This new etiquette book is as cringeworthy as it is funny.
The expression goes, “Hell is other people.” A new book, How May We Hate You? (Potter Style, $15), would like to offer an addendum: Hell is other people in hotels.
During their brief stints as concierges in Times Square hotels, the comedians Anna Drezen and Todd Dakotah Briscoe racked up enough cringe-worthy questions, encounters, and general observations to fuel a Tumblr that went viral pretty much the instant it launched in 2013.
Now Drezen and Briscoe are back, in book form. While the Tumblr is limited to pithy back-and-forths—an outlet for the pent-up frustrations incurred in the face of everyday inanities—the book luxuriates in the fresh possibilities of the form and a deeper dive into hotel gossip. Photos, illustrations, diagrams, and longer ruminations flesh out the quick, painful exchanges recognizable from the blog.
Some of the tales Briscoe and Drezen spin seem far-fetched. A frail woman in a faded orange sari named Princess, who lives in the hotel and stalks its corridors like a ghost? Sure.
But it’s all true. Drezen admits that there are some embellishments, but you can tell when she and Briscoe are getting a bit tongue-in-cheek. Boxes labeled “Did You Know?” decorate the bottoms of some pages, and you can be pretty sure that what they’re telling you there isn’t always a hard-and-fast fact (not unlike, the authors point out, the information dispensed on most guided tours). Like this one, for instance: “Did you know every Broadway producer is a member of the Illuminati?”
But more often than not, the authors’ humor cuts through the crap of the tourism industry to reveal some essential truths. As concierges, Drezen and Briscoe had to learn the ins and outs of linking hotel guests—mostly tourists—with the best and most reasonable of the city’s offerings; they punctuate How May We Hate You? with their hard-earned lessons in how to book tours, save money while traveling, and get to and from the airport intact.
Briscoe, for a time, worked in his hotel’s VIP lounge; writing down some of those experiences, he says, “was very cathartic.” Even so, Briscoe and Drezen are serious about protecting guests' anonymity. Though, “our idea is that the people we dealt with were not self-aware enough to really put two and two together,” Drezen says. “And probably wouldn’t want to read this book.”
Underneath it all, the book is really about empathy. “We got to know a lot of people at a very vulnerable and intimate moment,” Drezen says. “They’re kerfuffled from traveling, their kids are acting up, they had weird sex the night before—there are a lot of exposed nerves.”
Hotel concierges are often the punching bag of the frustrated traveler; they’re expected to smile and offer assistance in the face of some truly frustrating requests. Common thought is that “a hotel employee lives to serve you,” Briscoe adds. “But really, we serve you to do the things we live for. Just treat us how you’d like to be treated, and we’ll do the same in return.”
How May We Hate You? $15, Amazon.com.