Sunday, November 11, 2012

Welcome Back to the Windy City, Georgia! Love, the CTA.

Hello dear readers! I am now back in the Windy City and today could not be a more appropriate day to finally update my blog from my beloved city because we are currently under a wind advisory. Winds are ranging between 30 - 35 mph with occasional gusts blasting between 45 - 50 mph! I attempted to ride my bike along Lake Shore Drive today (despite the hurricane-esque winds it is sunny and in the upper 60s today -- summer!), but was literally knocked down by the wind just a few blocks from my apartment. Every way I tried to bike was somehow against the wind and I felt ridiculous peddling with all my might, barely keeping enough speed to stay upright, and with my helmet repeatedly blown from my head and hanging by my neck. Needless to say, I am now safe and snug inside a Starbucks and have no plans to venture out until I have to.

I am back in Chicago to complete yet another unpaid internship at the United Theatre Company. I am working with their Development department as the Gala Apprentice and will basically be in charge of the whole operation (especially since my supervisor's last day was Friday...there are currently no paid employees in the Development department, but instead three volunteer apprentices). I am also still working Heartbeat Theatre and (drum roll) I now have a PAID position with them! That's right, I spelled that correctly: P-A-I-D. As in the opposite of "unpaid". What is this? you say. Paid for something other than hotel work? I know. It baffled me, too, but since I just deposited my first paycheck from Heartbeat then it must be real! I am their shuttle driver. Baby steps, dear readers. Baby steps.

My first few shifts as a Heartbeat Theatre shuttle driver have been uneventful. I have met some very happy patrons and was even surprised to receive a tip at one point! My third shift ended with me staying an hour later due to a birthday party Heartbeat was hosting. As soon as I deposited my last few "shuttlees" at our parking lot I headed to the El stop so that I could make it home in time to cook dinner and then drive right back to Heartbeat for a trivia night at a local bar. The hosts of the birthday party gave us all their leftover pizza and since I wanted to postpone grocery shopping as long as humanly possibly I took one box.

The moment I entered the train stop a CTA personnel held up her hand and said, "All trains are stopped. A car derailed at Granville. There will be a shuttle service set up momentarily." This must have just happened because I had heard a train go by five minutes previous. I crossed the street with everyone else and waited at a bus stop since the shuttle would probably take another half hour.

 I now live in the city of Chicago as opposed to Evanston so getting home in a timely manner was not much of a concern. I board Bus 155 and headed south. While I was on the bus a slightly eccentric homeless man sat across from and began making jokes about the pizza box in my hands. He seemed to just be having fun so I responded a tiny bit, but in general I do not like to bring unnecessary attention to myself in public so I was happy when my transfer stop arrived. I left the bus and immediately boarded the 151 that was to drop me a block from my apartment. After about five minutes I realized the bus was heading in the wrong direction. I got off, crossed the street and waited for the southbound 151. When the 151 never arrived I embarked the 36 bus instead, which got me within at least five blocks of my apartment.

The moment I boarded the 36 bus I was met with a cheery, "The cheese pizza!" There he was: Crazy Homeless Man.

"You didn't eat the pizza yet??" he said, grinning from ear and patting the seat next to him. I laughed and muttered 'no', pretending not to see him gesturing for me to sit by him. I took a seat in the middle of the bus and hunkered down for what was possibly going to be a long ride.

It only took a few more pick-ups for the bus to become completely packed. Six of the northside redline stops were shutdown due to the derailment so everyone was forced to commute by bus Crazy Homeless Man regaled everyone by singing the CTA bus rules at every stop: "Back, back, back of the bus. Move back, back, to the back of the bus so that everyone can get on! Back, back, back of the bus." Every now and then he would loudly proclaim something else about being nice to everyone and being gracious to our bus driver, but mostly he sang his 'Back of the Bus' song.

At one point a man in a wheelchair boarded the bus. Crazy Homeless took it upon himself to part the Red Sea of people and flatten the handicapped seats against the wall. When the man in the wheelchair disembarked, Crazy Homeless once again went above and beyond, even escorting people off the bus to make way and then making sure they got back on before any new passengers tried to seize the opportunity to grab what few open spaces there were. The woman next to me asked how to get to Diversey now that she couldn't use the train system. This was her first time in Chicago so I pulled up a map on my phone to give her a visual.

"Back, back, back of the bus. Move back, back, to the back of the bus!"

As we once again let on more people than the bus seemed capable of holding a young man in a tye-dye hoodie leaned over to a business woman in her thirties and said, "I heard what you said about me and that was uncalled for." I think Tye-Dye was hoping to make his statement and then righteously move to the back of the bus, but Business Woman would not allow him the last word. She spun around and snapped, "YOU deserved exactly what I said. You so worried about losing your seat on the bus that you didn't even MOVE for that man."

