(In our last episode, I traded all my air miles to spend a few nights in one of the most exclusive hotels in New York City. Below are lessons learned about the very rich during my stay.)
When I was in New York, the Wall Street protests were at their height. I wandered downtown from my cushy hotel on the Upper East Side, took one look at the gaggle of raggedy hippies shouting their nonsensical demands in the direction of the New York Stock Exchange, and proclaimed them idiots.
First off, their main demand—that Wall Street be shut down—is just stupid and impossible. And, secondly, is there any rule against taking a shower before hitting the streets to protest “The Man”? Honestly; people would take them more seriously if they occasionally washed their hair.
If the protesters are truly interested in controlling the rich, they should hop on the No. 6 train and go Uptown to see how it’s done. It is there, in the few block radius where the 1% live and play, where the super-rich are neatly oppressed by the working class.
What I learned from my brief stay in that gold-gilt echelon is that the secret to controlling the rich is to treat them like naughty children.
Everywhere we went on the Upper East Side, the service class treated the rich with ruthless disregard. And, amazingly, the rich seemed to love it. At the hotel, I witnessed dozens of obnoxious, entitled, rich guys approach the staff with outrageous demands, only to be treated with a shrug of indifference.
One puffy business titan stormed the concierge and demanded a coffee maker be brought to his $2000 per night room. The concierge glanced at him coolly. “A coffee maker?” he said, cocking his head as if trying to pronounce a difficult foreign phrase. “We have 24-hour room service. You don’t need one.”
I waited with anticipation for the self-important businessman to blow, but instead, he deflated, apologized, and scurried away.
“How did you do that?” I asked in amazement.
“It’s easy,” the concierge said. “They were all raised by nannies. You treat them like you’re their nanny and they behave.”
The philosophy carried over to the famous bar in the hotel. Its walls were decorated by a famous children’s’ book illustrator. “It’s like a nursery for alcoholics,” I exclaimed as we sank into our cradle-like booth and sipped our $20 cocktails that the ancient bartender had delivered with a snarl.
“You don’t want wine,” he said, waving off my original drink request. “I’ll make you something and you’ll drink it.”
This charming attitude of benign hostility extended beyond the hotel to the shops in the neighborhood. Workers regularly slapped the hands of the rich as if they were greedy children reaching for a cookie. I witnessed pharmacists screaming at customers to stop fondling merchandise; dog walkers scolding their charges’ masters for imagined slights; and a group of young matrons plotting how to disobey the orders of their children’s’ nannies, only to agree in rueful resignation that they had no recourse but to do as they were told.
One afternoon, while waiting for an elevator in the hotel (one of the last places where elevator operators are still employed), an older woman approached me and asked me to help her open the door of her awesome suite that took up half the floor.
As she thanked me, she said, “Please do not tell my bodyguards that I asked a stranger to help me enter my room. They are at lunch and I promised not to leave my room until they return.”
“Bodyguards?” I asked in delight. “I didn’t know this hotel was under attack.”
She clutched my wrist meaningfully and said in a frightened whisper, “Always.”