India: The First Days Back

Alternative titles for this post include:
- Hey, I have friends over here!
- What?
- Travel tip #1: Fill out the hotel survey, but be nice.
- No, this isn’t a paid ad for Trident Mumbai.

I rolled into the Trident, my home away from home, at 2:30 am local time Wednesday morning. Despite my attempts to keep a low profile (I hadn’t showered in 36+ hours and was dehydrated and puffy all at the same time, a feat only accomplished by airplane environs), within seconds I heard, “Hello Ms. Corbin! Welcome back! So nice to see you.”

What? They remember me?

I quickly let go of vanity and started saying hello to everyone, searching for familiar faces, and even staying in the lobby to chat for a bit. I know people here and they know me. Some of them know me quite well, if you remember! I’m a Trident groupie, it appears, so I may as well live it up.

After what can only be called a cat nap, I woke up to the skyline of South Mumbai in my seaside-facing room. Rohit, a duty manager, remembered I like this side of the hotel.

He then apologized and said he wanted to give me a room on a particular floor because they have hand towel racks in those rooms but when the Mumbai Indians cricket team checked in on those floors, he moved me to a quieter, towel rack-less level.

What? Towel racks?

Back in February, I filled out a hotel survey upon completing my trip. Carson advised me against saying anything negative in these surveys (for the Trident or otherwise) because he has learned that doing so guarantees hotel follow-up that can be more of a hassle than the original dissatisfaction. I took a risk and pointed out two things that weren’t 100% fabulous.

The first item? It would be nice to have a place to hang the hand towel in the bathroom. I know, trivial, but I have spent a good portion of my glamorous career specifying where things like paper towel dispensers go in bathrooms, so this is hard for me to ignore. Evidently the Trident crew didn’t ignore my observation.

(See? Wet towel on the countertop.)

I arrived to breakfast around 8:30 and although I showed up later than my normal time, Macrina the hostess was bellowing out a “Hello, Ms. Catherine!” from her post before I even crossed Frangipani’s threshold.

What? Macrina knows my first name?

I always thought that if people know me well enough to slice bananas for me every morning, could we please move past Ms. Xxxxx formalities? It appears that we could and I am now Ms. Catherine. Hallelujah! Maybe one day we’ll drop the “Ms.” altogether.

And speaking of sliced bananas, Danny was on it as soon as he saw me. Bananas, peanut butter, coffee, and ice water all appeared within seconds. Since I didn’t give Danny a proper introduction the last time, here’s a photo of the two of us on my last day in February. Yes, that’s a chocolate cake for my send-off breakfast. Told you they know me well.

During breakfast a new guy stopped by my table. For a second I got all nervous; should I recognize this person? Then I saw him peeling out a business card and extending his hand to greet me. This was Vivek, assistant manager for food and beverage. He had read my comments about the food and appreciated that it must be difficult to keep the pounds off when eating hotel food three times a day for two months, not to mention the dining hall-esque monotony. Would I please call him at my convenience so we can talk about developing a special menu of light, small meals for me to enjoy?

What? Are you kidding me? First, I’ve conned Matt into cooking for me and now I’ve gotten a hotel to do it, too?

Big, time-intensive meals was my only big gripe with my previous stay, and it might not even be fair to gripe about it since the food quality is quite good and most people are here to indulge in it. Nonetheless, I (kindly, I hope) suggested that if the hotel wishes to cater to long-term business travelers, could they provide some food items that more closely mirror the simple stuff you would probably eat at home? Well, that’s what Vivek and I are going to chat about. My waistline might just stand a chance!

As the day wound down, I returned to the hotel and passed Rachna in the lobby. Rachna is another duty manager and we go all the way back to my first weekend here when she threw me a birthday party in the rooftop lounge. She invited me back up to have a drink or two, all the while thanking me for the kind comments I left. (I am beginning to think they published my survey for mass distribution.) Here she is on the far right, leading staff and strangers to celebrate with another chocolate cake back on my birthday. Rachna’s fun; I can tell she’s got a bit of sass in her when she’s not on the clock!

All told, I think I reconnected with about fifteen or twenty staff members within my first 24 hours here. And though it makes me feel a bit like Eloise, I will say it is so nice to have a circle of people to slip back into after leaving home so far behind.

What have we learned today, class?

1. Talk to strangers – they’re all you’ve got. I’m notoriously slow to warm up to people and make friends. International travel is going to beat that out of me.
2. Sometimes loyalty programs actually do pay off for the customer.
3. Be nice, but not afraid to tell the truth, on hotel surveys!

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