"I didn't know he was in a wheelchair!"

"Don't give me excuses, you rude-ass."

Tye-Dye attempted to stop his journey to the back of the bus so that he could defend his honour, but other passengers continued to move him away from Business Woman. The two continued to gripe at each other until we got to the next stop. A woman with two small children boarded the bus and stood in front of Crazy Homeless. One of the children was eating a banana and Crazy Homeless decided to sing a song about that. I could tell that some of the older passengers were getting annoyed with his singing at this point, but the mother didn't seem to mind and the kids were humoured by the song so everyone let him be.

However, one bus rider had apparently had enough of Crazy Homeless's eccentricities. "You need to shut your mouth!" an angry voice called from the back of the bus. Crazy Homeless did not and instead started singing slightly louder. The bus stopped and Angry Man pushed his way to the front of the bus. Just by looking at his face you could tell that he was PISSED. He bent down so that his face was just inches away from Crazy Homeless's face.

"I want you," he said very slowly, "to shut yo fuckin' mouth."

"I don't want to shut my mouth," Crazy Homeless responded, still smiling at the child with the banana.

"What you say to me?" Angry Man asked.

"I don't want to shut my mouth." Then Crazy Homeless began singing the banana song again.

"Say that again," Angry Man said. "Say that to me one more time."

"Kumbayah, y'all," an old man resembling Stevie Wonder said from his corner directly behind the banana-eating child. "Kumbayah!"

"I want you to shut yo fuckin' mouth," Angry said once again.

Another man standing near Angry raised his hand as if to block Angry from head-butting Crazy Homeless. "Man," he said, "let's cool it. There are children on the bus."

Not paying the peacekeepers any attention, Angry began reaching into his jacket. "Say that to me one more time," he said. "Tell me you won't shut yo mouth one more time."

To set the scene: Crazy Homeless was sitting at a window seat, facing forward. The row of seats in front of him were sideways seats that were turned towards the middle of the bus. Angry was standing, holding onto a support bar. A woman sat in between Crazy Homeless and Angry. In the sideways seats were the two children, an older woman, and Kumbayah. The mother of the two children and Cool It Man stood beside Angry. As Angry reached into his jacket the mother of the two children scrambled to push her kids out of the way. Cool It Man continued to repeat that Angry needed to settle down because there were kids and the woman literally sitting in the middle of the confrontation shielded her head beneath her hands. Others on the bus began pipping up for Angry to chill out and the entire sardine-packed crowded jostled Angry around until he lost his balance and had to once again use both hands to keep himself upright.

Angry started a stream of profanity and threats at Crazy Homeless again, prompting people to stand up for Crazy Homeless. After all, he was not hurting anyone. He was not being rude, demanding, or even all that unstable. He was simply a very happy man, who liked to sing and make friends and on this particular evening he just wanted to sing a song about a banana to a child.

"Is this normal?" the woman next to me asked.

"I'm more used to the train," I said, "but the good thing is that there's a bus driver on here so things can't get too bad."

The yelling from Angry towards Crazy Homeless and the protests from the other passengers escalated until the whole bus seemed to roar. Angry began to reach into his jacket once again until the noise was silenced by one boisterous shout: "CAN WE PLEASE REMOVE THE MAN, WHO DIDN'T EVEN PAY, FROM THE BUS? HE IS CAUSING A DISTURBANCE!"

The bus went silent. Angry stood up slowly and turned towards the back of the bus. A hipster looking girl of about my age stared back defiantly. "That's right," she said, "I said it."

"What did you say to me?" he asked.

"You got on the bus without paying and now you're just being rude. You need to get off."

"What are you a-ccusing me of?" Angry began pushing through the crowd to get to the girl. However, given the reputation he had already built for himself he was met with much more resistance than when he shoved his way to the front of the bus. The bus driver was obviously tired of all the animosity on her bus and finally decided to participate in the action. "Sir!" she yelled.

"When we stopped to let the man in the wheelchair off," Hipster Girl responded, "you got on without paying."

"YOU didn't pay neither, bitch!"

She laughed. "Oh, real classy," said the bravest girl I've ever known. "I had already been on the bus and got off to let him off. You just got on with the rest of us then without paying."

"Sir!" the bus driver yelled again, pulling the bus over at what did not look like a designated stop.

"Bitch, I --" the rest of Angry's words were drowned out as once again the entire bus rose up against him, telling him to simmer down, and the bus driver laid on the horn.

"GET OFF OF MY BUS!" the driver screamed. The bus went silent as everyone turned towards the front as two cops boarded. The bus driver had been honking to get their attention. Without any other words, Angry let himself be escorted off the bus by the officers. You could almost feel the sigh of relief pass through the bus as we finally got back on the road.

