Sunday, May 29, 2011

Booty Bride

Yesterday, a blond woman came into the hotel. I came up to the counter and she told me that she was waiting for a couple. We chatted about the drastic change in weather, which had gone from cold, windy and rainy to sunny and mild in the span of thirty minutes (typical Michigan). Just then a photographer came down the stairs, his camera clicking constantly and pointed up the stairs. He then asked his subject to pose on the stairs. My curiosity was piqued since this man was obviously a professional photographer. I leaned over the counter and standing at the bottom of the stairs was a bride!

Being a historic hotel, weddings happen fairly regularly at The Orchid, but a woman in a wedding dress was the last thing I expected to see around the corner. I then learned that the blond lady I was talking to was the officiant for the ceremony. There was movement upstairs and the bride's eyes suddenly went wide. "Shoot! That's the groom!" she exclaimed. "He can't see me!" The bride and photographer rushed into our porch just as the Best Man came down the stairs to check that the coast was clear. The rest of the wedding party soon followed: Maid of Honor and the bride's two sons. While the bride and her sons posed for pictures in the porch, the Maid of Honor and Best Man gathered the wedding preparations: white runner, purple and silver rose petals, and a boombox.

When it was the groom's turn to be photographed he had to go outside so that the bride could come back into the lobby (and the rushed from wall to wall the whole way so that the groom wouldn't accidentally see her through the window). My coworker, Bridget, came to the front desk to congratulate the bride on her wedding. The bride kept thanking Jesus for the change in weather and checking out her ass in our floor length mirror, while cursing herself for eating so much fudge. Finally it was time and the bride, her sons, and the Maid of Honor left to have the ceremony on the lake shore.

I worked until midnight last night and the moment I clocked out I headed straight to a local bar called Horns where a third of The Orchid staff was hanging out. The moment I got there we headed to a bar with better dance music called Mustang Lounge. The bar was as sketchy as the rumours had led me to believe, but the music was great and the entire dance floor was taken over by Orchid employees.

As I was dancing with some of my fellow Front Desk girls, I noticed a table of two couples watching us. The women pointed at me and then leaned in to tell the men something before hopping up and joining everyone on the dance floor. One of the ladies made a bee-line for me (in a booty-shaking way) and pointed at me. I suddenly recognized her as the Maid of Honor! The other woman, the bride, then shouted, "Orchid!" at me and gave me a thumbs up. I smiled and said 'hi.' The bride gave me a high-five and yelled over the base, "You party it up, girl! You shake it down!"

Talk about a small island!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Luggage Dilemma

Over the past two days, Mackinac Island has been besieged by Catholics. The Knights of Columbus group has been holding a convention at the Grand Hotel and consequently nearly every hotel, including The Orchid, is booked almost to capacity with members of the brotherhood. Tomorrow, all of these people leave after a 10am meeting at the Grand. Because of this, and I am sorry if this sounds like I'm generalizing too much, my night has been plagued with very picky and very anal old women.

Since about 10:30pm, the wife of every couple to walk through the front door has inquired as to the check-out process in the morning and what they are supposed to do with their bags. Most of these inquiries have been short and painless, but more than half have been very detailed with the women acting as though they may never see their belongings again.

First of all, The Orchid is so bloody regimented and "machine-like" that there is almost no way that a guest's bag will be misplaced/forgotten. Secondly, our two porters have both worked at The Orchid for several years and therefore have this down to a science and one porter is even related to the owner of the hotel. To all guests of The Orchid: your bags could not be in better hands. However, some people simply thrive on worrying, as with the case of Mrs. 205:

A short wile ago the woman from Room 205 called down to the desk to ask about the proper procedure for their luggage tomorrow. I explained that if they leave the bags packed and ready in their room then the porter will come up to the room, take their bags down to the lobby and then to the ferry dock whenever they are ready to depart the island. Mrs. 205 seemed very taken aback by this for some reason and said that her husband would rather take his own luggage "down" (but the porter could take her suitcases). I asked if she meant down to the ferry dock or the lobby. She said, "Down to the first floor." I told her that her husband was more than welcome to bring his own luggage down and that our porters would store it in the lobby. Mrs. 205 asked brusquely, "Well what's the lobby?" In as unpatronizing a tone as possible I said, "It's the entrance to the hotel where you checked in." This is not the Bellagio, lady. There are not multiple entrances and lobbies. There is only one lobby/guest entrance into the hotel unless you come through the dining room and even then you have to walk through a short hallway of rooms until you arrive at what is very clearly a "lobby" or "lounge."

