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The Excelsior

Mary was fascinated by the Excelsior Hotel since she first heard about it. A post about the hotel's opening had come up on her Facebook feed and, curious, she clicked on it, surprised by how the photos of the interior made her feel. She noted the date when the hotel would be open to the public, following their private grand opening event, and decided that she'd go see it for herself then.

It was a Tuesday night when Mary first entered the lobby of the Excelsior. She liked to go places on a Tuesday, when they weren't very busy. Weekends were nightmares for going places, especially in Manhattan, which will forever be a "weekend destination" for the entire rest of the world. A Tuesday is perfect because the majority of people are still recovering from Saturday, Sunday, and the harsh blow of that unforgiving Monday back at work. Even this early in the week there were still a dozen or more people lounging on the lobby's buttery leather couches, and situated on stools at the bar, which took up the entire left wall. The Excelsior smelled like the kind of candle that candle lovers of a certain sort are constantly on the hunt for. It was a mix of old paper, a wood match recently blown out, heavily handled leather, and tobacco leaf. Looking around the vast, but still cozy space it was hard to tell who was an employee from who was spending time there on a temporary basis. Everyone was dressed similarly in that they all looked an understated amount of cool. Even the two men who'd opened the door for her when she came in looked cool, dressed in dark wash denim jeans and black pea coats that hung from their bodies perfectly.

Mary ordered an old fashioned, something she'd actually never had before, and took her first sip as she beelined towards a leather chair towards the corner of the room. The drink didn't taste how she'd imagined it would, but it put her at ease to have it. Drinking gives people something to do with their hands and mouths, same as smoking. When a person is anxious it shows in their hands and mouths first. Eyes too. At the moment Mary's eyes were focused on the bright red taxidermy fox on the dark wood table next to the chair she was headed for. She sat down and placed her drink next to its paw, letting her finger brush its fur a bit, but not so much as anyone would notice. She doesn't believe that taxidermy is a very nice thing, but realized that she doesn't get many opportunities to touch the fur of a fox, and didn't want to pass this one up.

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Mary nursed her old fashioned over the course of an hour, in no rush to leave the lobby. Eventually she made moves to collect her bag, and empty glass, and was approached by a woman holding a stack of papers and an iPad. The woman had long, wavy black hair, amazing large-framed glasses, and was wearing a grey blazer with caramel leather elbow pads. Distracted by how stunning she was Mary missed the first sentence of what the woman had just said to her, but quickly caught on.

"....hope you'll consider filling out this quick survey about your experience here, and consider coming back for a stay, or another drink on us." The woman smiled, handing Mary a piece of paper, seemingly the survey she had just mentioned, and another slip of paper that looked to be a drink ticket.

"I love it here so much," Mary said, immediately embarrassed by the dramatic sincerity in her voice.

"Well, feel free to write that on the survey," the woman warmly laughed, walking off towards the group of people sitting on the couch next to her.

"Thanks for the drink ticket!" Mary called after her.

Looking at the things she'd been handed she noticed that there was another piece of paper stuck to the survey sheet. Mary used her fingernail to peel them apart and saw that it was a job application. She scanned the room for the thousandth time that evening, imagining what it would be like to work there. She wondered if they issued out those denim jeans and pea coats the men at the door were wearing as part of a company uniform, (and later learned that, yes, they do.) Mary already had three jobs at the moment, one full-time in a soap store, and two contracted freelance jobs that didn't have any sort of end date looming over them. There was really no need for her to take on another one, but she was tempted none the less. She filled out the application as she sat there, more so to give her an excuse to stay a little bit longer, and handed it to the front desk on her way out. When she exited the lobby doors, opened by a new set of men in pea coats this time (must have been a shift change) the blast of crisp October air in her face made her eyes tear up a bit. Her heart soared in a way that's usually specific to the feelings associated with a brand new love. What is it about autumn in New York that can do that to a person?

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The next time Mary walked through the doors of the Excelsior Hotel it was as an employee. She'd almost forgotten about the application she'd turned in and was surprised to receive a call from the hotel's main hiring manager almost a month later. She had not specified which type of job she was interested in applying for so when an opening came up in their housekeeping department they called to see if she would be interested in it. An interview was conducted over Skype between herself, the main hiring manager, and the head of HR, during which she told them that her hotel experience consisted of having seen The Royal Tenenbaums over 100 times. They didn't know what this meant and she explained that Royal Tenenbaum, a character in the film, lived in a hotel for awhile and that she also loves hotels, so much so that the idea of living in one is a dream of hers. None of this adds up to experience cleaning hotel rooms, but they were charmed by her and gave her the job anyway. Making beds is making beds. She'd catch on.

The building of the Excelsior is an interesting story in that when the developers bought the structure, originally a run down high rise of condos, they were able to buy out all of the building's tenants apart from two. One man, and one woman, both having lived in their respective condos for over 20 years, did not budge. To work around this, the hotel was quite literally built around them. When Mary had her orientation their doors, distinguished from the others in that they were not decorated with painted white door numbers, were pointed out to her as places to avoid.

"You see these doors?" Harry, her supervisor, said - pointing with each hand's index finger at two matte black doors. "Just steer clear of these doors. These are pre-existing tenants, not guests of the hotel. Sometimes they'll try to trick you into cleaning their rooms, just ignore them."

As they walked past Mary took note of the welcome mats in front of the doors. It's strange to see welcome mats in front of hotel doors. Must be doubly strange for the people who live behind them.

One of the first rooms Mary went in to clean on her first day at the Excelsior was occupied by a woman who came to the door in only her bra and underwear. She left Mary to go about her duties, pointing out a tip envelope she left for her on the room's desk, and then excused herself to shower, saying she was running late that morning. Usually the guests had already checked out by the time the housekeepers came around to clean their rooms. It's an intimate thing, touching used linens, still warm from the night before, while smelling the shower steam of the person who had just been in them. The room was beginning to get fogged up so Mary walked over to open one of the small windows near the sitting area. As she did that same crisp breeze hit her. She closed her eyes against it and just stood there for awhile.