Mercifully, we finally got to my stop and the now irksome pizza box to myself as I squeezed my way off the bus. Everyone smiled and gave knowing nods to one another as if to say, "We survived!'

I made it home in time to put the pizza box in the fridge and then head right back to the bus stop. As I waited, a girl weighted down by Target bags stood next to me. She cocked her head as an unfamiliar bus number drove past. "A train derailed," I explained, "they're using certain bus lines as shuttles because the redline is down from Wilson to Howard (the northern most half of the redline)."

"Wow," she said, "that has got to be fucking people up."

"Good god you have no idea."

Thanks for the grand welcome back to the city, CTA! I missed you, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Code Word: Pigeons

Happy Halloween everyone! I realize it is not the 31st just yet, but here on Mackinac Island it is! Today was the day of the annual Great Turtle Race. This specific race was supposedly the largest one in its seventeen year span with a record 2,500 runners! And those were just the registered ones. I checked in a few guests yesterday who said they were going to be in the race, but had neglected to register for it.

Halloween Weekend itself is supposed to be the "craziest" weekend on the island -- even topping the yacht races. If we are basing "craziness" on the number of drunks stumbling in and out of the hotel then I would say this observation is true. Last night, I watched as a woman shut herself in our front door (as in, she was leaning against the doorframe and kept closing the door so that she was sandwiched between the two surfaces). Once she had finally broken that riddle and freed herself of the door she proceeded to stumble back and forth in the lobby. It took me a few moments to realize she was trying to figure out which of our two staircases to use. I rose to offer assistance, but she hid her face behind the flowers on the front desk so I left her alone. Finally, she made her way slowly up our main staircase. Since I never heard from or saw her again I am assuming she made it safely to her room.

I would say that all around, compared to last season, this year has had less drama with hotel guests and more drama with hotel employees. Obviously the employee drama has not made it onto the blog because - honestly - who wants to listen to a rant about never ending girl drama? That is why this summer Mackinac has been labled: "Mackinac Island: The Lifetime Movie that Never Ends." (One plus side is that my experiences have made me look at my roommate from last year, Summer, in a whole new light. It turns out she wasn't all that bad!)

The few guest-related stories I have at the close of this season would be in my favourite theme of "entitlement." The guests who came to stay with us during the On Season were paying anywhere from $300 - $1,095 per night. The guests who come during our Off Season are paying between $215 - $850 per night. We even have a special at the very end of the season where our rates are discounted 50% from our typical rates. I am not sure why this pattern forms, but it seems that the cheaper the room, the more entitled the guest.

For example, we had one woman come to stay at the Orchid a few weeks ago. She and her husband had booked one of our two Mackinac Suites. Now, I feel like I've covered this issue before, but just to reiterate quickly: the Orchid books by room category and not room number. You can put in your request for a specific room, but we cannot guarantee that room. This little quirk is drilled into every front desk agent at the Orchid Hotel and I know that we are all unlikely to forgo mentioning this tidbit when booking a room. That being said, this particular guest, Mrs. Gibson, requested the Mackinac Suite that has yellow walls. Unfortunately, that particular room was occupied with a stayover when Mr. and Mrs. Gibson arrived so they were put in the blue Mackinac Suite (the suite that nearly everyone at the Orchid agrees is the nicer of the two Mackinacs). From the moment I informed the Gibsons of this it was clear that Mrs. Gibson was severly unhappy. According to our porter, she complained all the way up the stairs and was disgutsed when she was led into the room. I received a call from her mere moments later and she stated that the current guests in the yellow Mackinac Suite should be told to move since the Gibsons had clearly reserved that room. I explained our policy of 'requests vs guarantees' and mentioned that her reservation notes even confirmed that the desk clerk she booked with "did not promise" the yellow suite. Mrs. Gibson reiterated that the guests in the yellow room should have been told at check-in that they would have to change rooms during their stay. She then asked to speak with the manager.

For the next ten minutes I listened as Trisha practically trained Mrs. Gibson on our reservation software in an attempts to explain why we would never guarantee a specific room and why we were not going to ask the Yellow Roomers to move. Mrs. Gibson informed Trisha that she and her husband would be checking out of the hotel shortly. Oddly, this never happened. Instead, when Mrs. Gibson and her husband left for dinner they stood at the doorway and Mrs. Gibson complained loudly of how they "should just leave" because they were "clearly not going to get what [they] wanted."

The next evening, Mrs. Gibson approached the front desk and asked if she could speak with the owner of the hotel. I had already been warn that Mrs. Gibson was trying to track down Mrs. Cannes so I told her that Mrs. Cannes was gone for the day. "Will she be back tomorrow?" Mrs. Gibson asked.

