Beer, Peanuts, and everything else about the Stadium Experience. Except the game.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Bellboy on Tipping

Royals ---- 5
O's -------- 7
Sold ------- only 58 cans of Corona
I'm sick of afternoon traffic up to Baltimore, so today I hit the road just after 3:00, and made it up to Charm City with enough time to stop in at Second Chance Architectural Salvage, a group of warehouses filled with old oak doors, stained glass windows, and dusty decorative ironwork.

One building is stuffed with antique furniture. In one room was an intricately carved dresser, labeled "From the Belvedere Hotel." Inside the top drawer of the dresser was a folder, and inside the folder was a typed, three page essay. The essay was sort of a summary memoir of a guy's recollections of working was a bellboy at the grand hotel in the teens and '20s, when ladies had a separate entrance and lobby, and hansom cabs delivered the glitterati to stay. In between name dropping guests Woodrow Wilson, Jack Dempsey, Mark Twain, Mary Pickford, and Rudy Valentino (who "had the handsomest face that I had ever seen on a man"), the anonymous essayist put in a good bit about the culture of tipping. Some of it still applies:

Tipping then was not as general as it is today. We had to take care of plenty of stiffs. In the language of the bellboy a "stiff" is one who does not tip. And, speaking of tipping, I can remember some my impressions of the tipping habits of the various people. Actors and actresses of the legitimate stage tipped generously enough, but were usually difficult and demanding. You earned what you received from a traveling salesman. The people of the sports world were best tippers. Catholic priests were high on my list. They were not only generous but easy to serve. This is no plug, as I am a Baptist myself.

The ones that I could not figure out were the Japanese of that time. Whenever a good-sized group of people would arrive the bellmen would expect some stiffs. These well-dressed little men would arrive with their baggage, some of which would be imitation leather or straw, and after you showed them to their rooms you would be paid by everyone, usually a quarter or a half-dollar -- a big tip in those days. I figured out that their government had briefed them before coming over to be generous and to leave a good impression on the American people. They sure made a good impression on me. This was, of course, long before there was any talk of war between us.


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