Mrs. 205 then asked where her husband should place his luggage in the lobby. I explained that our porters would take care of sorting it. Big mistake. I should not have used the word "sort" (I'll add it to the list) because Mrs. 205 then said, "WHAT do you mean by "sort"?!" I explained that we are booked to capacity tomorrow and that we would be storing the luggage of the arrivals as well as the departures and that the porters had a "system" so as not to get any bags confused. Mrs. 205 still seemed put-off by all of this, but she decided to give up the fight for the night.

I sincerely pity the morning clerks who will get to deal with all this mayhem tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Of Course I Can Bring That Up To You!

New word that I should not use at work: "wonky."

It's interesting working at a hotel where I am not the sole employee on duty. At the Inn I had to do anything the guests needed. Leaky ceiling? Let me check to make sure the guest in the above room hasn't drowned. Clogged toilet? I will most certainly wade through the bathroom for you. Need your sheets changed because your kids smeared something across them? Of course I'll make your entire bed for you! Why else am I on duty but to serve every random request?

At The Orchid, it's never just me. We have a waterfront dining room that will be open at nights and housekeeping and a night manager are here until midnight. Thus, when a guest needs something done, it is not up to just me to fulfill their request. This novelty led to a somewhat scatter-brained situation earlier when guests came down to the desk and asked for a spoon and whether or not we provided laundry service. As I started to tell them where a laundrymat was on the island, Susan*, the night maid on duty, whispered from the back that we could do the guests' laundry. She then told me to call my supervisor Jenny to ask about the procedure. Jenny asked how much laundry the guests had and when I told her I would ask when I brought them a spoon Jenny said, "And then the office would be empty."

"Yes?" I replied, not quite sure how I was supposed to remedy this. How were the guests going to get their spoon if I didn't bring it to them?

"You cannot leave the office unattended."

"Yes..." I said again, still unsure how this spoon was supposed to make it up two flights of stairs.

"Is Susan there?"

I turned and looked at Susan. "Yes."

"Then Susan can bring the spoon up to the guests and while she is there she can collect their laundry."

"Yes?" (This is obviously my go-to word when I'm having a brain freeze on the phone.)

Susan, who can hear all of this, nods her head and leaves the room. Jenny explains the rest of the laundry procedure and tells me to call her back once I'm done. When Susan returns, spoon in hand, I tell her what room needs the utensil and she leaves again. As it turns out, the guests did NOT need their laundry done, but simply wanted to know if the service was available. I thanked Susan for delivering the spoon and she looked at me like I had lost my mind. "It's my job," she said. "You stay in here and I run things up to guests." This is really going to be quite the concept for me to wrap my head around.

Wednesday was my first day going off island since arriving on Mackinac. The experience wasn't necessarily anything to comment on, but what was exciting was the ferry ride back to the island. While I was running my eerands, Mackinac Island was hit with a minor thunderstorm. The storm itself didn't reach me, but there was some heavy rain that trapped me inside a Walmart where I hungout in a Subway with a group of older women who apparently use the Subway Walmart as a regular hangout (seriously entertaining). Mackinac Island is situated right on the Straits of Mackinac, which is a strip of water that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron as well as separates the Lower Peninsula from the Upper Peninsula. Today it is a major shipping lane, creating strong currents and active waves even on a clear, calm day. This is then greatly heightened during stormy days, like Wednesday.

I rode an afternoon ferry back in the company of nearly fifty retirees who were all enrolled in community college and on a field trip. I know it might sound odd, but tourist really warm my heart and I was having a hard time not staring as everyone kept taking pictures of each other on the ferry. The moment we left the dock the ferry began rocking exaggeratedly from side to side, which only increased when we reached open waters. Our windows were completely covered in the white foam from large waves and there were even a few instances when you could see right into the blue water beneath the wave. Each time the boat came crashing down it was accompanied by a chorus of screams and gasps. I was half expecting everyone to clap once we made it to port.(I later learned that the ferries had actually been shutdown in the early afternoon due to the rough waters so maybe we were one of the first boats to attempt to cross over.)

