I am sure that Max knows the answer to that one.Both men heartily shook hands with me, and Mr Goebbels smiled and said, “I know what you’re thinking, young man, but our surnames have nothing to do with the despicable Nazis. Actually, both Mr Speer and I hate Nazism and Hitler, but we didn’t want to change our surnames because they have been in our families for hundreds of years.” I looked at his hazel eyes and I believed him. Neither would I change my surname, even if it was shared with the most evil man on earth.
Mr Goebbels wished to know about my life and my background. I was honest and told him what I went through during the war in Bosnia and my unhappiness in Sweden. He asked me if I had any experience working as a night porter. My answer was negative, and he said, “No problem. You’ll work with Max, our night porter, two, three nights, and he’ll tell you everything you need to know. The most important thing is that all the wishes of our guests must be fulfilled, even the most stupid and absurd. You can’t say no. No doesn’t exist in our vocabulary. That is what makes us different from other hotels.”
“But what am I supposed to do if someone
suddenlywants a woman in the middle of the night?”
“Don’t ask me young man. Use your brain.” He gave me a mischievous smile.
Rather than large black car you could just say limousine. (They are almost always black.)I was more than satisfied with my job. The nights were peaceful, the guests well behaved and polite, and they did not have any unreasonable or excessive wishes or demands. Sometimes a guest had a pain and needed ibuprofen; sometimes I gave them a sleeping pill if they struggled with their sleep or a tranquiliser if they suffered from nerves. Our pharmacy cabinet contained everything needed in case of emergency. If the guests suddenly felt hunger at three or four in the morning, I would dash into a kitchen and make them sandwiches and drinks. I was glad to help them -- glad to make their stay in our hotel pleasant and unforgettable.
One night when I just came into the hotel for my shift, Mr Goebbels came up to me and in a whisper told me that we were expecting a VIP that night. We had such guests about two, three times a month. They were usually actors, writers, diplomats, rich people from the Middle East...They chose our hotel because it gave them the chance to be anonymous, away from the prying eyes of journalists and paparazzi. The personnel were told never to talk about them privately or on other occasions. Officially, some of these guests had never been in our hotel. I asked Mr Goebbels what kind of VIP we were expecting, and he gave me one of his sharp looks, “The president of a great power. Don’t expect me to tell you his name.”
I spent the next few hours in eager anticipation. I had never seen a president of a country close at hand, let alone of a mighty power, and I felt proud and privileged that from hundreds of other hotels he had chosen ours. It was not impossible that in the middle of the night, my telephone would ring, and when I lifted the receiver, I would be hearing the president’s voice telling me to bring him some aspirins for his throbbing head, a hot water bottle for his frozen feet or an extra pillow. Maybe if he would be in good mood, we would shake hands and have a pleasant chat.
About two in the morning, two large black cars with tinted windows pulled up at our car park. They looked intimidating. If they had gun barrels, I could have mistaken them for tanks. Half a dozen bodyguards climbed out of the doors, looking all around them. They were huge, as tall as basketball players and as broad as tables. They strode into the lobby, the president in their midst. He was a tall man, but in the company of his towering entourage, he looked like a dwarf. I recognized him from TV and his numerous speeches in which he threatened those who did not follow him. Lately he was hunting terrorists all over the world, like wild animals. My conscience was clear, but now when I saw him, I asked myself if I had said or done anything that could have incriminated me. The President was holding a half-full glass of beer in his hand and shouted, “I’m thirsty. Ein Bier Bitte!” His dark suit was creased, the first three buttons of his shirt were undone and his tie hung loose. His grey hair was dishevelled and his forehead covered in sweat. In one moment he stumbled, and probably he would have fallen if it had not been for his guards who held his arms and carried him into the lift. I had read somewhere that he used to drink a lot in the past but that he had become a teetotaller, but judging by his state that evening, he had never quit drinking. One of the guards came up to the desk and gave me a hard stare. I knew I had not done anything wrong; nevertheless, I trembled with fear. My hand shaking, I picked up the key to the room 107 and gave it to him. He took it without a word and slipped it into his pocket. He then turned away and strode into the lift, without deigning me a glance. Finally, I could breathe a sigh of relief. 107 was the most luxurious suite in our hotel. I had been inside it only once, with Mr Goebbels, who proudly showed me its interior. The prevailing colour was cream, the same nuance as the hotel facade, the walls, thick carpets, furniture, bedclothes and even toilet bowls. Massive, glittering chandeliers hung from the high ceiling, their lights reflected in the mirrors and other glass surfaces. Mr Goebbels walked to the window, pulled back the thick cream curtain and knocked at the window. “Bullet-proof panes,” he said, “they cost me a fortune.” I looked out the window and had a view of the whole town and the surrounding hills, and thought how blessed we all were to live and work in this beautiful part of Germany.
I almost wet my own pants.I sat behind the desk pretending everything was as business as usual, but anxiety grew inside me. I imagined the President lying fully dressed on the king-size bed, his intoxicated mind reeling with all kinds of thoughts and ideas. I could get a call any minute and hear his hoarse voice, “Bring me a terrorist, immediately!” There was a refugee camp just outside the town, filled with hundreds of refugees from all over the world. There was no fence or guards, so I could slip inside, knock one of the wretches out, bundle him into the car and drive him to the hotel. But the question was how long it would take me to execute my plan. What was going to happen if The President became impatient and angry, and instead of the “terrorist” started torturing me?
I wished I could stay behind the desk until the end of my shift, but unfortunately, I had been strictly ordered by my boss to check up on fire safety and fire escapes. On all floors and in the cellar there were altogether 10 whiteboards on which I had to write down the time and sign my name every two hours. This night I followed the same procedure as I did before, but when I came up to the top floor I almost wet myself when I saw four gun barrels pointing towards me. “Hands up!” someone shouted. I did as I was told. “Put your hands on the wall, spread your legs apart!” I stared at the cream coloured wall in front of me while a pair of hands went over my clothes and body. “What is this?” a voice shouted into my ear. I glanced at the marker
penhe held in his large hand and told him aboutwhat I had been ordered to do by my boss. “Why are you trembling?” another voice shouted in my other ear. I wished to tell him he would tremble too, with four guns aimed at him, but before I opened my mouth I was ordered to return downstairs and not look back.
Student or Learner