"I am honestly not sure," I lied. "I think she might be going off-island for the day."

"Well, I really need to speak with her. I don't think you were here yesterday, but --"

"I checked you in."

"Oh...well we are just very unhappy with our room. You see, we had reserved the yellow Mackinac Suite, but we're in the blue one instead and we are just very unhappy about it."

"Yes. We spoke on the phone after you checked in."

"Oh...well I would just like to speak to the owner."

"Mrs. Cannes is aware of your complaint. I'll make sure she knows that you stopped by again."

For the next two days Mrs. Gibson practically stalked Mrs. Cannes. Trisha had yet to lay eyes on the Gibsons and every morning I stood at the front desk, waiting for the Gibsons to emerge so I could point them out to Trisha. Our code word was "pigeons."

Unfortunately, "pigeons" was never used and Trisha never saw the Gibsons. Mrs. Gibson was able to finally corner Mrs. Cannes as she began to walk home one night. Apparently, Mrs. Cannes was just about to walk out the front door, chomping on some peanut brittle, when Mrs. Gibson swooped in to tell her of her complaint. Mrs. Cannes told the Pigeon Lady that the matter had to be taken to Trisha. The next morning, Mrs. Cannes told Trisha not to give into any of the Pigeon Lady's demands.

When Mr. and Mrs. Gibson finally checked out Mrs. Gibson refused to make eye contact with me. Her husband was pleasant and thanked me for their stay. I tried to get Pigeon Lady to look at me and dared her, "Complain one more time. Act like you don't recognize me just one more time." Sadly, she did none of the above and kept her eyes glued to the ground.

Besides Pigeon Lady the only other mishap at the front desk has been two negative reviews on TripAdvisor stating, "Our trip was great, but we felt ignored by the front desk staff. It was like we were just the same as the other guests." These reviews really irk me. For starters, Mrs. Cannes and Trisha then post the reviews in our employee notepad and write messages underneath saying we should all strive to do our best. Perhaps it is still my young age and stubbornness, but I feel that those of us left at the front desk are doing our best (these negative reviews would be more appropriate if two of the original front desk clerks were still here). I do not know a single one of us who does not acknowledge every guest who walks through the front door. Also, one of the reviews came from a couple who stayed in our Lighthouse Suite - our most expensive room in the hotel. Their review said that they were unhappy because, for the amount they were paying to be in our "top" suite, they expected a more pampered treatment than what they received.

Here is where the pattern of 'the less money spent the more entitlement felt' comes to play. The Lighthouse Suite is $1,095 per night in the On Season and $850 in the Off Season. This couple came to stay at the Orchid when we were running that 50% special on our Off Season rates. Therefore, they were paying $450. Yes, this is a lot of money. I am not scoffing at the price at all because even at $450 you would not catch me shelling out that kind of cash for a single night's stay. However, I believe that when you put that room price in the perspective of the entire hotel and the fact that it doesn't matter if you're paying $150 for our rooms or nearly $2,000 -- all guests are going to be treated in the same warm and inviting manner (and I am from the South -- I know how to do hospitality!). So, dear guests, please do get off your high horse at times and just enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

(Sidenote: tonight marks my final night on Mackinac Island. I think it's definitely time.)

(UPDATE: The woman who shut herself in the door last night just strode into the hotel confidently, picked the correct stairs on the first try, and the proceeded to fall on them a total of three times and then once more in the hallway for good measure. Happy End of the Season! Next stop: Chicago for Round Two.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Falling Out of Season

