London: Kumar’s Cup of Coffee

Tale of the Idiot American

First, a weather report, especially for my east coast friends:  65 degrees with the sun in and out of the clouds, just cool enough to need a light jacket.

Sorry, I had to do that.

I returned to the hotel at about 6PM and happened to notice that the coffee was not replenished when they serviced the room so a quick call to the cheery voice on the “Guest Service Hotline” remedied that, or so I thought.

European travelers will know that in-room coffee, and sometimes out-of-room coffee, is a packet of instant Nescafe, and so it is here.


Two hours passed without any sign of coffee so I called again for an update, this time speaking to a slightly confused gentleman who said they would send some up right away.

Mission accomplished.

About five minutes later room service rings confirming that I have ordered coffee.

“Not really”, I say, explaining that I just need coffee packets for the morning.

“Got it”, he says, informing me they will be right up.

Mission really accomplished.

About two minutes later the phone rings again, same chap, explains his mate says he delivered the coffee to my room an hour ago and placed it on the mantel near the TV.

“Hmmm, I don’t think so,” I explained, “I’ve been here throughout.”

A profuse apology is given (and received), mission finally accomplished.

About five minutes later there is a knock at the door.

(I am envisaging a very quick transaction wherein they hand me the packets and I hand them a tip.)

I open the door and there is “Kumar”, a fortyish, wiry, mustachioed East Indian coffee bearer.

Not–Kumar is empty-handed.

May I say here, both tactfully and quite carefully, and having visited India four times, that there is an occasional aspect of male East Indian culture best described as “I’m right, you’re wrong, and I’ll show you.”

They may say “sir” repeatedly and their head may glide side-to-side, but you are in for it.

Kumar informs me that he delivered the coffee and in two shakes of a cricket’s bat has maneuvered around me and is searching the two rooms for the coffee contraband.

Of course. he comes up empty-handed though deeply puzzled.

He returns to the hallway door, pulls a pad out of his pocket and studies it closely before muttering that he must have delivered it to 530, instead.

Once in the hallway, he reaches down and comes up with a bag of coffee and tea packets which I can now apparently  have as, miracle of miracles, I was right after all.

And, best of all, it comes with an earnest look of “I’m ready for my tip now.”

Not tonight, mate.









  • Max says:

    Would it have been too much for you to give the poor man a little tip, a 40ish hotel clerk, who is maybe supporting a family and has never traveled outside of India? You, a world traveler with only yourself to support, visiting one of the most impoverished countries of the world write a silly story about clutching your coins in your pocket because a poor hotel servant second guessed you. You even admit that his behavior was cultural and perhaps he even made an error and mis-delivered the coffee to 530. Would it even be hard to believe that he could be supervised by a strict hotel manager who meticulously keeps count of amenities and coffee packets to catch thieving employees? You even saw him review his written records wondering where he left the coffee. For goodness sake, soften up and give the poor man a break!

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