What’s in a name, if there’s no shame

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Australian Holidays - Peter Lown­des

CHECK­ING into a ho­tel, for all its lus­tre and glitz, can mean an en­counter fraught with anx­i­ety. An un­cer­tain air can tint the ex­change as you pro­vide the re­cep­tion­ist with your de­tails (that’s Lown­des with a w) and they pro­ceed to take that in­for­ma­tion (er, I don’t think I was given a reser­va­tion num­ber, ac­tu­ally) and feed it into the sys­tem un­til a room is pro­duced. Or not. I have worked at the front desk in a busy ho­tel so am con­vinced of the truth of the say­ing that there are no guar­an­tees in life, even if you hold a reser­va­tion.

Oc­ca­sion­ally the ho­tel be­comes mys­te­ri­ously over­booked or a reser­va­tion sim­ply van­ishes. Then it is the job of the re­cep­tion­ist to mag­i­cally pluck a room from thin air. It’s a flip side most of us are for­tu­nate never to have ex­pe­ri­enced.

Sto­ries of travel tar­nished af­ter a blun­der with dates or names have cre­ated a breed of pre­sump­tive trav­ellers.

Judg­ing by the vol­ume in which tales in­fil­trate the trav­ellers’ grapevine and so­cial net­work web­sites, book­ing blun­der is al­most a lit­er­ary genre.

What ig­nominy though, be­ing in­formed that your book­ing (not to men­tion the room) has van­ished while oth­ers are cheer­ily be­ing handed the keys to the king­dom. As Jerry re­marks while hir­ing a car in an episode of Se­in­feld , and then dis­cov­er­ing his book­ing is not in the sys­tem: ‘‘ Any­body can take the book­ing, but it’s the hold­ing of the book­ing that mat­ters most in the trans­ac­tion.’’

Th­ese days I aman oc­ca­sional ho­tel guest, and a favourite part of the check­ing-in rou­tine is whether a re­cep­tion­ist hap­pens to place my sur­name. Check­ing-in chit-chat is all about con­nect­ing with the guest and, on one oc­ca­sion, I was asked if I was re­lated to Bathurst 1000 win­ner Craig Lown­des.

I re­ally shouldn’t have re­sponded in the af­fir­ma­tive but I ame­ter­nally hope­ful of en­coun­ter­ing a rac­ing-car en­thu­si­ast who might of­fer a room up­grade on the (in­cor­rect) as­sump­tion that I’m part of Team Lown­des. So I re­galed the re­cep­tion­ist with a tale of how Craig and I raced go-karts when we were nip­pers.

Oh, I’ll say any­thing if there is a chance of an up­grade.

‘‘ I’m a re­ally ex­cel­lent driver in my own right,’’ I fibbed, ‘‘ and used to lap him.’’

A few years back I made a reser­va­tion at the Mount restau­rant that sits inside the Mt Panorama rac­ing cir­cuit at Bathurst. I was greeted on ar­rival by an en­thu­si­as­tic wel­com­ing party that was ob­vi­ously ex­pect­ing some­body else (namely Craig).

I have never be­fore, with my sheer pres­ence, in­duced such dis­ap­point­ment in a group of peo­ple as I did that evening. De­spite a nice meal, I sensed that staff may have been slightly peeved not to have a signed pho­to­graph of their idol to hang on the wall by night’s end.

Not that I’ve dined out on the coat-tails of my fa­mous name­sake, but shar­ing a sur­name with some­body fa­mous is as good as it gets for most mere mor­tals. We can’t all go flit­ting about first class with chi­huahuas or book out an en­tire floor at the Ritz in Paris.

Which leads me to ponder whether some names are a help or hin­drance. Is book­ing un­der the sur­name Hil­ton likely to get you up­graded or down­graded th­ese days? And I won­der if ho­tel re­cep­tion­ists in­stinc­tively duck be­neath the counter when­ever some­body with the sur­name Crowe ma­te­ri­alises?

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