And once again it has been so long since I last wrote a blog post that I can’t even remember when I wrote my last blog post. Unfortunately, nothing blog worthy (or, rather, blog appropriate) has happened over the past few months. Time is slowing down on Mackinac Island. Our first cold front blew in and decided to stay about a week ago. The winter winds are beginning to pick up and even caused ferries to shutdown earlier this week. Green trees are finally starting to morph into warm orange, brown, and red hues. Probably most agreeable of all is finally being able to walk down Main Street in the middle of the day without feeling the need to go all Moses-and-the-Red-Sea on people.
However, for how quiet and relaxed the island is getting, the same cannot be said for the Orchid Hotel. As business has slowed down, so have the amount of hours each of us is working at the Front Desk. Whereas the four of us that are left were getting 50+ hours a week, now we have been restricted to less than 40. This all came about after "The Magazine Incident" in which the owner of the hotel was displeased to see two of my coworkers reading a People Magazine while at work. Ironically, there are times when the owner herself plops a magazine or catalog down in front of one of us and tells us to "enjoy." We now know these instances were all traps (not really, but it certainly feels that way recently since she is STILL giving us magazines to read at work). Personally, I was upset because the only time anyone on the front desk did something leisurely like check their email or read a magazine was when there was absolutely nothing else to do. Unfortunately, the owner did not see it this way and had our supervisor drastically cut our hours. To add salt to the wound they began volunteering people from the wait staff to cover our shifts. Were we hurt by this at the front desk? Unbelievably so. Were we angry? Beyond consoling for a while. However, we (three out of four at least) are now “dealing with it” and basically riding out the sorry situation until the end of the season (and October 13th when the restaurant closes and they HAVE to only let the front desk staff work the front desk).
And now that that mini-rant is out of the way I will try to regale everyone with a few choice happenings this fall:
1.     Mr. Spalina (aka Mr. So Angry And Rude That I Will Not Give You An Alias For My Blog)
As everyone is now well aware, Mackinac Island does not allow cars except for emergency services and the odd construction vehicle now and then. Everyone on the island gets around by walking, biking, or a horse drawn carriage (a bit more industrial than the Amish kind). There are taxis on the island, but they do not act as the type of taxis we are all used to. First off, you cannot hail a taxi here. I have seen a few people try and the result was not pleasant (even on Mackinac Island taxi drivers are not the nicest of people). Instead, you have to reserve a taxi and then wait for the specific one assigned for you shows up. Second, taxis are not the quickest means of transportation on the island. Obviously, two trotting horses can move quicker than a person on a bike, but when the taxis have to stop and pick up more people and then let the horses have a breather now and again suddenly your two mile ride uphill has taken a little over thirty minutes. Thirdly, the taxis are being pulled by live animals. These animals cannot just stop and go at the drop of a hat. They may need to stop and rest or have a pee. They may decide they do not feel like trotting and will instead amble along, nipping each other along to way. Your punctuality is basically at the mercy of a couple thousand pound animals. On top of this fact, taxis on Mackinac Island are never on time either. You could book a taxi 24 hours in advance and seven out of ten times it will still arrive up to a half hour late. 
And thus brings us to Mr. Spalina.
From the moment Mr. Spalina checked in it was clear that the Orchid was not his first choice. He wanted a room with a king bed, and yet had booked a room with two queens. When I asked if he and his wife they had ever stayed with us before he exasperatedly mentioned that this was their first time staying anywhere other than the Grand. He was impatient as I asked for his baggage claim stubs and explained our breakfast location and hours. I showed them to their room and held out the key, willing one of them to just take it so I could leave this absurdly crabby man. Mrs. Spalina marveled at their water view while Mr. Spalina scanned the décor with suspicious eyes. I held back a comment that the Grand couldn't get you this kind of water view unless they painted it on a wall. Unfortunately, that would have been snarky and “snarkiness” has been banned at the Orchid. Finally, Mr. Spalina gave me a curt nod and said, “This will do.”
The next evening Mr. Spalina and his wife were to board a taxi with two other couples bound for the Woods restaurant at 6:45pm. All three couples had 7:30 dinner reservations. For one of the few times this summer the taxi showed up right on time! Mr. Spalina held the door open for the two other couples and watched them board the taxi. He then promptly walked to the front desk and said angrily, “That cab was full. I want another cab to take us to the Woods NOW.” My coworker, Reba, and I watched as the cab pulled away. There was definitely enough room on the front bench for Mr. Spalina and his wife.