Tomorrow the wait staff arrives, which, from what I understand, means that's when the craziness begins, too! I will also work all morning/day shifts next week, which will present me with loads more opportunities to mess up. Let's hope I will at the very least get some entertaining stories out of it all!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pass or Fail

Today marks my one week anniversary of my time at The Orchid and so far it is still smooth sailing. There are new additions to the list of "Things I Can't Say" which include:

cheapest (least expensive)
"We can fit four guests in that room." ("That room can accomodate four people.")

I swear, my supervisor must be nervous that the next phrase to escape my mouth will be 'git-r-done!' Thankfully my voice is finally reaching a normal octave when talking to guests so I'm not a completely hopeless case. Thus far there have not been many interesting guest happenings at The Orchid. I suppose it's partially due to the difference in the clientel I received at the Inn? I do miss my DNR Boys. There will be no "I cain't play wit you no more," or "Georgia, where are the cookies?!" at The Orchid.

Mackinac Island, however, is gradually becoming busier and busier. Mother's Day weekend provided a harrowing experience of trying to walk down a Main Street sidewalk in order to get to the Starbucks, and no matter which side of the sidewalk you chose, you were headed against the flow. Sunday was also Free Ferry Ride day and the line to one dock actually stretched over two blocks. While sitting in a coffee shop with another fellow front desk clerk, Rizzo*, we watched as about fifteen horses were led up one of the streets. From what I learned from a local, there are about 200 horses on the island presently, but during the summer season there will be about 950. This is just the beginning!

This once again brings us back to the continuing coverage of my roommate, Dahlia (I promise once the summer season begins I will start talking about hotel business once again rather than personal drama. Right now the most I can say about our guests is that there are a lot of adorable older couples checking in and out and none of the casue any sort of disturbance worth writing about!). Following the trend of our first night working together Dahlia did not let me down the second night when she spent the last three hours of our shift calling all the hotels on the island to see where she and her boyfriend could stay at the end of May. I, on the other hand, was making flashcards for our big Room Exam (which will be more pertinent towards the end of this post). Dahlia would ask me random questions throughout the shift or complain about something, but there was a solid thirty minutes were not a word was spoken between us. The silence was broken, however, when Dahlia suddenly sighed, "I can't believe I love him so much." Having heard enough about her boyfriend for one night I continued to fill out my flashcards. Dahlia then leaned back in her chair and shook her head sadly. "It's painful, you know," she said, "opening your heart like that to someone. I did it once and I promised myself I would never do it again."

Now I knew I had to reply. "That sucks."

"And he's so jealous of me hooking up with someone else while I'm here. So jealous." Her voice had now gone soft and whispery, giving me the impression I had somehow fallen into a scene from 'Twilight'.

"Well that's not good to have so much jealousy," I replied.

Dahlia leaned forward in her chair and stared intensely at the desk. "He was so jealous in the beginning," she said. Surprisingly, that was the end of that conversation.

The next day, Dahlia was off so only Rizzo and I had to take the Room Exam, which we both passed with flying colours. One test down and two more to go! I came home the night to find Dahlia in a mess of papers that had lists of rooms on them. I asked her how the studying was going. This was apparently the wrong question to ask. Before I knew what was happening I was thrown into a tirade of, "I'm the 'special needs child' or the group," and, "you are all fresh out of college and young and outgoing and I'm just not," and my personal favourite, "I study and I study and it just doesn't sink in no matter what I do!"

First of all, the age breakdown of the four front desk clerks is currently 22, 22, 23, and 24 (with the two 22's turning 23 over the next six months). I'm sure everyone can surmise that Dahlia is the 24 year old, which, in her mind, makes her slower and less able to retain information then the rest of us. I tried to explain to her that 24 is no where near "old", but she just wasn't having it. Second of all, the night was the first time I had ever seen Dahlia study. The rest of the time she was either complaining, snoring, talking about her boyfriend, or talking to her boyfriend.

