Lily was a front desk agent at La Maison, a boutique hotel in Chicago. Most days at La Maison revolved around placating the large number of wealthy (and entitled) clientele who frequented such places, and today was no different. On average, she mollified two dozen harried guests before her lunch break. Lily had an excellent poker face, which she employed whenever she handled such delicate situations. The trick was never to let them see you falter, or they would go in for the kill.
That day, the first complaint arose surprisingly late in the morning, when a certain guest’s flight was delayed due to the frosty Chicago weather. The guest, Mr. Andrew Reed, was a tiny, well-dressed man, with a shiny bald head and small features. The front desk came up to his mid-chest and he placed both hands palm down on it – a clear gesture of power. Mr. Reed insisted that Lily extend his stay by one night, at no additional cost. This was absurd, as he was already paying an alarmingly low rate for one of the hotel’s suites. Lily smiled politely, met Mr. Reed’s glare, and replied, “Unfortunately sir, we cannot accommodate that request. However, we can give you a slight discount for your additional night. And, of course you could stay in your original room.”
“That is not even close to what I am asking for… Lily,” he said, pausing to glance at her name tag before spitting her name out like a curse, “I said I want it completely discounted. It’s not my fault that your winters here are unbearable. Now, give me a new key to my room, and see that the luggage is brought back up,” Mr. Reed finished with an affected huff and a stomp of his shiny Ferragamo loafer.
“Again, I can’t allow you to stay in the room for free, but, if you will bear with me for just one moment, I’ll see what my manager can do about your rate,” Lily replied, still employing her generic smile.
“You do that,” the guest sneered. He kept peeking at his shiny, undoubtedly expensive wrist watch as if he had anywhere else to be. She could feel his narrow, grey eyes boring into her back as she turned away from him.
There was no one in the back office. In fact, Lily was the only one working at the front desk until the afternoon shift came in. She sat in the office for a long minute, wishing that Mr. Reed would walk blindly into oncoming traffic and imagining the gory details. When sufficient time had passed, Lily returned to the desk and addressed the beet-faced guest before her. “I’m sorry, sir. It’s just not possible. My manager offered free breakfast tomorrow in addition to the discount, though. Would that work for you?” she asked, smiling apologetically to show that this was indeed her final offer.
“I suppose that will have to do, but I still don’t appreciate being punished for this snow storm. I’m missing a very important conference in San Francisco because of this, you know.” Mr. Reed sighed dramatically and Lily knew she had won this round. When he realized that she wasn’t going to apologize again, he leveled his gaze and continued. “Very well, just have my bags sent back to my room and make me a new key.” Mr. Reed looked as if he had just bitten into a ripe lemon. His shiny head was angled up, nose in the air, as he gave this last command.
“Yes sir, here you are. I’ll have a bellman up to the room right away with your bags,” Lily promised as Mr. Reed snatched the room key from her hand and spun on his fancy heel towards the elevators. She watched him go, shaking her head. Lily sighed. “Just another day in paradise,” she said to no one in particular…