Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Angry August

At the beginning of the season I was told that August was the worst month for tourists on the island. Apparently they are angrier than tourists visiting within any of the other summer months. August being my birthday month I refused to believe this as true.

Well, folks, I am here to say that that statement was completely factual. I do not know what it is, but August tourists are angry, entitled, snippy, and just plain rude at times. I have reached the point where the bad guests have set me on such edge that even the nice ones who are just a teaspoon of annoying make me grind my teeth.

One example of the "August Tourist" would be Mr. 101. Mr. and Mrs. 101 stayed at The Orchid for about three nights. They were both very pleasant and amicable and Mr. 101 said he was sad to leave our hotel. I checked him out, made up a baggage tag for his luggage and handed him the claim stub telling him that our porter, John*, would meet them at the dock ten minutes prior to their ferry's departure. Mr. 101 thanked me and he and his wife left the hotel shortly thereafter.

John was our only porter that day, which was fine since we didn't have an exorbitant amount of check-ins and check-outs. Unfortunately for John, five of our check-outs had decided to take 11 a.m. boats, all from different boat lines and one party had ten pieces of luggage. John already had the majority of the luggage at each boatline by the time we were told about the ten-pieces room (from the third floor). John made the ten-piece his top priority and raced them down to the boatline, leaving another room's luggage strapped to his bike basket out front. I was standing at the front desk when Mr. 101 stormed in. He was no longer smiling.

"I would appreciate it if I didn't have to wait until the last SECOND for my bags to get on the boat."

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I believe John is on his way down with your bags right now."

"No he's not. They are right THERE," he snapped, jabbing his finger in the direction of John's bike. How was I supposed to know which luggage was his?

"Okay, I'm very sorry, sir. I'll let John know to meet you down there now."

"I want him there NOW. I do not appreciate waiting until the last minute."

I radioed John and, not knowing where Mr. 101 was in relation to John's radio, tried to warn him as professionally as possible that he was about to have a very livid visitor. John later described his interaction with Mr. 101:

Mr. 101 stormed at John the moment he arrived on the dock with the bags. "Next time I would appreciate not waiting until the last minute for my bags to arrive."

"I'm very sorry, sir. We always tell people to expect us about ten minutes before the boat departs."

"Well I wasn't told that and next time we'll just have to request that our bags be brought here TWENTY minutes before the boat departs."

"Sir, your bags are here within the ten minute time frame and, as you can see, your boat hasn't even arrived yet."

"Next time we'll just ask that our bags be brought down here twenty minutes before the boat departs."

"Okay, sir. Whatever you might want to work out the next time with the front desk."

The next irate guest came a mere week after Mr. 101. John radioed that the Dinga party had just arrived at the Star Line dock. I went to the front desk and pulled out the Dingas' registration card and waited for them to arrive. (Our manager likes for us to greet guests by saying, "Hi! ?" because it shows we're "on top of things.") A middle-aged couple walked in holding a few small bags. "Hi," I said, "how are you two?" They made no verbal reply, but the husband nodded his head. "Dinga?" I asked. No reply. The woman bent down to get something out of her bag. "Dinga?" I said again. The woman bolted upright and gave me a look as though I had just uttered a racial slur. "Are you the Dingas?" I asked more hesitantly.

"I didn't say anything to you," the woman snapped. "I didn't say a single word toyou since we walked through that door."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, a bit taken aback at how angry the woman with the fake blond hair sounded. "Are you not the Dingas?"

"No. We're not. We're the Kolariks." (That's right, no asterisk with time. This is their REAL name. Karma, Pat and Greg Kolarik of Denmark, Wisconsin. Karma.)

"Oh, okay." I scrambled to pull their registration card out, hoping to defuse the situation. A man came around the corner and asked when the restaurant opened for dinner. I told him 5pm. He asked if I could make him a dinner reservation for five people at 6pm. I said 'yes' thinking he would then wait for me to finish with the Kolariks, but instead he started to walk out the door. I called for him to stop and poked my head into the office to ask Sandy to help him. I then focused all of my attention back on the Kolariks.

Pat seemed very offended by everything I asked, which consisted of, "We have you staying for two nights, is that correct? And there are two of you in the room? Can you just verify this contact information and sign here, please?" As they looked over their contact info another party arrived wanting to check in (the real Dingas!). I asked the Kolariks for a credit card to open a house account and as I went into the office to swipe the card I asked Mickey to check in the real Dingas.

Now, I will admit, this was very hectic. Sandy was at the right side of the front desk still talking to the party of five about dinner; Mickey was in the middle checking in the Dingas; I was at the left giving the rest of the spiel to the Kolariks. It was controlled choas. We were each completely focused on the specific people we were talking to, making direct eye-contact and everything so that the guests were sure to understand everything we were saying.

I started to tell Pat and Greg about the complimentary breakfast we had available in the morning when Pat, in the middle of my sentence, snipped to her husband, "It would be nice if they took people just one at a time." Despite the fact that Pat the Pissed looked so angry that tears seemed to be welling in her eyes (or maybe that was a side effect from all the bleach she must use to create her neon coloured hair), I was pretty fed up with her blatantly rude attitude. It was childish, but I rushed through the rest of my spiel at a rate I knew they couldn't understand. I then asked if our porters had met them at the dock.