Dahlia continued to freak out for the next twenty minutes on a continuous cycle about how she cannot "memorize things like everyone else", how her sinus infection was preventing her from concentrating, and how she was "different" from everyone else. I told her that I sympathized with her situation after my experience on the Blue Ridge, but those of you who have read this blog from the beginning know how THAT turned out. Needless to say, that was not the best example in the world.

The following afternoon, Monday, Dahlia took the Room Exam. Rizzo and I had been touring the Grand Hotel and walked into the EDR (our employee lounge/cafeteria) just as Jenny was going over Dahlia's score. Dahlia looked like she was going to throw up. Rizzo and I made some sort of excuse that we had to go to the women's dressing room and we heard Jenny say, "You'll have to retake this Wednesday," as we left. We came back to the EDR as Jenny told Dahlia to go back to the office while she (Jenny) would go talk with Tracy*, the Personnel Director.

I came on duty about a half hour after the awkward encounter in the EDR. Dahlia left to meet with Tracy the moment I got there and did not return for nearly fifteen minutes. When she did, she asked Jenny for a map of the island and basically hauled ass out of the building. An hour later I went down to the EDR for dinner, where Rizzo immediately asked me what had happened. I told her I had no idea, but that Dahlia was obviously very upset and went home. Rizzo told me she had asked Sandy*(a veteran Orchid front desk clerk and mine and Dahlia's third flatmate) the same question and she had only replied, "[Dahlia] no longer works here."

Whoa. Apparently Dahlia's test had been the "worst" they had ever seen and when Dahlia went to meet with Tracy once I came on duty, that is when she was fired. Not gonna lie, I did not see that coming so soon. The Orchid really does not fool around!

That night, when I got back to the room, I told Dahlia I was sorry about what had happened. Dahlia immediately replied, "Don't lie, we all saw this coming. No one was surprised by this." She then went into a small rant of knowing the job was not for her from the beginning and having been plagued by nightmares for the past week. Dahlia then began asking me where places were located on the island because she planned to scour what businesses she could to try and find employment before she was kicked out of Orchidhousing (which will happen tomorrow).

Although I do sincerely feel sorry for Dahlia I can't help feeling she is the creator of her own demise. From the beginning of her time her at The Orchid she has had a defeatist attitude that either had to do with her being "too sick" or "too old" to retain any information. While Rizzo and I were studying during most of our free time, Dahlia was stressing out about find a place for her boyfriend to stay at when he comes to visit each month.

As I headed to bed I heard Dahlia on the phone with her boyfriend. She was listing off all the restaurants she was planning to apply to in the morning. Having not explored the island very much, each restaurant name sounded new to her and her voice would trail off until she had located it on the map. I heard her mention The Lilac Room*. The Lilac Room is a very popular restaurant on Mackinac Island and I have been told that it is not only a favourite for tourists, but locals as well. The dining room has a piano bar and offers a gorgeous waterfront view and patio seating. The Lilac Room is also The Orchid Hotel's restaurant.

Dahlia was right. We all saw her termination coming.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bring a Flask

Day one of The Orchid went fairly smoothly. I was hounded for my use of "you guys" repeatedly, but I think my manager, Jenny, is becoming more humoured by the fact that my voice raises an octave whenever I talk to guests. It's all about baby steps with this job! That is, it's all about baby steps until it come to room, rules, and rates memorization. Tomorrow will mark my sixth day on the job and already I am looking at a test (yes, an actual paper test) on all thirty-six guest rooms and nine-suites at The Orchid. This test will consist of a list of room numbers and I will have to know the code, bed structure, view, and on/off season rates of each room. Whoa. In theory, each front desk agent should get to the point where Jenny will say, "What is room 218?" and we should be about to answer, "That is the Fudge Suite. It has a king size bed, sitting AREA, wet bar, and looks over the marina, Fort Mackinac, the governor's mansion, and East Bluff (row of pretty houses)." (And for those of you who care, that description of 218 is spot on! I'm pretty impressed with myself although I didn't start memorizing rates until last night soooo...if you call me, your room is free!)

And now we once again turn to the most entertaining aspect of The Orchid: Dahlia. Dahlia, bless her heart, is a hot mess. She and I worked the 3:30-10pm shift together last night and all check-ins and phone calls were left to me. What was Dahlia doing at the time? Well I couldn't honestly say, but she was usually either sitting beside or standing right behind me, blowing her nose loudly. Once our manager left for the day at 8pm, Dahlia finally answered the phone.

