Wednesday 19 October 2011

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The Plaza Hotel in New York - How Not To Get Ice

Probably not where I want to be at 4am.
The whole reason Lori and I were staying at the Plaza was that we were trying to be at a taping of a Brad Paisley concert in Central Park. It was part of the Good Morning America concert series, and therefore would be starting at 6am, meaning that we needed to be in the middle of Central Park at around 4am in order to guarantee ourselves a spot. The thought of hopping a subway from our usual haunts down in Times Square at 4 in the morning didn't really appeal to us, so when an opportunity for a discounted rate at the Plaza came up, we decided to jump on it. It meant that we could just walk over to the park in the morning, but it still meant that we had to get up really early.

Just before Lori and I came out to New York, we both got new phones. Although we'd had a little time to play with them, neither of us felt very confident in setting an alarm on them to make sure we got up, so we decided that we would call down to the front desk (if they'd still take our calls) and request a wake up call. I phoned the desk and was told "Certainly Mr. Pratt, I'll transfer you to the butler." Wait...what? Why am I being transferred to the butler? What kind of wake up call requires a butler?

Central Park, at a much more reasonable hour.
In hindsight if I'd investigated further, I would have found out that each floor has a butler, and that they were responsible for making the wake up calls for each room on their floor. It makes perfect sense. What was going through my mind however, was me waking up to find an older gentleman in a tuxedo standing beside my bed saying "Good morning sir!" I'm not sure if I got that visual from the movie Arthur or Batman, but either way that was the concept I had in my brain, and it wasn't something I was really excited about. So when the butler came on the phone and said "Good evening Mr. Pratt. I understand you would like a wake up call for 3am?" my response was "Oh, no thanks. We've decided to sleep in," and I hung up the phone. Mental note: avoid the butler for the rest of our stay.

Since now both the lobby and the 9th floor hallway were places that we didn't really want to be seen, we decided that we would relax in our room for a while. We had brought a few cans of Diet Coke from the last hotel (I know...Diet Coke. We can't even blame our lack of suaveness on alcohol.) but they were obviously warm and we needed some ice. I searched our room high and low, but I couldn't find an ice bucket anywhere. It seemed like a strange thing for a five star hotel to overlook, but I guess things happen, so I called down to the front desk (again) to see if there was a bucket in the room somewhere and I was just missing it.  Their response literally sent chills down my spine.

"Oh no Mr. Pratt, there's no ice bucket. Just call the butler and he'll bring you some ice. Would you like me to transfer you?"

Good Lord No! I assured them that I could do it myself, and hung up the phone. When Lori asked what the front desk had said, I told her, "They said there's no ice."

Amazingly, my wife didn't accept that as gospel, so I filled her in on the rest of the story. Lori agreed that it probably wouldn't be a great idea to call the butler, but she still really wanted some ice. I figured that the ice had to come from somewhere, so I grabbed a plastic bag and headed out to find the ice machine. Keeping an eye open for the butler (although I'm not really sure where I intended to go if I saw him) I went up and down the hallway and discovered that there was only one door on the entire floor that didn't have a room number on it. I pushed it open a crack and sure enough, there was the ice machine. Feeling very pleased with myself I went to fill up my plastic bag, but before I could get to the machine I heard "Can I help you sir?"

Now seemed like a good time to look around, and when I did I noticed that this was much bigger than your normal ice machine room.  Over to the right was an entire kitchen setup, and standing in front of it was a man in a full tuxedo (with tails even). Oh goodie, I'd found the butler's room. As I tried to stammer the word "ice", my mind was going through this interaction from the butler's point of view. Here was a guy in shorts and t-shirt, carrying a plastic bag, wandering in through an unmarked door - essentially the exact description of somebody who had come to steal the good silverware, which coincidentally was visible on the counter behind him. I was trying to figure out what to say, when I realized that I was holding my room key in my hand. I held it out towards him in a kind of a "See, I really belong here" manner, but the butler paid no attention to it and just repeated "Can I help you with something sir?" I decided that perhaps this wasn't that unusual a situation for him (yeah right) so I simply asked if it would be possible to get some ice.  He said "Certainly sir. If you would just give me your room number, I'll bring it right over."

Up until this point I had just assumed that everybody was aware that there were a couple of crazy, coin-carrying Canadians in the hotel, but by asking my room number the butler gave me hope that perhaps we were still a little more incognito than I thought. Still, if I gave him my room number, surely he would put two and two together since it had barely been 30 minutes since I had arranged and then cancelled a wake up call, all in the same breath. I was considering giving a fake room number (although I have no idea what good that would have done) when brilliance came upon me.

"Actually, my wife is sleeping right now. I was hoping to just pick up some ice and sneak back in to our room without waking her."

"Of course sir" he replied, then proceeded to grab an ice bucket and fill it up with ice for me, never once asking what my intentions were for the plastic bag I was holding. I thanked him sincerely and headed back to my room, although I did take the long way just in case he was watching.

The rest of our stay at the Plaza went off without a hitch, and looking back, I'm pretty sure that all of my paranoia about how out of place we looked was unwarranted. The staff of the Plaza never did anything to give the impression that they were looking down on us, and only a person with an imagination as overactive as mine would even worry about such a thing. The Plaza is every bit the amazing and luxurious hotel that it's reputation would lead you to believe, and if the chance arose to stay there again, I would take it in a heartbeat.  Of course, this time I'd show up with 5 credit cards, a fistful of $10 bills, and my own drink cooler.

I hope Brad realizes that this was all his fault.