Room 511 – The Jacuzzi




“Could you please tell us which way to the jacuzzi?”

The pool area of a hotel is the prime amenity location for most guests. For the majority of leisure guests, swimming is an integral part of the hotel experience like free breakfast. Regardless of the season or weather outside, guests will utilize and enjoy the hotel’s pool and jacuzzi.

The couple who had inquired about the jacuzzi were enjoying their honeymoon at our hotel. I’d checked them in the previous day and had learned they’d been married less than a week. It was 7 p.m., and they had their sights set on enjoying a warm soak in the jet-filled hot tub before retiring to their guest room for the evening.

“Of course,” I said. “If you go right outside of those doors behind you to the courtyard, and make a quick right, you’ll see the jacuzzi just beyond the pool.”

The couple thanked me and headed toward the doors, clearly looking forward to some relaxation in a warm, bubbly whirlpool. I’d propped the doors open earlier in the evening to allow a cool breeze to flow through the lobby.

It was a picturesque, summer evening and the sky was a deep periwinkle color. The sounds of guests enjoying the pool filled the reception area. There were children busy laughing and squealing as they splashed in the water, adults sitting around outdoor tables drinking and conversing, and every now and then the familiar sound of a swimmer executing the perfect cannonball into the water ascended through the air.

Moments later, the newlywed couple who had asked about the jacuzzi returned to the lobby.

I sensed trouble. I knew there was no way they had been in the water for they were still dry. They approached the desk and I asked, “Was there a problem with the hot tub?”

The gentleman answered, “There’s someone in it.”

I was suddenly baffled. What was the matter? Did this couple somehow think they were entitled to the entire whirlpool? The tub was an in-ground circle about 12 feet in diameter with enough room for at least a dozen guests to soak comfortably. I didn’t know where they were coming from, so I inquired further.

“Did the person in the jacuzzi do something wrong? Or say that you couldn’t get in?” I asked.

“No, it’s nothing like that”, the gentleman answered. Then with apprehension he stated, “I don’t think he’s a guest here.”

“What?” I asked.

“He looks like he’s homeless,” the man added.

I was taken back at the idea of an unhoused man sitting in the jacuzzi. However, I was completely mortified at the bomb the new bride then dropped:

“And he’s naked.”

For a moment, time stood still. It was all I could do to utter, “No.”

The couple nodded at me in unison, and the woman added, “I think he’s bathing.”

“Oh no”, I responded. I sprang into action. I was determined to go kick this man out of the jacuzzi and out of my hotel. I felt the urgency to act quickly before any other guest witnessed this atrocity.

“I’ll go take care of the situation.” I knew some kind of restitution was in order for this couple. “Remind me, what room are you two staying in?”

“We’re in Room 511”, said the woman.

“Okay. I’ll make this up to you.”

“No,” said the woman. “You don’t have to. It’s really no big deal.”

“Of course it is,” I responded. “First of all, I’m sorry you had to witness that. How disgusting. And secondly, now you two can’t enjoy the hot tub.”

The gentleman spoke up, “No, really. We’ll be fine.”

I jotted their room number on a tablet and made a mental note to send them some kind of token of my appreciation later. But first things first, I had to get rid of the outcast bathing in my jacuzzi!

I walked around to the front of the desk as the couple headed off toward the elevators. I thanked them again and walked out into the cool summer night.

There were about 10 people in the pool; a group of children were splashing on the stairs of the shallow end, an older couple was in the deep end, and a woman with a toddler wearing floaties was off to one side teaching him to kick his legs. There were people sitting at tables, laughing and conversing as all around them dusk was evolving into night.

As I approached the jacuzzi, the roar of the motor fueling the jets got louder. I could see the man standing in the center of the choppy, foaming water’s surface. He was wringing out a shirt which was dripping into the tub. I thought, is he washing his clothes?

I immediately knew engineering wasn’t going to be happy when I explained they were going to have to drain the hot tub and give it a disinfectant scrub. That’s a battle I would fight later.