Side note: In order to understand this next part, there is one minor thing you all must know. If you book ahead of time, your hotel room is either assigned the day of or day before your arrival. However, there are times when maintenance issues, pushy guests, and a plethora of other reasons cause you to be placed in another room. Luckily, since you did not know your room number to begin with, you are none the wiser. This really isn't a big deal, but there were times at the Inn where I had preassigned a guest to a first floor room, but then unforeseen circumstances came up and the guest was placed on the second floor, towards the back of the building. For this reason, guests are not told their room number until they arrive. (Unless you're a regular and specifically request "Room 325", etc etc.)

So Dahlia answers the phone and it is Mr. Dwight wanting to double check that we have his reservation for tomorrow night. I show Dahlia how to look this up in the computer and then hear her say, "Yes, Mr. Dwight, I do see that we have you checking in tomorrow to room 208. This is a GS1 room, which will either come with a king bed or a balcony and you have two persons in your party."

First of all, Mr. Dwight does not need to know he is in room 208 because what if we have to move him to 312 for some reason? Will he be pissed that he suddenly has an extra flight of stairs to climb when, as of last night, he only had one flight (there is no elevator in the hotel because it is a historical building)? And "GS1" is a code for a certain type of room we have (which comes with either a king or a queen bed and some of the kings have balconies, but all of the queens have balconies -- look who's not going to fail her test!). The guest does not need to know this. And as soon as you bring up "a king OR a balcony" the guest is going to wonder, "Why can't I have both?" (FYI, room 208 DOES have a king AND a balcony and looks out over the roof of the building next to us and towards the marina, fort, mansion, etc etc.) Basically, had Dahlia known the colour of the wallpaper I am sure she would have told Mr. Dwight this as well, which is just not necessary and could led to a very grumpy Mr. Dwight.

Dahlia then took another call and, once again, went into way too much detail while trying to book a room for some lady. I was trying to study the room map at the time, but I was able to catch enough to know that Dahlia was trying to place this lady in a specific room, which is REALLY not something we do at The Orchid since our rooms can be so vastly different and we won't know which specific room is available until the day of your arrival (for example, you ask for a garden side room with the side porch; some of these have a king bed and some have a queen. We will note your preference and try to get you your bed of choice, but until the day of your arrival there is no way of knowing.). Dahlia then told the lady that she would investigate further and asked that she call the hotel tomorrow and hopefully Dahlia would have found the perfect accommodation. My roomie then spent the next hour and a half obsessing over a room that could fit three people. I tried to help her and speed the process along, but the hitch was that all three people wanted their own bed. During this time I was also getting up frequently to greet guests returning from dinner and answering what questions they had. Dahlia remained planted firmly in her seat trying to figure out just what room would be perfect in every way (bed structure, view, and price) for these people. Finally, I told Dahlia to just stick them in a suite with a king bed and a pullout couch that would fit two people and that way only two of the guests would have to share a bed, but at least it could be a big bed.

"But she's not going to like that," Dahlia said.
"The mom."
"What mom?"
"Of the reservation. I know these people. She won't be happy."
"You know the woman who just called?"
"No. That's a separate reservation."
Now I was really confused because we hadn't had any phone calls since the woman Dahlia had spoken to. "Who is this reservation for?" I asked.
"My boyfriend and his family."

It took every ounce of strength in my body not to collapse to my knees and screech, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!"

"I'm just going to have to go look at the rooms," Dahlia said, grabbing the master key and heading upstairs. By this point the Night Auditor, George*, had arrived and once Dahlia was gone he asked me, "Aren't you glad that's what you get to go home with, too?" I asked him to start smuggling a flask to work.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Greetings from Mackinac Island!

Hello all! For those of you who don’t know: I have recently switched hotels and am currently situated on the picturesque Mackinac Island that sits just off the connecting bridge between the Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I am a Front Desk Agent at the Orchid Hotel*, which is, needless to say, a tad more strict than my previous Holiday Inn.

