Fifth Area of Experience
Being behind the wheel of Hospitality – being a Bellman / Valet Parker/ Driver/ Chauffeur
My fifth experience has to be one of my most favorite hospitality experiences to date: this was of course being behind the wheel of it (literally). This is when I got a contract to work in a new country and a new company.
My employment was due to my previous experience and somehow the porter / bellmen job made me stick out to fill their opening. The location is Bahrain, introduced to me … and strongly qualified in my book as the “Party Island” of Arabia. Don’t believe me ask the younger adult generation of Saudi Nationals, they flee their country every weekend for it.
Well what can I say more about this place , Desert , Desert and more Desert . The most interesting thing about the Idea of staying on a desert Island is that you still expect beaches and bikinis somewhere in the mix. Not really something you should get your hopes up in this place, but still it is better compared to the U. A. E when looking at practicing western freedom.(yes you heard correctly even Dubai is more conservative and restricted for Western Cultures than this Arabian gem.
There I was surrounded by what is known as Desert, but ironically not a single sand dune in sight. Smack in the middle of nothingness is a Resort so exclusive that staying there would mean a hefty amount of the ordinary man’s budget or in most cases a group effort.
So what did I do ? Well I searched and learned how a guy like me could to get myself a driver’s license here. (It should be noted that after my UK experience I got my national driver license for the first time)
Still wet behind the ears of driving a car and I find myself at a the licensing offices not sure of I would need a translator to be understood or not. Luckily English was something even the locals practiced and I found myself and my nerdish Id photo on a course to become self-mobile.
After my company found this out I was no longer a mere porter / bellmen and soon found myself being a chauffeur behind the wheel of luxury cars your Dad would have wished his company car could magically transform into.
To continue this sudden shift of responsibilities and seeing that our business didn’t come from your average Jo, someone was going to have to park these high society vehicles not many have seen nor operated. I am talking about your Maserati’s, Austin Martins, Bentleys, Rolls Royce’s , Lambos and my cliché favorite the one and only: the red blooded Ferrari. This was where I gained experience in the field of Valet parking and greatly enjoyed it. (by the way a Porsche wasn’t considered as a worthy candidate for this list-a very true statement in this time of my life)
These cars where expected and I was never disappointed to valet them and see what made their engine purr. In between the Porter / bellmen responsibilities and Valet service, not for getting the job of Chauffeur as it had to fulfilled, duties was simple clean the car and make sure all amenities and newspapers where replenished before collection.
Then you would either drop off a guest or pick up the guest from any location or a usual airport arrival pick up would be requested. Dropping of a guest at the Airport was usually my favorite as you would have the car all to yourself once the guess was safely dropped at their destination. This means some special alone time with your baby (even if these cars where regularly swapped of other luxury models), we the chauffeurs somehow had a connection with them.
Now you surely already know my highlights and now I would briefly explain the challenges I faced, after a while driving becomes a danger for yourself and others as you are pushed to your limit during peak times and busy periods of hotel s time lines and with minimum rest or some cases dinner breaks things could end up becoming ugly soon. There is relatively no excuse as to why the job can’t be done when your colleagues are floating in the same situation.
Also note that during this time I had more than one undocumented obligation and it is again a testament to how far staff will be utilized and in this case exploited.
Make no mistake about it every hotel operates more or less along these identical faultiness.
The compensation at this point is a nonguaranteed tip or “at its very most” a yearend bonus (pray you work long enough to receive it).