I stopped a few feet away from the edge of the jacuzzi and the man looked up at me through sunken eyes. It was obvious he was unhoused. He was very thin and looked malnourished. His skin was very tan (too tan) and appeared like leather due to over exposure to the sun. His hair was unkempt and long, and you couldn’t decipher where the hair on his head ended and his matted beard began.

He was still holding on to the two ends of his shirt which was now twisted into a tight wad between his hands. I noticed a pile of wet clothing on the concrete next to the whirlpool.

“Evening,” I said in a pleasant voice.

“Hello”, he responded in a raspy voice as he shook out the garment in his hands and added it to the pile on the cement.

“Are you a guest of the hotel?” I asked.

He looked defeated and caught red-handed. He lowered his head and said, “No.”

“OK,” I said, “The pool and jacuzzi are for our guests. I’m going to insist that you leave.”

The man’s head remained low as he walked to the clothes pile at the edge of the bubbling water. He started searching through the wet laundry.

“Can I put my shorts on before I get out?”

“Please,” I answered.

The homeless man lifted a pair of red plaid boxers out of the wet pile, then sat down in the water to put them on, the bubbling surface now coming up to his bony chest. I saw a look of humiliation on his face and compassion suddenly swept over me. I wondered how he had gotten himself to this point in his life.

I decided the man didn’t need to be berated; he needed help.

I picked up a towel from the rack hanging on the wall and placed it on the ground near the wet clothing.

“Here,” I said. “Use this to dry off and then you can take it with you if you want.”

“Thank you,” he said, continuing to dress beneath the water.

“Have you eaten?” I asked.


“Tell you what. Once you’re dressed, come by the front desk and I’ll have some food for you to take with you.”

I went back inside, passing the carefree guests enjoying the pool and the summer night. I pondered the stark difference between the happy, tranquil guests, and the man alone in the jacuzzi.

I went to the front desk and got a plastic bag. I filled it with some of the complimentary amenities we supplied to our guests, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, soap, shampoo, lotion, some bandages, and antibiotic ointment. I then crossed the lobby and went to the kitchen. I added to the large bag things which I thought would alleviate any hunger pains yet were portable. I grabbed granola bars, a few bags of nuts, fruit snacks, crackers, some bagels, and a few packages of M&Ms. We even had some pre-made sandwiches and some beef jerky which I added to the bag as well. I then included four bottles of water and went to the desk.

The homeless man was waiting for me, the towel I had given him hung around his neck. Despite wringing out his clothes, they were dripping, and a puddle was forming where he stood.

“Here you go,” I said, handing him the bag I had packed.


“Now, I need to ask you to not come in and use our pool or jacuzzi anymore. My colleagues may not be so kind and might even call the police.”

The man just stared at the puddle beneath him which grew larger with each drip.

“But look,” I added. “If you ever come by and see that I’m working, come on in and I’ll get you something to eat, OK?”

“OK,” said the man and he walked towards the door with his bag in hand. He looked browbeaten, if not by me, by life in general. He left a wet trail behind him through the lobby. I left the desk and quickly walked to housekeeping to get a mop. When I returned, the homeless man was standing at the door, apparently waiting for me.

“Hey,” he called to me.

I stopped with my mop in hand and looked at him. He then quietly said, “Thanks a lot. God bless.” The man then turned and slowly walked through the parking lot away from the hotel.

His words replayed in my mind while I mopped up the puddle and wet trail left through the lobby. I called the chief engineer and reported the incident. Through an annoyed growl, he reported that he would drain and disinfect the jacuzzi.

I then sent a complimentary wine and cheese basket up to room 511 to compensate for their inability to use the jacuzzi.

I’d given away two amenities that emotionally filled summer evening. Although the basket was filled with expensive delicacies and fine wine, I somehow believe the plastic bag filled with toiletries and life sustaining foods had far greater value.

Deven Matthews is a hotelier who has worked in the hotel industry for more than 23 years. A professor of hotel management at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, Deven enjoys instructing the future managers of Las Vegas hotels. He holds a master’s degree in business management and is fascinated by all things hospitality. When not immersed in hotels, Deven enjoys playing the piano and spending time with his wife and their six children.


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