Knees locked from standing behind the desk, I force a smile for the guests tipping through the door like the contents of a spilled toy box; flight cases crashing and voices fighting for dominance.
Check-ins at this time of the morning are always either exhausted business travellers or bands fresh from the stage. Either way they’re only looking for the same thing: a drink or two and a warm bed. I try not to judge, although my mother would have told stories for weeks about the man who’s approaching the desk rummaging through the contents of a poly-pocket.
Tall – at six foot it’s unusual that I have to look up to meet someone’s eye – with a tuffet of bleached dreadlocks sprouting from his temple partially hiding the Gothic print tattooed on his forehead and the tear-drops under his right eye. He pats down the sides of his biker jacket, finally retrieving a sheaf of passports and mumbles the alias which the rooms had been booked under. It’s a terrible pun that must have seemed side-splitting when they dreamed it up in the studio. Now it causes the young man (just twenty, I see from his ID) to blush and stammer as he initials here, and here; and just a wee signature here sir.
A few years ago when I’d taken this job as a place holder until I worked out what I really wanted to be when I grew up, the reflected glare of celebrity and the little anecdotes that my brother’s friends ate up at parties was exciting. Gave me something to talk about on Twitter before they made us sign the Social Media Policy. Now increasingly more often I wouldn’t know who the bulk of these people were, even without the comedic pseudonyms.
Paperwork complete, the energy of their grand entrance is beginning to subdue. Whilst a couple of the more exuberant members – the singer, I’d guess from his strut – trickle down to the bar, most accept their keys with a mumbled thanks and pack off to their rooms. That only leaves one more for tonight and I wince internally as I recognise the name.
Twenty minutes of so pass before the weighty thrum of the silent building is disturbed by the click of a wheeled suitcase – a suitcase I know by now contains a panoply of leather and rubber hidden underneath the Moss Bros. suits.
“Come on man, we’ve not got all bloody night.”
He flicks his credit card across the desk, gammon faced and suit crumpled. I can just see the top of a leather collar glancing out from underneath his shirt.
“I don’t know why you make this so difficult. Send my bag up quickly, I have a friend joining me.”
I bet you do, I think. Lots of friends for such a sulphurous man. Always much younger than him too. He walks brusquely off up the stairs with a halting, clinched totter. Like I say; I try not to judge.
Three AM. Three hours to go. A quick walk-round and some finances to balance then I can head home to make Heather breakfast and take her to school. I crack my knees.