:: Article

Summer Job

By Cassandra Moss.

Due to holiday absences and a shift miscalculation, I’m now covering reception as well as cleaning out rooms, getting them ready for guests, data entry, photocopying, running out for milk and anything else The Meadows Hotel can legally get away with making me do. Reception is like having a lobotomised conversation. Think of the money, my mum tells me. I need to save up for my deposit and there’s only thirty more 6am starts when questions of ‘what for?’ go unanswered.

Mr. Conran complained about noise disturbance again. It was the fourth time so I went to his room to listen. We sat on the edge of his bed. The mattress, he said, sagged in the middle and contorted his spine into unnatural positions during the night. I couldn’t hear anything. He asked me, what kind of service are we providing here? At a loss, I told him to speak to the manager. He muttered something about not being dismissed. The corners of his mouth remained sealed shut as the middle opened and closed, making him fish-like. At the end of my shift he came down to the desk and handed me a note that the manager had signed. It said he had good reason to believe there were rats in the walls and that a full inspection had to be carried out in case there was an infestation. While I was on the phone to the exterminators, Mr. Conran’s eyes stayed on me, as if he thought there was a conspiracy of rats that I was trying to keep hidden from him. Can’t wait ‘til he checks out.

Threw up over next door’s shrubbery last night as a result of drinking spirits at Sarah’s until 3am. Today was horrific. Ms. Pearson checked out in the morning. God knows what she did in her room, but there was some kind of condiment stain on the wall which took until midday to remove. Hangovers and cleaning products don’t mix well so I dry-heaved for a while and noticed a gold ring with a big ruby in the middle of the bathroom floor. I bet Ms. Pearson was a goer in her heyday. The ring’s probably worth a bit. Her daughter doesn’t want any of her stuff, something about it hindering the mourning process, so the ring went to the gift shop. Perhaps someone on a drunken or sentimental whim might buy it. Even so, it’ll most likely end up back at the shop again and be on permanent rotation.

Five hours straight of data entry because of six new check-ins on Monday. Inseparable minutes just kept continuing to occur. Time is my enemy. There’s a young couple coming. The double sheets haven’t been washed in ages. That’s no way to run a hotel. And Nigel, the manager, came to me and said I’d made a mistake. Under Reason for Stay for Ms. S. Ackroyd I put I have no reason to instead of I have no reason not to. This, he said, was the kind of error that puts the entire establishment’s professionalism into question. Reason for Stay is one of the most important pieces of information that we have to record. If, Nigel said, I was finding it too difficult to read and copy data, then he would arrange for me to have extra training after my shift. Nigel can go fuck himself.

Obviously some people vacillate more than others, but the period of stay can’t be indefinite so there’s a review in regard to Mr. Conran. He’s never going to leave. The other day he said he could still hear noise. He said it could be cockroaches and I said there’d have to be an awful lot for that to be the case. I told him that pest control would’ve noticed cockroaches when they were here looking for rats. They’re very different creatures, rats and cockroaches, he said. Yeah, but you’d know if you saw cockroaches or if you didn’t, I said. He looked at me as if I’d confessed that I used to be an insect myself and just stared with that fixed gaze for an interminable period and then said, what makes you think you’re qualified to make that distinction?

Absolute chaos. When the new bookings turned up there was an extra one that the agent neglected to mention. Of course everybody thought it was my fault. Nigel panicked and had me constantly repeat what was already in the system in the hope that after x amount of times the information would suit our situation. When it didn’t, he resorted to swearing at me. The night before I’d barely slept at all because I began to worry about my end of year results. The space behind my eyes was torched. At one point, I was on the verge of tears but that would have been a mortification too far and hardly worth the liquid loss. To be fair, the unaccounted for guest, Mr. Mason, was very good about it all and said he didn’t want to cause a fuss. We had to ask Mr. Davis if he minded checking-out a few hours early. He just shrugged and said there was no point delaying the inevitable any longer.

I got a mid 2:1. Not bad, given how little I worked. Found out that Mr. Mason also studied Philosophy and seems like a pretty interesting guy. I guess he’s about thirty-five. We were in his room with Mr. Conran to see if we could hear the noise. There was a copious silence. You’ve got no choice but to hear your own thoughts. In 1992, Mr. Conran started, I stayed in a B&B in Anglesey that had bats in the attic. We waited for more. Then, after an unsociable muteness, Mr. Mason said the thing about bats is that you can’t get rid of them. Once they’re there, they’re there forever. Mr. Conran looked up at Mr. Mason, the two of them hardly able to share the same air, and bunched up his squat shoulders to reply that they could’ve just gassed them and not told anybody. That would’ve been a proper solution. He said he was going to start keeping a ‘noise journal’.

