The last stop on our month-long road trip finds us in the Ritz-Carlton. Which means we had to get Ritz Ready.
We got haircuts. We did our nails. We gave Bailey a bath. We stopped on the drive over and changed into prettier, fancier clothes and moved our luggage into into prettier, fancier bags. We filled up our rental car with premium and got a car wash. We would have bought a new car but didn’t have the time.
When you stay at the Ritz, you rise to the Ritz. You wear new underwear. You do your hair. You don’t wear a hat, unless it’s a fancy hat. And even then, as soon as the valet takes your stagecoach and you step into The Ritz, you remove it and hand it to one of the bell boys who is hired for the sole purpose of holding top hats.
You speak with a vaguely British accent, the refined Oxford one, not the backwater Cockney one, nor one from any place that ends in -shire. If in doubt, do an impression of Tony Blair. If you don’t know Tony, try Hugh Grant. If that’s too hard, try Ben Franklin, George Washington, or any of the Founding Fathers.
You tip generously. Or not. I’m not sure if the rich at the Ritz tip more or less than us regular folks. Or at all. Maybe they don’t even look at The Help. The bellboy boy seemed to appreciate the $100 I slipped him, even going so far as to say, “thank you, m’lord.” I didn’t know bellboys were allowed to speak at the Ritz. Will he be caned?
The coffee machine is better. It’s Illy. Which is Italian for fancy. The pods are all plastic. There’s no foil. No paper. No filter. Because those. aren’t. fancy. For the Ritz Regulars, the machine pulls espresso. For everyone else, caffe. Which is Italian for pansy.
There are Ritz-branded bottled waters everywhere. On the desk. On each nightstand and next to the coffee maker, in case your pansy coffee is still too strong. There are bottles near each of the bathroom sinks. (There are three!) They’re hidden in each drawer with the bibles. Nestled between the cushions of the couch. I think I even slept on a giant bottle of water. One of The Help came by last night and gave us more water. What’s wrong with non-Ritz water? Is that why my hair’s falling out and my belly protrudes?
The bed is heavenly. Not capital H Heavenly from that dump of a hotel and my pre-Ritz favorite, The Westin. Yuck. There are more sheets than I know what to do with and each of them has a higher thread count than all the sheets I own, combined. Why do they fold the two dozen sheets into some sort of pretzel you have to unwrap in order to sleep? I don’t know. Why are there eight pillows? Are they different? I don’t know. During my first night’s sleep I changed my pillow every hour on the hour and threw the old one out, which is what I assume they meant for me to do. Is that right? I don’t know. Those are Ritz Secrets.
The no dogs allowed signs are tiny and shaped like a dog taking a poop. They’re black, and small, and when they’re placed low on the dirt, impossible to read. Impossibly chic. They don’t actually say “no dogs allowed.” They just say “No.” That’s not just cool. That’s Ritz. But what do I know? I’m not rich.
I’m a pretender. An imposter. I splurged for a few nights because it’s our anniversary (thank you!) and it’s the end of a month long road trip. We’re tired. We’re haggard — save for the new hair cuts. We need to do laundry. We’re furry. We need a brushing. Sorry, Bailey walked into view and I just realized she’s not fully Ritz Ready. How did they let us through the front door?
I don’t belong. I’m not sure I want to belong. There is nothing wrong with the Ritz, with the people at The Ritz, the bellboys who hold top hats at the Ritz, or the valets at the Ritz who valet automobiles — cars are so pedestrian. But I’m wearing a white t-shirt and sweatpants as I write this from my Ritz desk. The shirt probably [definitely] has pits stains. I’m not even wearing socks! Gross! My hair’s a mess. My breath smells like coffee. I’m a dumpster fire behind a luxury building. I’m the one trash can in the lobby that didn’t get emptied, and maybe [definitely] stinks a little. I’m dehydrated. I’m nervous. I’m waiting for that knock on the door, and the manager to softly whisper, “We know you’re not Ritz; come with us.”
But yet I’m here. I’m sipping Ritz water. Trying to work the Ritz caffe machine. I just pulled an espresso. Or the machine cleaned itself. I don’t know. I need to brush up on my Italian. I still need to brush my teeth. But later today I’ll probably [definitely] have a Ritz cocktail in the Ritz lobby. And no one will know I don’t belong. They’ll take my order. They’ll bring me nuts. They’ll take my 8000% tip. The Ritz patrons will pet my dog. They’ll smile at me. And they’ll have no idea there’s an imposter in their midst.
And that’s the point. I don’t matter. Not as much as I think I do. No one really cares what I look like or how I dress. Or how many Negronis I’ve had [a lot]. Or that my dog is licking their children and shedding all over the lobby. Because they’re too nice and too busy with their own jobs and own lives to really care what’s going on with mine. I am nothing.
But in that nothingness, I am free. I’m free to wear a pink shirt. Or a red sweater. Or a watch with an orange wrist band. They don’t care because they don’t have time to care. They might be just as worried about being Ritz Ready as me.
So next time I don’t feel Ritz Ready, I’ll just remember that no one is.
A version of this article originally appeared in Anthony LeDonne’s newsletter. Not one of the hordes of subscribers who enjoy his writing on a weekly basis? Click here.