Living in the twilight zone has its moments

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2008, 12:00am

Lighter side

Life in the pleasantly detached world of serviced apartments is generally uneventful and anodyne, a major selling point of this most temporal sector of the property segment. Here one can find an oasis of calm that is one's 'home away from home', after another day of office warfare.

But the sector's facade of serenity belies, at times, a twilight zone where the strangest things happen - just like in the real world. And when they do, management quickly covers up any traces of unpredictable weirdness that may sully reputations and drive business away.

For this reason, I will mention no names - with one exception, because her story simply illuminates Central 88's enduring excellence and dedication to service. Business development and operations director Gary Cheung of Central 88 serviced apartments, recalls a senior diplomat who checked in for a few weeks after his arrival at his new posting here.

So attached did he become to his new place of abode that, even after he moved into a nice big house in Island South, he still had his driver drive his maid and the household's laundry to Central every few days, where Central 88 took care of the cleaning, and charged his ongoing account.

He kept an account at Central 88 for many months after he moved out because, as he confided to me at a consular function on the occasion of his national day, 'Central 88 is the best damn place I ever hung my Armani suits in - and you can quote me on that. Close my account on the day I checked out. Why would I do a silly thing like that?'

At another time and in another part of town, the security guard of a discreet set of apartments thought he noticed a zombie walking out into the night - through the front entrance. Except on closer inspection, this was no zombie, despite her 1,000-yard stare. Simply a sleepwalking guest taking in the pre-dawn air in her nightie. When she hailed a taxi, it promptly stopped (she was a rather attractive young lady) and, with slender fingers she proffered HK$200 and asked very politely to be taken to a location that happened to be the very place she was standing. After the guard and the driver exchanged puzzled glances, the guard gingerly requested she return to her room. The guest replied: 'okay then,' with the ghost of a smile on her lips and the same glazed-over eyes, and proceeded slowly back the way she came.

Another time and another security guard, this one summoned to the room of another young lady, a banker from a nation well-known for its thrifty national character. There had been complaints of a foul smell emanating from her room, and fearing the worst (as well as a shocking headline in the next day's newspaper), the general manager dispatched his most courageous staff member to investigate.

A thorough search of her high-end apartment yielded a bottom drawer full of rotting food that had evidently been pilfered from the establishment's breakfast buffet. Had this been the guest's little personal cost-cutting exercise, and one that she had lost interest in, perhaps deciding that dining solo was not so unbearable after all? Or had she been stockpiling for brown-bag lunches, and then changed her mind? Most pressing of all, did she have an impaired sense of smell?

This story was narrated to me a few weeks after the event by the GM in the self-same room. It was completely odourless except for a hint of sandalwood in the air, from an exquisite artwork hanging on the wall. Then I was regaled with a story that really isn't suitable for a family newspaper. Suffice to say it told of a guest whose idea of 'making himself at home' could have been the premise of a film noir.

'But this particular gentleman,' the GM took pains to stress, 'was definitely the exception'. And then, suddenly remembering who he was talking to, added: 'High net-worth professionals stay here because they want a quiet life. And that is what they get.'