By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

Heads in Beds, by Jacob Tomsky

“Hotels are methadone clinics for the travel addicted.  Maybe the only way I can even keep a home is to hold down a job surrounded by constant change.  If I’m addicted to relocating, then how about I rest a minute, in a lobby echoing with eternal hellos and good-byes, and let the world move around me?”

What’s a philosophy major to do when he graduates from college?  Luckily for readers, author Jacob Tomsky fell “into the pit of hospitality.”  Heads in Beds: a Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality offers a no-holds barred, insider look at the hotel industry.  Tomsky’s worldly, irreverent and gossipy tone assures readers that if they want dishing, he will deliver the goods…on heaps of domed platters, wheeled right into the comfort of their own living room…in the delectable form of this book.

This entertaining memoir chronicles Tomsky’s rise from an eager valet to an omniscient front desk agent, to an overworked (and underpaid) mid-manager, and back again to the front desk, where he’s ready to anticipate guests’ needs and hustle for tips.  In the spirit of such books as Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, Heads in Beds shines a spotlight on all the people who work both on the frontline and behind the scenes at hotels.  If the luxury hotel is his court, Tomsky, manning the front desk, serves as both its troubador and its jester.  His rolllicking storytelling brings all the characters who figure in this book: bellhops, housekeepers, managers, desk agents and guests — celebrities, as well as people breathing slightly less rarified air — to life.  Sure, Tomsky’s judgement can be scathing at times, but the author demonstrates that such vitriol has been earned, and he doesn’t hesitate to lambaste or laugh at himself.  More often than not, he depicts all the people in his book with a telling and a sympathetic eye, as well as an appreciation for work well done.

Readers follow Tomsky from his time working at a new luxury hotel in New Orleans, to his eventual migration to New York City.  Once he reached the city, he tried to secure a job in publishing, but he found, to his dismay, that the only jobs that he could get were in the hospitality business.  It’s fascinating to read his account of the careworn upscale hotel that employed him, along with its transformation when a large corporation purchased the hotel and dramatically overhauled both its appearance and management — though not all, necessarily, for the better.  Throughout the book, Tomsky also provides tips to travellers looking for ways to get an upgrade, to avoid obscene minibar bills, or even to skirt same-day cancellation penalties.  If you dread getting a hotel room next to the elevator, Tomsky is your man.  Pay attention to what he says, then behave (and tip) accordingly, the next time you find yourself checking into a hotel.

Readers who enjoy smart, funny, character-driven memoirs, with a strong sense of place should try Heads in Beds.

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