The livelihood of a hotel concierge depends on the maintenance of a complex facade: traditionally, he must be obsequious yet peremptory; menial and, at the same time, a bit of a snob. This makes the inner life of the concierge, like that of the psychiatrist or the pastor, the object of speculation. In Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a dumpy concierge nurses a private devotion to Tolstoy. In the 1993 movie For Love or Money, the concierge Doug Ireland (played by Michael J. Fox) must endure the whims, and walk the poodles, of such guests as Mr. Salvatore, who keeps asking for more of “dem things on the pillow,” by which, Doug finally figures out, he means mints.

From a delicious piece by Lauren Collins in the current New Yorker.