"No one met us," Mrs. Kolarik nearly shouted, her hair remaining rigid as her head snapped back like an angry chicken.

"Did you not check any luggage?" I asked. The bags they were carrying were equivalent to the size of plastic grocery bags.

"We. WANTED. To. Carry. OUR. OWN. BAGS." Pat the Pissed was very close to hysterics now.

"Okay," I said, swiftly losing my patience. "This is going to be fun." I grabbed their key from under the desk. "Let me show to you your room!" (Had my manager heard my overtly sarcastic tone she probably would have given the wretchedly bleached woman a free room.) As I led the Kolariks up the stairs I asked where they were visiting from. No answer. As we reached the second floor I toyed with the idea of "accidentally" leading them to the thirdfloor (we don't have an elevator and they were not exactly at the peak of physical fitness) if they continued with the silent treatment. The husband finally responded, "Greenbay, Wisconsin." No other words were spoken between us because my professional filter system had completely disappeared and I'm sure Pat the Pissed would have had a conniption had I asked her the only other question I could think of: "Did you let someone to that to your hair or did you do it yourself?" I opened their room, gave the husband the key, and left. As I raced away from the tension filled room I secretly wished a sudden heat wave would hit the island. The Kolariks' room did not have air conditioning.

Thankfully, Pat the Pissed and I never crossed such intimate paths during the rest of her stay. My office manager and I hypothesized what might have set her in such a foul mood the moment she arrived on the island. The top five reasons were:

1. She just found out her husband is cheating on her.
2. Mr. Kolarik had forgotten they had come to Mackinac Island for their anniversary.
3. She just learned that Mr. Kolarik fathered an illegitimate child.
4. Her scalp burned from the bleach.
5. She was jealous that my blond hair is 100% natural.

I was off the day Pat and Greg checked out. My coworkers recounted the wonderful process of saying goodbye to the Kolariks:

At The Orchid, we require all of our rooms to be prepaid. However, if someone wants to change their method of payment (for example, put it on a different card or pay with cash) then we simply refund to the original card during checkout and use whatever they want instead. Pat wanted to use a $500 American Express giftcard. She explained this to Gretel and stated, "I want to speak to the person who will be running this card. I do not want them to run this card BEFORE I speak to them." Jenny, our manager, was standing behind the glass pane separating the front desk from the back office, waiting to swipe this card. Gretel took a step back to repeat these instructions to Jenny.

"Do not charge that card!" Pat yelped. "Do you hear me, young lady? Are you LISTENING to me? I want to talk to her before you swipe that card!"

Gretel stood there for a moment, shell shocked by the abrasiveness of this woman who she had never even met until now. "Yes, ma'am. I understood you." She took another step back to talk to Jenny.

"Do NOT swipe that CARD. Are. You. LISTENING. To. Me?"

Jenny poked her head around the corner. "Ma'am, I heard you. I am not going to swipe your card. If you will just give me one moment, please."

John was standing next to the front desk. "Is there something the matter, ma'am?" he asked.

"It's nothing to do with you," Pat replied, "it's THEM." She made a grand gesture with her hands, indicating the front desk. "THEY just don't listen. They are like robots. Robots! YOU have been great. It's all of THEM I have a problem with." (Let me remind you that the only interaction she had had with the front desk during her entire two-night stay was at check-in with me and now check-out with Gretel. I also later learned that she had already inquired from our other porter, "Who can I speak to about the front desk?" to which he replied, "Uhh...the front desk?")

Jenny emerged from the office and asked the badly-bleached woman what she needed. Pat said that she would like to talk to Jenny about some "complaints." Jenny took her into the owner's office where Pat ranted and raved about us "robots." I am not sure why she had a personal vandetta against us from the moment I said, "Dinga?" but apparently the straw that broke the flourescent coloured camel's back was when Pat witnessed Summer standing on the steps of The Orchid, looking for a taxi. As Summer stood there, completely immersed in her taxi-searching world, an older woman was coming up the stairs. Summer did not register the woman and remained fixed in her place, forcing the older woman to move around her. I am sure that had Summer seen the woman she would have moved, but this instance (as well as whatever else was eating at Pat the Pissed) is what finally sent Mrs. Kolarik over the edge.

Amazingly, Pat did not demand a free room or any type of compensation. She simply wanted to let Jenny know how horrible we all had been. I am also surprised she has yet to write about this experience on Trip Advisor. Since her departure I sporadically look at our page of reviews and scan for the word "robots."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"911, What's Your Location?"

Yesterday my office manager received a call from a frantic guest saying that her nephew had been hurt in a biking accident. She asked to be connected to her mother's room and for Jenny to contact the medical center. My office manager immediately jumped into action, calling the center and getting the name and number of the doctor on-call. Of course, this being Mackinac Island, she had to leave a voicemail. Soon afterwards the grandmother of the boy came rushing up to the front desk, also asking where the medical center was located. We explained that there wasn't actually a doctor at the medical center and asked that she wait until we heard back. By this point, the aunt and nephew were on their way back to the hotel. We had a wheel chair waiting and had already alerted our night manager, who is also the assistant fire chief on the island.

