Reverie at Bennys Place

An American in London Chapter I

There is inspiration to be gained when someone writes of their travels and everyone can agree we need inspiration. With inspiration, we unlock the power of our being. With the powers of our being unlocked, we contribute remarkable things to the world. I hope these tales of my time in London inspire you.

cast of The Real World London

I want to go to London!

Watching MTV’s The Real World London is where it all began. The accents, the architecture (particularly Oxford college as featured in the show) and the general attitude of the people on the ‘reality’ show planted within me the notion that I must travel there. But how? I was working for a Marriott in Denver at the time and I asked my manager if it was possible to transfer to hotels in other countries. “You could always try” was his reply. I then called up a few of our Marriott’s in London and not knowing what to say I just introduced myself and said I would love to come work for you at your hotel and asked if there were there any positions available.

The first Marriott I called was the corporate Marriott at Grosvenor Square. I was quickly shot down and I don’t think it was my imagination when I say there was a lot of laughter aimed toward my crazy idea. I didn’t want to give up so I called a non-corporate Marriott. This phone call changed my life.

Working the graveyard shift at my existing Marriott allowed me to call the London hotels during their day. When I called the London Marriott Hotel Regents Park and explained my desires to the operator on the line she curtly said “One moment while I put you through to Human Resources”.

May I Come to Your London Hotel to Work?

Here we go I thought. This will go one of two ways. I will be laughed at again or my desires will be taken seriously.

“London Marriott, Regents Park, Andrew Lee speaking” said the soft, well-spoken voice on the other end of a telephone line 5000 miles away.

My confidence wavered. The words did not immediately form so there was a brief awkward silence.

“Hello?” inquired the kind-sounding voice.

Come on Ben get it together. “Yes, hello. My name is Ben and I work for Marriott in Denver. I would love the opportunity to come work at your hotel. Do you have any positions available?”

Side note:

As I type these words, the memory of this conversation is coming back to me so vividly. I wanted so desperately to visit London and if there was any tangible way I could turn my wish into a reality, going to work at another Marriott would be it. My fate rested on the conversation with this man. I can hear Andrew’s voice in my head so clearly right now.

“What do you do for the Marriott in Denver?”

This is good I thought! I was not being shot down immediately. I explained I was a bellman and concierge. He then explained that all he had available were night porter and dishwasher positions. I emphatically told him that either was fine and I would work any job. He laughed and explained that neither paid very well. I laughed as well and explained that the jobs here don’t pay very well either. There was a slight, niggling concern that I may have a challenging time affording London but pushed that down deep. I would work all that out later.

He asked me to send my CV. I asked what that was. He laughed again. “Oh, sorry, your resume”.
I could not have been more ecstatic. These were the days before email so I told him I would get it printed and send it off by FAX first thing the next day.

London Marriott Regents Park

Marriott Regents Park London

Patiently Waiting

Several days had passed since sending my resume and I had not heard anything. He said he would call me after review. Should I call him? In the US, calling a prospective employer shows how keen you are and is often appreciated to the point where it could sway the decision to be hired in your favor.

A couple more days passed and I decided to call him. When he answered the phone, his tone had changed. Perhaps my calling was not such a great idea. He went on to explain he could not see how this could be done logistically. Desperate I explained I would do anything – anything! No, I did not yell anything down the phone. That was my own internal dialogue.

He explained that he was very busy but he would have his assistant HR manager Allison assist me and determine if anything could be done. “She will call you” was said in such a way to suggest please don’t call me. Be patient and wait to hear back.

A Moment That Changed My Life Forever

I waited for over a week and explained to my front desk staff that no matter where I was to please call me on my radio if I got any call. Then, the call came. I rushed to the elevator and descended to the lobby and sprinted to the front desk.

“Hello, this is Ben.”

“Hello, this is Allison. You were speaking to Andrew about possibly coming to London to work.”

“Yes, hi Allison!”

“Hello” (side note: most of the English do not appreciate or enjoy our seemingly over the top level of emotion)

“The night porter position has been filled” (my heart sank) “but, we have a new opening for something that you would be well suited.”

I could not believe my ears. Allison went on to explain that the job was for reservations and I would take incoming calls for those wishing to book a room. It was a full-time position and paid more than the night porter (niggling worry of how I would be able to live somewhat alleviated). I could only come for a year and that was it but at least I could come and work.

“THANK YOU!” I think I may have repeated this a dozen times.

This atypical display of over the top emotion must have endeared me a bit to Allison because she laughed this time. Everything was set in motion. I was going to London.

End of Chapter I

Featured Image of Oxford College courtesy of Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

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