I called the taxi stand and they said they could get another cab there in five minutes. I relayed this to Mr. Spalina. He looked at me and walked away. Before he could get very far the sound of trotting hooves approached the hotel. Mr. Spalina and I watched as the horse-drawn cab sailed past the Orchid. Mr. Spalina whipped his head around to glare at me. "That cab JUST went right by withOUT stopping," he exclaimed, a little more accusingly than I would have preferred. 
"I know that seems confusing," I said. "The taxis are reserved for specific people. That one wasn't actually your taxi or else it would have stopped. That one is probably reserved for someone headed to Mission Point since that's the direction it was headed." The term "stare daggers" had never felt so real until now. Mr. Spalina spun on his heel again and resumed his post by the window in the lobby.
At 7:05 I realized with great dismay that Mr. Spalina was still in the lobby. The anger radiated off his body like strong cologne so I took the initiative and called the taxi stand. “It’s going to be about twenty minutes,” the taxi woman said. I immediately called the Woods and told them Mr. Spalina and his wife would be late. I then waited for the inevitable.
Five minutes later it happened. Mr. Spalina poked his head around the front desk and looked at me, eyebrows raised and unspeaking.  “I called the taxi stand a moment ago,” I said, my voice clearly showing my nervousness, “and they said it would be another twenty minutes...” Mr. Spalina continued to stare at me. “I also called the Woods and told them you would be late. They said that would be fine.” 
Mr. Spalina turned abruptly and opened the front door.  “Janice,” he called. He nodded his head as a signal to his wife to “come.” Mr. Spalina then stomped down the hall in the direction of the Orchid’s restaurant with his wife in tow. Reba and I exchanged worried glances. We knew what he was doing. So fed up with waiting for the taxi, Mr. Spalina was hoping to eat in our restaurant instead. Unfortunately, our restaurant was fully booked for the night. About a minute later Mr. Spalina came stomping back through the lobby, head down, eyes blazing, and hands deep in his pockets. His wife trailed him. It was like being around a balloon that’s surrounded by needles – you know it’s only a matter of time before it pops.
Ten minutes later Mr. and Mrs. Spalina were back at the front desk, dressed much more casually than before. Mr. Spalina looked as if he wanted to grace me with speech this time so I walked to the front desk. “This is a disgrace,” he said, jabbing a finger in my direction. “I just want you to know that this whole situation is disgraceful. It is reprehensible. They way we have been treated is reprehensible.”
            “I know,” I replied, “the taxis are pretty bad here. This unfortunately happens a lot.”
            “No! It is not bad. It is rep-re-hensible.” It was at this point that I noticed our lobby full of people had gone very silent and everyone was looking at the floor.
            “I know and I am very sorry. I moved your reservation back at the Woods. Do you want me to cancel it?”
            Mr. Spalina pointed his finger at me again. “If I wanted breakfast at the Woods, I would have booked breakfast at the Woods.” With that he turned on his heels and stormed out of the hotel. All eyes in the lobby slowly looked at me.
            “That didn’t answer my question,” I said to no one. Later, one of the guests who had been staring at the floor came up to me and apologized for Mr. Spalina’s behaviour.
            The next day I told my supervisor about Mr. Spalina. Of course, Mr. Spalina had already beaten me to the punch and told Trisha about the incident. Trisha informed me that it had been Mr. and Mrs. Spalina's wedding anniversary that night. “It’s probably going to be their last anniversary with that attitude,” I scoffed. Trisha told me that was snarky.
            That evening Trisha stayed at the office until Mr. Spalina’s taxi arrived. We had once again booked it for 6:45 p.m. Trisha stood between the chair I was sitting in and the entrance to the front desk. This time I was ready. I stared intently into the lobby, daring Mr. Spalina to snap at me again. I was Joan of Arc ready for battle! When I tried to lean over to see what Mr. Spalina was doing Trisha blocked me. She said that she was purposefully standing there to body-block me from interacting with Mr. Spalina. Obviously Trisha knows me too well.
6:45 p.m. rolled around and no taxi appeared. At 6:55 p.m. Trisha called the taxi office to check on the status. As per usual, the taxi people said, “It should be headed down the street now.”
At 7:10 p.m. a taxi finally materialized. It stopped in front of the hotel and Trisha escorted the Spalinas down the steps. Reba and I snuck out to the front desk to hear if that was indeed Mr. Spalina’s taxi.
“Are you headed to the Woods?” Trisha asked.
“Nope,” the taxi driver responded, “goin’ to the Grand.”
Reba and I bolted into the back of the office. Screw Joan of Arc. At least she was armed! Out of pure instinct I ran to the owner’s office and hid behind her doorframe. Reba could barely compose herself from laughing so much. “It’s going to be the Hunger Games at the Orchid!” I exclaimed.
Fifteen minutes later the Spalina’s cab finally arrived. Trisha returned to the office and called the Woods to not only warn them that the Spalina’s would be late, but to be wary of Mr. Spalina. Very wary.