The emergency? A deep cut on the knee. Not exactly a cause to be all up in arms and radioing 911, but I think emergency officials see so little action here that a hangnail could bring the entire police force. There was indeed a lot of blood, however, and the poor kid was crying like his leg would never be the same. The owner of the hotel, Mrs. Kate*, grabbed some washcloths from the maid closet and pressed it to the sobbing boy's knee. As the aunt and grandmother wiped away the blood, Mrs. Kate came into the office and grabbed a roll of scotch-tape. My coworker, Gretel*, and I questioned whether it was her plan to tape the hand towels to the boy's leg. Low and behold it was.

As far as emergencies go, this wasn't exactly one where time was of the essence. I think the best parts were watching Mrs. Kate scotch-tape the cloths to the boy's leg and later hearing that some of the servers had told my roommate, the infamous Summer, that the boy had lost his pinky. And better yet -- she believed them.

This incident brings me to another emergency that befell The Orchid nearly a month and a half ago. Summer and I were working the night shift together when we received a phone call from the dining room. Not wanting Summer to strain herself, I answered the phone for perhaps the twentieth time that night. It was the hostess, Krissy*, telling me to call 911 because a woman had fallen outside of the restaurant.

"911?" I repeated, a bit shocked at the request.
"That's what her daughter said."
"Did she break something?"
"I don't know. Her daughter said she just fell outside the door and told us to call 911."
"Um okay."

Summer looked at me as I hung-up. "What's up?" she asked.

"Krissy said someone fell outside the dining room and her daughter wants us to call 911."
"She fell?"
"I guess so. Do I really call 911 for that? That feels a bit extreme if she just tripped."
"If that's what the daughter wants, though."

I stared at the phone for a moment. I had never called 911 before and still had the childhood notion that 911 was only for life and death situations and calling for anything else was akiillegal. Someone tripping didn't feel like an actual emergency.

"911, what's your location?"
"Oh, I'm at The Orchid Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan and apparently someone fell outside our restaurant?"
"Yes, ma'am. We have already been altered to the situation and have an emergency vehicle on the way."
"Oh." I should have known that our night manager would have radioed the incident in already.
"Do you know what happened, ma'am?"
"I just know that she fell."
"Do you know how old the woman is?"
"I actually can't see her. The dining room called me and just said that a woman fell and that I needed to call 911. I can't see where any of this is happening. The woman has a daughter so I'm guessing she's middle aged maybe? 30 to 60?"
"Okay, ma'am, thank you. The ambulance should be there shortly."

The phone barely touched the receiver before Krissy came tearing down the hallway. She threw herself onto the front desk. "She's not breathing!" she exclaimed.

"She's not breathing!"
"I thought she just fell!"
"She collapsed outside the door and now she's not breathing. Tom's performing CPR."
"Holy shit. The ambulance is on its way. Tom had already radioed it in."
"How old is the woman?"
"I don't know. Forties maybe?"
Krissy ran back down the hall. I called 911 again.

"911, what's your location?"
"Hi, it's The Orchid again on Mackinac Island."
"Yes, ma'am."
"The woman's not breathing."
"Okay, ma'am, the emergency vehicle is on the way." The medical center is less than a mile away from The Orchid. I wanted to ask how it could possibly be taking this long even at a normal driving speed.
"And apparently the woman looks about in her forties."
"Thank you, ma'am."
"I didn't know if you still needed that."
"I will let the respondents know, thank you."
"Okay. Um...bye."

Summer and I sat in stunned silence. "I thought she just tripped," I said, feeling slightly guilty for not having taken the situation more seriously to begin with. "They didn't make it sound that bad," Summer confirmed. We went into the lobby that looked onto the pathway to the dining room. From the panoramic windows we could see Tom furiously performing chest pumps, calling out instructions to Krissy. We couldn't see the woman. To the side of the porch I noticed a girl about my age standing off to the side, sobbing hysterically into a cellphone. It took me a few moments, but I finally recognized her as the daughter of a mother-daughter couple I had given a hotel tour to the previous afternoon. She and her mother were taking a girls-only vacation.

Summer and I watched the scene unfold until the ambulance arrived. Tom met the paramedics and rushed the gurney down the pathway. One of the responders took the daughter up the road that led to the medical center. The office phone rang and I dashed to answer it. It was a man inquiring about room rates. I felt oddly disrespectful talking so casually about our accomodations after having watched such a tragic scene.

A half hour later our dining room manager, who is also Tom's mother, walked into the office. She asked if we had heard about all the excitement. Summer and I said that we had and asked if she knew the status of the woman. She replied, "I don't know, but the fact that Tom went over in the boat to St. Ignace with them tells us she's probably going to be okay."

"Why?" I asked.
"Because as morbid as it sounds, Tom wouldn't ride over to St. Ignace with a dead body."

Three hours later, Tom returned to the office. "She's not deadsies anymore," he said. "She was deader-than-dead for a while, but not anymore. It's good when they're not deadsies." Good to know we're in such sympathetic hands.