Recently, I transferred from the sales department at the hotel where I work to the night audit position. I am now essentially in charge of the hotel from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. And let me tell you, working at night is a lot more interesting than the day shift.
Third shift at a hotel is a unique experience. I get to see the raw, unvarnished self of people. The truth behind their public façade. Who they are when things don’t go exactly as planned and when they are tired, frustrated, and/or drunk. It is like being a minor character in someone else’s story. I get to briefly peek into the lives of strangers but with no real context.
Here is just a snapshot of what I see and deal with on a nightly basis.
We have several guests who work for some construction company who have been staying with us for several months. They also work odd hours, so I will routinely shoot the breeze with them when the hotel is quiet at three in the morning. There is Eric, who has a Tennessee drawl so thick that I have a really hard time understanding him. Scott, who is missing one leg. Paxton, who hated his roommate so much he said, “If I don’t get a room to myself, there will be violence. I spend one more night with that sumabitch.”
And then there is CJ. CJ is 6’4”, is built like a linebacker, and is everybody’s best friend. The first night I met him, he tried to slip me $20 to open up the pool at 1 a.m. so that he and his two lady friends could “go for a swim.” Every night he comes back from downtown, he has a different woman (or two) on his arm. Before going to work one morning, he left money at the front desk so that we could give it to his one-night stand when she woke up. CJ also loves getting super high and talking philosophy and religion at 5 a.m.
I saw a man who was clearly having an affair. He was on the phone with his (I assume) wife, talking about how much he misses her and the kids while he is away on business. He then hung up, paid for a room in cash, and walked up with a woman who looked very much as though she worked in the world’s oldest profession.
After our bar closed for the night, I watched as a middle aged man and woman walked about together. It was obvious that they were going back to a room together, but the woman was lecturing the man about what he should have done better in order to make his intentions clear.
“Next time, just straight up ask me if I want to go out for drinks just the two of us. Enough of this pussyfooting around.” It was like watching two highschoolers finally end up together.
I have only felt physically threatened once. We had a big event from GVSU going on in our banquet rooms, and the parking lot was packed because there were approximately three hundred extra people on site. So when guests who actually had rooms at the hotel were coming back at close to midnight and not able to find parking, they were understandably frustrated. One guy in particular, however, was livid. He was several inches shorter than me, but also a lot wider. He came up to the front desk super angry, super drunk, and demanded to see a manager. I radioed for the manager and had to wait ten to fifteen minutes before he arrived. For that entire time, this dude has his fists clenched on the desk and was giving me that unpredictable angry-drunk stare. I was simultaneously hyper-aware that this guy might jump over the desk and take a swing at me and also fighting back laughter because the whole situation was absurd to me.
Finally, I witnessed a heartbreaking episode play out over the course of two weeks. A woman, her young son, and the boy’s father were staying at the hotel. All three of them would be up at all hours of night, outside smoking, drinking, arguing. One night, it all came to a head. They had been fighting all night, almost coming to blows a few times. She kicked him out, then let him back in, then kicked him out, then went outside to talk with him. She was getting progressively more intoxicated as the night went on, and he seemed to be under the influence of some kind(s) of illegal substance.
At roughly 3:30 a.m., she came inside to say that she had called the police on the father and that the father had run off into the night. Apparently, the strain of a dissolving relationship and a heavy amount of drugs caused the guy to snap and try to kill himself by running onto the highway in hopes of getting hit by a car. The police apprehended him before that happened. An officer came in to take the statement of the woman and see if I could corroborate what she said. He was very nice and polite. But the thing that I remember most vividly is that five year old boy asking the officer, “What is going to happen to my daddy?”