The next morning the Spalinas were mercifully due to checkout. It was Trisha’s day off so only my coworker Lizzy and I were in the office. As I stood out at the front desk I heard the sounds of someone dragging a large item from the second floor. This was followed the unmistakable sound of a suitcase being thrown down the first flight of stairs. Footsteps stomped loudly behind the falling bag. A duffle bag that could easily hold a body then tumbled down the rest of the stairs into the lobby. Without much shock, I watched as Mr. Spalina snatched the bag off the ground, struggling under the weight, and threw it by the front door. He kept his eyes on the ground, lips pencil thin in a I-Just-Lost-My-CEO-Position scowl. He ran back up the stairs and proceeded to throw another hefty bag down the stairs. With great effort he held the door open for himself and dragged both bags out the front door. It was obvious he was either going to fall and kill himself or throw out his back. I made no mention of our porters helping him. If Mr. Spalina wanted to have an I-Am-The-Silver-Back-Gorilla temper tantrum then I was going to let him. Besides, a small part of me was chanting, “Trip! Trip!”
Mrs. Spalina calmly appeared at the desk. She handed me her key and smiled pleasantly. She signed her bill and said she would like a copy for her records. Then, because the hotel gods apparently have it in for me, the printer jammed while trying to print the copy. Lizzy opened the printer trying to find the jam. “Why this reservation?” she lamented. We gave each other worried expressions and I kept a constant watch over the front door, waiting for Mr. Spalina to rush back in and yell at me once more. Mrs. Spalina must have seen our petrified glances and assured me, “We’ve had a lovely stay.”
You’ve had a lovely stay,” I wanted to say, “your husband, on the other hand, has probably been formulating his damning TripAdvisor review since I first led you to your room.”
Exasperated, I took the Spalinas’ signed receipt and ran it through the copier. By this point I was certain that we were mere seconds from another Mr. Spalina blow-up. I thrusted the paper at Mrs. Spalina and chirped, “Bye!” She smiled warmly again and left. As soon as she walked out the door the printer produced her copy of the bill. Naturally.
2.    We Need To Talk
The other morning I stood out at the front desk and waited for checkouts. As I waited, an older man approached and handed me a folded note. “We need to meet in private!” it said in all caps. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought this was a joke. Back in Brunswick, Georgia, I was approached several times by old men in the mall who would ask me to read “Isle of View” out loud. To this they would respond, “I love you, too,” and walk off cackling like loons. Thinking this was a similar situation I looked at the man and laughed. He smiled and motioned for me to walk down the first floor hallway.
“Come to 107,” he whispered.
 Now this felt a little strange. Trisha looked up from her computer as I went out the door. I had just enough time to wave the note at her and say, “He wants to see me in 107?”
When we got to Room 107 I stayed at the door, propping it open with my foot. Unfortunately, the man walked all the way into the room and turned a corner so that my distance looked awkward. I could see two other people standing by the beds and my mind raced with Law & Order-esque scenarios. Is someone sick? Is someone dead? Bed defiled? Broken leg? Meeting of the Illuminati?
I walked further into the room. The old man, his wife, and their grown son all stared at me. Mr. Note Writer took a step towards me so that we were only a few inches apart. “I just want to tell you that this is one of the worst night stays we have ever had,” he said quietly.
Ah, I thought, I am here to get yelled at. Awesome.
Luckily, that was not to be the case. Instead, Mr. Note Writer and his family wanted to express to me how creaky the hotel was and how that had prevented any of them from sleeping during the night. Mr. Note asked if the room above them was made of wood and I pointed out that although the entire hotel was made of wood, every room had carpeting. Mr. Note went into exaggerated detail at how the constant noise coming from the room above them sounded like two 2X4 pieces of wood being dragged together and that at one point the room vibrated so violently they all thought they were in an earthquake. He then described how the squeak was not only constant, but also rhythmic.
“It was like squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak,” he said holding his hands parallel to the ground and rubbing his palms together in time with the “squeaks.”
“Did it sound like a bed?” I asked slightly uncomfortably.
“A bed?” Mr. Note said, obviously not catching my drift whatsoever.
“Well...we have about three sets of honeymooners here...” I tried to let my pauses speak for themselves, but Mr. Note was just not getting it. Luckily, Mrs. Note could read my ellipses.
“Dearie,” she said, “it was all night. You have to take a break!”
“This is true,” I agreed and wondered what Trisha would say if she could hear me now.
Finally satisfied that I had indeed listened and acknowledged their complaint, Mr. Note opened the door for me to leave. He thanked me for coming down and said they had had a wonderful stay. “I wanted to do this in private so that no one would think we were talking poorly about your hotel.” I thanked him for his consideration and thought about mentioning he just call the front desk next time instead of passing slightly daunting notes. (As a side note, I had been gone so long that when I returned to the front desk, Trisha was on the phone with our Operations Manager. They had been moments away from sending in back-up.)

