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At The Algonquin

The Algonquin Hotel Lobby. Courtesy: The Algonquin Hotel
I arrived early at The Algonquin for a rendezvous with a writer friend and was directed to one of my favorite locations in the southwest corner of the lobby. The high-backed chair with green leather upholstery is my favorite and comfortable for my back. I’m a regular and know the best seats in the house—both for comfort and line of sight. Who else is here? Just a touristy theater crowd or someone important? Sooner rather than later, a waiter appears. I am greeted warmly and place my order—a pot of hot tea.

On this particular evening, I logged into the Wi-Fi, checked my email and unloaded “Middlemarch” from my backpack. Whew! I wouldn’t be taking it home with me. Either I’d pass it along to my friend or hand it to one of the waiters or managers. It seems that everyone is a reader here. Years ago, when I had a book club that met in the back near the famous Round Table, I left a book with Doomy, who has now finished his education and been promoted from lobby maître d’ to restaurant manager. These days, if Doomy is around when I arrive, I am greeted with warm hugs and a few moments of interesting conversation. He’s doing well and I am proud of him.

Now George, an “associate”—aka a waiter—arrives with my pot of tea and notices “Middlemarch” on the table. He says he’s read it but prefers the Russians. George is college-educated and reads all the time. Just because he’s a waiter, I say to myself, not knowing how to finish that sentence. Here we are, in The Algonquin lobby, talking about “Middlemarch.” I’m thrilled.

When the hotel was sold a few years back—it’s now managed but not owned by Marriott—they kept on all their wonderful employees—no one got fired or lost their benefits. Some have been at The Algonquin for decades. They are landmarked, just like the building, and its long, literary history.

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