The Orchid Hotel is a small deluxe hotel that offers quaint luxurious (slight oxymoron, I know) rooms at prices ranging from $300 (our one room with an “obstructed view”) to $1,000+. The majority of our rooms provide excellent views of the Straits of Mackinac (i.e. Lake Huron), the marina, or our garden (award winning maybe? I’ll have to double check on that fact). We are located in the downtown of Mackinac and right on the water’s edge.

On top of all this, the hotel has been mentioned in Conde ‘Nast’s “Gold List” countless times as well as other receiving other prestigious honours and recognitions. Obviously, my standards as a hotel employee have changed slightly. Unlike the Inn, I do not have a uniform, but instead must dress “business casual,” but was told not to go “too crazy.” As a girl who loves to see just how many patterns and colours she can pull off, I’m not quite sure how to interpret the dress code. I have a strong feeling that this rule in particular will lead to some fun discussions with the office manager, Jenny*.

Speaking is also a big part of this job. I realize that sounds like a silly statement, but stay with me for a second. I come from an area where people butcher the English language. They add syllables that shouldn’t exist in words (i.e. Gloucester = “glauw-ster”, not “gla-chester”), switch out vowels and consonants (Library vs Liberry), and just generally have a habit of creating their own pronunciations. Anyways, I would certainly describe myself as someone with very good grammar and a very professional way of speaking. Apparently I am mistaken. Thus far I have been told to lower my voice (I sound like I’m five on the phone?), stop saying “yep”, “you guys”, “okie”, “not a problem”, and a “thank you” without a “one moment please” after it. My god. Orchid Hotel also takes the use of the words “room” and “area” VERY seriously. Some of our suites have a sitting area, while others have sitting ROOMS meaning that they can be closed off from the bedrooms. Even though I get this distinction, my mind is having the hardest time communicating to my mouth when to say either of these words and each bloody time leads to Jenny having to describe the differentiation to me all over again.

Okay, enough with the technical stuff. I’ll continue to expand on the ins and outs of the hotel as the season progresses, which I am sure will get more entertaining as tomorrow is our first official day of being open! Now for the real stuff...

My roommate. As a few of my readers may know, I do not have the best of luck with roommates. Most of them have to be heavily medicated for one reason or another and just have a tendency of being “different.” My new roommate is no exception. Dahlia* is a very special girl. So far I have learned that she is allergic to dairy, horses, dust, and possibly some type of meat (there’s some other stuff, too, but I stopped keeping track). Any time she comes in contact with these items...well she has a negative reaction that she then feels necessary to broadcast to me. Long story short, yesterday she asked me if I wanted to go to the store with her to get Gas X and then proceeded to go into a detailed bowel movement discussion. Did I mention that we have only spent three nights together?

Having never worked in the hotel business, Dahlia is very overwhelmed by all that goes on at the Orchid. As front desk agents we are required to memorize every room number, their description and their view. This task has Dahlia ESPECIALLY stressed, which she moans and groans to me everyday. EVERYday. And I’m not just talking about while we’re in the room together – oh no. We eat every meal together as well as work together (does anyone else hear the twanging banjoes of my Blue Ridge experience in the background?) and during each of these instances she is complaining. And on top of having a screwed up digestive track and being stressed beyond belief – she has a sinus infection. And did I mention she snores? I believe the phrase is, “like a jack hammer.” She also has a blind boyfriend who she feels the need to reference every few seconds and is oddly blunt at times, such as asking when I might need the room for sex, or inquiring as to my “monthly cycle.” (I would like to repeat that we have known each other for THREE NIGHTS). Dahlia is also weary of walking around at night, drinking, and partying, activities that are very present on this island (I’ve heard Mackinac called the Las Vegas of the Midwest several times). Needless to say, this shall be an interesting summer with Dahlia the Bubble Girl.

Besides all that, I think this season at the Orchid will be very exciting. The hotel is family owned and all the “higher ups” make it a priority to get to know all of their staff. Our housing is located just past the infamous Grand Hotel, which is apparently where the majority of the seasonal island employees will be housed. There are great trails and random historic places at nearly every turn and the all the buildings look like something ripped right out of Pleasantville. As the weather gets nicer I will post pictures!

(Side note: I will try to be more regular with the blog posts from now on and hopefully I will have more entertaining posts as the season continues.)

*Names have been changed for job security.