“There was this Italian singer Vick Damone. Oh, he was just a little jerk washed up singer.”
When I said I hadn’t heard of him, Jorge said,
“He did a variety show in the 60s.”
I was talking to Jorge, a very quiet man, who works at the grocery store I’ve gone to all my life. He never seemed to have much to say, until I got him to open up about his amazing stories working in the Hospitality/Food business.
“Another room service waiter was assigned to him.” Damone apparently demanded that he literally be served, i.e. set up his tray and feed him. Any objection was met with a string of obscenities.
“But the nicest was Tony Bennett. He chatted with me for 10 minutes, Bob Newhart was nice too.”
I was captivated. The stories were coming at me so fast I could barely keep up with them.
He was telling me about all his adventures and misadventures working at the Hilton for several years prior to working at our local Grocer’s.
“It all started by accident,” he said. He started working at the grocery store as a cashier and a bagger at first. He went in to get his paycheck one day and his supervisor said that they needed some help in the bakery.
“Would you like to help them,” his boss asked.
So he went in just to help doing things like packing the cookies and pies. The supervisor was so impressed and asked if he wanted to work here permanently.
Jorge thought he was joking. Doing packaging soon eased into baking.
He started filling in at other departments, one of which was the bread station. This was where he found his niche. He worked here for several years before he transferred to the Hilton Hotels and Resorts.
He still worked part time at the grocery store 3 nights a week, while doing room service mornings and afternoons at the Hilton.
It sounded like a really cool job, but I know that stress often runs high in the hospitality service. What was the stress level like, I asked.
“The stress level is perpetrated by department managers, who were very authoritative.”
He said that Hilton had a habit of hiring immigrants to manage departments. “You have these foreigners ruling departments with an iron fist. “The regular people were very nice. But it was tough working for these ‘little Hitlers.’”
In Sarasota, Florida, the Hilton he worked concierge/room service at was across from an amphitheater where many “washed up, has-beens, retired comedians and singers” frequently performed. So he dealt with celebrities, musicians, movie stars, and lots of retired millionaires. “They were always the most difficult to work with.”
“Diana Ross, sometime in the 90s tried to get the Supremes back together. Well, it was a disaster,” He said as a side note. “She’s very demanding. She wanted her bed changed three times a day, flowers in her room three times a day. Barbra Streisand had a perimeter of bodyguards who wouldn’t talk to you they would talk at you.”
He told a gruesome story about working the graveyard shift at the hotel he worked at in Atlanta. He said that they had an average of about 3 “jumpers” a year. The hotel particularly attracted jumpers because of the setting of trees outside one of the windows.
One in particular split across three trees. They had to call the SWAT team to evacuate the lobby. He wryly told of a fellow hotel worker, Fran, who directed him (with no authority), “Jorge, you get some sheets and cover up that mess.”
After he moved back to Charlotte, he transferred back to our neighborhood Grocer’s, which I have seen go through many changes in all of the years I have gone there. He works in the Fresh Foods Department, where he says there is no stress.
“They respect you and let you take breaks when you want.”
But I’ll bet the stories aren’t as good….