Stupid Tuesday questions, Whiskey Blue edition

“Why didn’t you ask the concierge?!??!?

Picture a scene: two pleasant gentlemen stroll the sidewalks of midtown Manhattan.  Newlyweds (of a kind), they have come to the City in search of amusement and rest.  Walking now, they seek a decent place to get a bite to eat.

The scene repeats itself.  It happens in the evening.  It happens at midday.  Thrice the scene repeats.

Their garments vary.  The direction of their wandering varies.

Constant, however, is one’s refrain.  It is an irritated refrain, spoken to the other with increasing ire at each repetition of the scene.

“Why didn’t you ask the concierge?!??!?

Their hotel, you see, has a desk at which polite and helpful people sit.  The people have no job but to enhance the enjoyment of the City for those staying in the hotel.  Perhaps they secure a reservation at a nice restaurant.  Or book tickets for a show.  Or point out events and destinations of interest.  All to help those visiting this storied metropolis have a better time.

Indeed, our couple has stopped by this desk to speak with the polite and helpful people a time or two.  Recommendations were made, to the couple’s satisfaction.  Stopping by the desk has been a good decision every time it was so decided.

Sadly, one member of the couple does not avail himself of the help available at the desk as often as he could.  Because, you see, the people at the desk are there to help guests who don’t know their damn way around the City.  People who need help.  And what possible help could he need finding a place for lunch, when any New Yorker worth his MetroCard can step onto the streets of Manhattan and find a good place within the span of a few blocks?  Sure, fine.  He hasn’t actually lived in New York for the better part of a decade now, but that hardly matters.  A New Yorker he is in his heart, and will always be.

You know who needs the concierge?  Tourists.  Tourists need the concierge.  And he’ll be damned if he’s going to act like a tourist in his own fishin’ City.  And sure, OK.  Maybe he can’t remember which subway lines go where any longer.  Maybe he doesn’t know what kind of shoes fashionable people are wearing these days.  Maybe he must tamp down the demons in his mind that say “Y’know, Times Square is pretty cool to look at if you think about it.”  Maybe he’s gotten a little rusty.

But he doesn’t need to ask the concierge where to go for an after-theater meal!  NO!  Let the people visiting from Iowa do that!

And so our couple wanders.  Once our reluctant friend is enjoined by his husband to get over himself and go back and ask the concierge, which results in a recommendation for a nearby place where they have a very nice dinner.  Twice they keep wandering unaided, finally arriving at places that serve food which are… sufficient.

And so that is this week’s Question: what truths do you refuse to acknowledge?  Which trousers still hang in your closet despite your inability to pack yourself into them for quite some time now?  Which critically-acclaimed shows accumulate on your DVR, waiting for the time you will choose to start watching them instead of reruns of “Family Guy”?  Which fancy gadgets collect dust in a forgotten corner of your kitchen as you reach for the take-out menus?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. have you no yelp? it’s very npr white people in nature (the fixation on service is nearly universal and almost entirely stupid) but it’s pretty handy in a target rich environment.

    anyway, as to your question, i still compose with an eye towards live performances, though it seems unlikely that the eastern shore is going to be particularly amenable to wacky electronics and traveling to baltimore is going to be torpedoed 99 times out of 100 due to child-ness.

    • Ah, yes. Yelp. I lament I am one of those people whose smart phones are laughably underutilized. It would probably have saved us a lot of pointless wandering and aggravation had I known what wonders these fancy, newfangled gadgets truly afford.

    • If you are staying in a fancy enough place, a concierge can also help you get reservations to that really hot restaurant, the one that has to be booked weeks in advance. Or they can help you get tickets to the hot show.

      • The one angle I worked was to ask a friend who used to be the hostess at Nobu if she knew how to get us a good table at a good restaurant, and she got us a fabulous table at Koi where they treated us ridiculously well. And we managed to get in at Babbo by showing up as soon as they opened.

        • I did that a lot when I was in NYC show up at Babbo when they opened always got a table god I miss New York

    • My problems with Yelp are first, the fact that businesses now pay for reviews (why, oh why did I not start a Yelp reviewing business a few years ago?), and second, everyone on Yelp. I once read a Yelper review Yelp. No, not the site, but the headquarters. Seriously.

      I dunno, maybe it’s different up in the civilized world, but down here there are really only two types of Yelp reviews:

      1) This place has the best X in town. Pretty much every business has at least one review like this. “The Sonic on Burnet has the best tater tots in Austin!” “The Waffle House on 71 has the best hashbrowns in Austin!” “Uncommon Objects on South Congress has the best uncommon objects in Austin!”
      2) “My server didn’t bring me a refill of my water in under 30 seconds. I am outraged and scandalized and other things. This is the worst service I have ever received in my life, and giving this restaurant 1 star.”

      • actually if you’re a business (or even a doctor!) the yelp ad package is pretty decent. they’ll even shoot promo videos for you. but beyond gaming the searches a bit – which are fairly labelled, i think – it’s more of a spiffying than anything else.

    • Yelp. In NYC? Oh, my god, what a disaster waiting to happen

      Try Chowhound. And for god’s sake, know what you’re looking for!

      • as usual you’re wrong.

        dead wrong.

        chowhound is yelp, but with people who think they’re too good for yelp.

  2. FWIW, I agree with your general skepticism of concierges. I’m also secretly convinced they are in cahoots with certain restaurants and favor those they have a relationship with over those that are actually the best.