Sam, who was supposed to be on check-out duty all week, has the flu. Nigel believes this is a lie and Sam is actually at a music festival in Norfolk. Either way, it means I’m on evening entertainment while Nigel covers Sam. I would’ve done check-outs if they’d offered to pay me what the others get for doing it. Yes, there’s a bit more to it than making beds, but not having a clue what I’m doing is a major feature of this job and, anyway, I feel I’m almost qualified to run the place now.

Wednesday night: Beetle Drive. Slitting your wrists is more skilful than this game. There are tables of four with a shared die. You need to get a six to begin with so you can draw the body of the beetle, then you continue to roll for other numbers so you can complete the insect and shout ‘Beetle!’ The person with the most beetles at the end of the night wins. It was slow going to start with. Lacklustre rolls kept producing ones and twos (why, I don’t know) so for a while the sound of plastic thrown against plastic was all that was audible. Perhaps underscored by the clicks of mastication. Then the first six spurred the others on, until the communal wrist movement became so frenzied I worried there’d be mass complaints of sprain. It almost turned violent during the last game. Ms. Stevens was getting near hysterical at what she called ‘a morally repugnant lack of sportsmanship’ because she believed Mr. Hall was cheating. She said this was her last chance to win. He said that she was only thinking of herself, her own circumstance. Just before she swung, Mr. Mason held her back and calmed her down. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done if he hadn’t. Something paralyses me in those types of situation, the ones where other people can no longer mitigate their actual feelings for the sake of everybody else. Afterwards, I thanked Mr. Mason and he said, that was nothing, he’d once been at a Beetle Drive with his aunt where an 86 year old woman broke four ribs. It’s serious stuff up in Wigan, he said. And then he said it’s a shame that the evening won’t end now, right at this moment. This would be the perfect time to lose consciousness. But, he said, there’s still many hours of darkness in which any little triviality becomes a predator. Actually, I said, I won’t need much rocking tonight. I’d just noticed, too, as I said goodbye, that Mr. Mason’s not bad looking.

Most of today was taken up with a problem in the check-out room. Nigel came out at 10:30ish, sweating and panting, and told me to call external services. He’d been trying for an hour to get Ms. Stevens’ body down. Apparently, the rope was wedged inside the folds of her neck and she was too heavy to hold in position. I offered to help, but I think Nigel thinks I’d demand extra pay for it. Eventually, it was sorted and the body sent off to the morgue. Ms. Stevens had requested that nobody be notified after she checked out. Her room was full of cellophane. It was possibly from things she got at the gift shop, like the Russian dolls and the miniature car set, but that didn’t account for the rest of it. Slithers of the stuff kept attaching themselves to me, and whenever I took one piece off, another immediately replaced it, as if they were asexual organisms hellbent on reproducing no matter what the outcome or the point.

Friday disco. 80s night. Grim. The dance floor was an axiom of malcontent. About nine people showed up, two of whom were the young couple. They sat across a table from each other, looking at the floor, which, as floors go, wasn’t that bad a thing to spend time observing, and then danced to Careless Whisper, his head on her shoulder, their feet piling on top of each others’. In the far left corner, Mr. Conran sat next to a speaker, sipping the same pint for the whole duration. When it was over, he got up and walked past me without a word. Disappointingly, Mr. Mason didn’t show up like he’d promised.

Done. Over. I’m free. Last day was manic. Nigel had a showdown with Mr. Conran about when/if he was ever going to check out. Hotel policy states that once he’d agreed to the conditions of stay, he had a six month maximum. He tried to argue that the noise disturbance had ruined his stay and he should be compensated with an extra month. Nigel relented, as, he said, Mr. Conran’s family have plenty of money. But in three weeks, Mr. Conran is definitely checking out. He wants to hang himself, but after the incident with Ms. Stevens, there’s a review to decide if hanging should continue to be an option. Ideally, guests would check out by means of injection or pills. Hanging’s considered to be an archaic indulgence that’s hardly suitable for either the guest or the establishment. Mr. Conran’s adamant, though, and I think he’ll use that to extend his stay as much as possible. Whatever. It’s not my problem anymore. Mr. Mason checked out before I got to say goodbye. He left a note that thanked me for making his stay as pleasant as possible. No one ever leaves notes. At least someone appreciated me whilst I was here. I’m not going to miss a thing about this place. And now I’ve got to deal with the fucking house. Turns out the one in Clapham fell through which means more viewings and arguments. Dread.



Cassandra Moss works as an English Language teacher in Central London. She has been published in Succour Magazine and has contributed to the Genius or Not online literary project. She is currently working on a compilation of short stories.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, October 23rd, 2011.