hour, he had cut it out of the wall and left a nice mess for our maintenance crew to clean up.

Everytime I think of this story and re-tell it, the one detail in my mind that stands out is that we were all lucky that the gun wasn’t a higher caliber and that it was aimed higher and into the building. Why? There was a large 75 gallon propane tank, full, a mere ten feet away from the doorway where the bullet hit the car and the wall.

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