    Of course, had you spoken with a certain co-blogger who lived in the city just a few years back and still lives just outside of it and frequents it often and considers himself a bit of a foodie and who has several friends and relatives still living in the city who eat out all the time and compare notes on restaurants, maybe your partner wouldn’t hate you right now…


    • I have no doubt that what you write in your first paragraph is true. Though, to be fair, both times we went somewhere the concierge recommended on this trip, we were quite pleased, and I’ve had good recommendations before. But still…

      And don’t you see? I shouldn’t need any help at all! I should, by rights, be able to walk out the door and come across a dozen promising-looking possible options within a block or two!

      • Dr. Saunders, all cities are but stages. Establishments come and go with alarming inexorability. Even a few years can put the most urbane and sagacious person off his game in even the most well-known city. As someone whose journeys have taken him here and there and everywhere, the first thing I do in any town is to find a local person who can give me the lay of the land as it is at present. Many’s the time where I’ve come into a town I thought I knew very well (Atlanta and New York) only to find myself wandering around like Rip Van Winkle, marvelling at all the changes — and not always in a good way.

        A good concierge is worth the price of admission to a good hotel. Those who use his (or her) services will always get their money’s worth.

        • 1) I spent a few moments in divine bliss at your use of the word “sagacious.”

          2) In unfamiliar places, I almost always avail myself of help from hotel staff. I learned this lesson the hard way when I visited India, and had a very expensive humility lesson when I went to see the Taj Mahal. It is a lengthy story, in which I end up looking rather foolish.

          • I was at the bank yesterday. I had some business at the teller window and was waiting for my banker to get off the telephone. Nobody else was doing business at the teller window so I struck up a conversation with the teller, asking him where he was from in India. He was from Delhi. New or Old? Old Delhi, have you been there sir? Yes I have. Etcetera.

            We’re joking about India. I told him I would willingly live in India for the rest of my life, but only if I could hire four people.

            1. A driver. I shall never drive in India. Ever.
            2. A good cook, a fine old bibi capable of making proper naan and biryani.
            3. The cook’s husband, and
            4. An outside man to tend the gardens. Strictly speaking, this fellow isn’t needed but he’s someone the cook’s husband can bully and supervise, thus sparing the cook to her business without her husband’s wahalla.

            The teller started laughing and couldn’t stop. “You know India too well, sir!”

          • I was only there for two weeks, the second of which I spent being looked after by my best friend from medical school’s family. (I was there for her wedding.) I had barely enough time to figure out how much I should really be paying for the auto-rickshaw before I had to head home.

          • People ask “What do you love so much about India?” I laugh, “Which India? There are at least 600 Indias, most of which are complete blanks on my map. Nobody knows India. To say such a thing is absurd.” Amazing country, really it is. I’m betting on India preferentially to China or the rest of Asia, though Vietnam looks awfully interesting too.

            India’s so corrupt. It’s a genial sort of corruption though, unlike the corruption I’ve seen in Africa or Central America, where it gets awfully gruff and demanding. There’s corruption everywhere though, just different sorts.

            Nobody comes away from any length of time in India without a favourite Hindu deity. Mine is the Mahishasuramardini. She comes armed with the weapons of other gods to defeat an enemy which takes many forms. And she is a Swarup, a true manifestation of divinity, swarup == true nature. That’s the one shortcoming in Christianity and for that matter, all the Big Three Monotheistic faiths, they don’t have a place for the female nature within their sacred constructs. The Virgin Mary comes closest but she’s just the Mother of God.

            India — the whole country can be best described as a wall-lined street. Enter through one gate, you’ll find great wealth. Enter through another door on the same street, an old woman sweeping a dirt courtyard. You never know what you’ll find on the other side of the wall.

          • I’m betting on India preferentially to China or the rest of Asia, though Vietnam looks awfully interesting too.

            India’s ability to succeed broadly in a modern world — and the others’ ability to succeed, for that matter — is constrained by their ability to generate sufficient electricity. The head of one of their larger IT firms put it well, along the lines of, “We are, first, a private electricity generating company. If we continue to succeed at that, then we’re a software development company.” Of the new developing economies in Asia, China is paying the most attention to its future electricity supplies.

    • Kazzy,
      A real concierge expects to be paid in hundred dollar bills. He also gets you into VIP areas (private parties) — the exclusive stuff.

      A concierge is who you ring when you absolutely need a table, at X time, and the restaurant is already booked.

  3. There is still a part of me that thinks I will have a career as a theatre director even though I went to law school and took and passed two Bar Exams because I was tired of the hand in mouth nature of the theatrical life*. This largely involves day-dreams about chance conversations at bars and being offered an artistic directorship of a theatre somewhere like Philadelphia, Seattle, or somewhere in Canada and Europe.

    I also secretly think it will be easier to move back to New York than it really is.

    And I am probably in denial about needing to hang out my own shingle instead of getting an associate position. This is a grumble, grumble economy thing.

    *There are basically four types of people who can survive in the art world but mainly theatre: The independently wealthy (they live in a completely different reality), people who grew up poor, not just lower-middle class or working class but really poor (the economics of artists is normal to them), misfits who could never hold a 9-5 job if their lives depended on it, and the really lucky who get great careers right away.

    • For a long time, I pegged my odds of receiving a phone call from the Philadelphia Eagles, informing me that their starting free safety was injured and I was the only one who could replace him, at 50/50.

      I now say that dream is dead.

      In reality, I’ve simply mentally revised the likelihood to a solid 5%.

      • Oh… and all this in spite of never having played organized football beyond intramural flag leagues.

  4. The key to avoiding these lacunae of unacknowledged truths is to love someone who will periodically remind us of these truths. If we have any sense, and most lovers do, they will trust those people’s judgement in these things.

    I wait far too long between hair cuts. I let the tags on my truck expire, and not for the first time. I pay bills at the last minute. I’m irritatingly precise about some things, annoyingly lax in others. I should be spending my spare time writing a novel but end up wasting that time out here on League’s comment sections.

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