(I realize that adding this photo just gave away the anonymity of the "Orchid Hotel", but my supervisor now knows about this blog and I'm really only keeping to the aliases because I don't want to go back and change two summers worth of blog post. Also, let's be honest, the majority of you who read this already know me personally. I just couldn't resist displaying the picture!)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Silent Night

You know those days where you feel like you just can’t win no matter what you do? You have that saying “Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place” rolling over and over through your mind. This past Monday was one of those days.
It started just like any Monday – I went to work, read the message pad, verified if we had any rooms left, and counted the drawer. There was a little bit of crazy activity from time to time and even one point where my other coworker and I were so tied up that the 80+ year old owner of the hotel had to answer phones and help guests lock things in our secured closet. During this moment of chaos I checked a man and his wife into one of the Orchid Hotel’s beautiful Huron Suites, Room 218. The room comprises a king bed, small wet bar, sitting area, and a 6-panel window view looking out over the water. We have three of these suites in the hotel. Two look over downtown Mackinac and the marina and one overlooks the lake. Since the ferryboats depart every half hour and sound their horn every time they leave the dock, the two marina side suites are considerably noisier than the lakeside one. 
About ten minutes after I had led the couple to their room, the man was back at the front desk. This is always a bad sign. He leaned heavily against the desk with his head bent.
“Our room is overlooking the marina,” he said.
“Yes. Two of our Huron Suites do overlook the marina.”
“But those boats...they honk their horn every time they leave.” I could already see where this was going. His eyes looked as though I had told him the room was made of gold, but in reality it was only yellow paint. “There just seems to be a lot of activity over there. And then it looks like we’re looking over a bar. My wife doesn’t want people to be able to see inside.”
“Let me see what I can do.”
Unfortunately, we were booked solid for the night and during the rest of the couple’s stay we only had rooms available on the marina side of the building. I told this to the man. His head dropped further.
“So you’re telling me, I’m paying over $700 a night for a room that...I mean those boats...I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“If it helps, the boats don’t run 24/7. They do stop around 10:30 p.m. and they also stop going every half hour around 7. We actually don’t get too many complaints about it.”
“But my wife wants the windows open. How can we do that with all that noise? Is there no other room?”
“There really isn’t. Nothing that wouldn’t be a downgrade, at least, and you’d still be on that side of the building.”
“Is that the only one of those suites available?” He was sitting in a chair now: elbows on his knees, forehead resting on his clasped hands. For a moment I really thought he would cry.
“There are two of the Huron Suites overlooking the marina and one overlooking the lake.”
“Is that one available?”
“Unfortunately those guests have already checked into that room and they’re here as long as you are.”
He stared at the floor for a moment. Finally he stood up. “Well, I guess there’s nothing to be done.”
“I promise you don’t even notice the boats after a while. I live by a dock and I barely do.”
He began slowly trudging up the stairs. “Yeah...I guess we’ll see.”
For the next few hours my co-worker Jenny and I were once again oddly busy for a Monday night. Mr. 218 walked past the desk several times and refused to make eye contact with me. I chalked it up to him being embarrassed about how emotional he had gotten and that he and his wife were now fine with their beautiful room.
A housekeeper called from the third floor. “There is no water in the toilet of Room 325,” she said.
“No water?”
“In the bowl. There is no water. In the queen bedroom.” Room 325 is our only two-bedroom suite: one with a king bed and the other with a queen.
“ I call someone?” Both the Night Manager and Head of Maintenance were off for the night (a poor combination, if you ask me) and our only other maintenance guy was long gone by now.
“Yes. They will need the water for the morning.”
“ me see what I can do...”
I explained the situation to Jenny, who said we should at least call the Head of Maintenance, Jason, to see if it was a problem we could fix. Naturally, his response was that until someone actually looked inside the toilet and told him what they saw, there was nothing he could do. I grabbed the master key and headed upstairs.
Thankfully, the guests were out for the evening so I went straight into the bathroom. There was obviously no water in the toilet bowl so I lifted the lid off the tank. Nothing seemed amiss. I bounced the ball thing and lifted the chain. That’s when I noticed it. The plug at the bottom wasn’t moving. I don’t know much about toilets, but I felt like the plug needed to move so the water could go in and out of the tank and bowl. I lifted the chain until it came straight out of the water. It was no longer attached to the plug. Awesome.
For some reason I felt the need to lament this predicament to Jenny. I went into the bedroom and called the Front Desk.
“Good evening, Front Desk.”
“I have to stick my hand into the toilet.”
“What??” she laughed.
“The chain thingy isn’t attached to the plunger thingy.”
“Do you want me to do it?”
“Noooooo,” I said, knowing I should be a grown-up and fix it myself. “I just wanted someone to know what I was about to do.”
“Okay. Well good luck.”
I went into the bathroom and removed all of the rings from my right hand. Logically, I knew the tank side of the toilet was the cleanest part, but there was still that voice in my head saying, “Toilet, toilet, ew ohmygod toilet.” I should also point out that on this night I was wearing a black lacey dress with quarter-length sleeves that puffed out at the ends. I tucked these billowing parts into the fitted portion of the sleeve, hoping to save them from having a nice wash in toilet water.
I reached inside the tank and found the plug. While holding my sleeve back with one hand I carefully tried to find the hole in the plug that the chain was to go through. When I found it I let out a little “Aha!” as I hooked the chain into the rubber. I stepped away triumphantly and flushed the toilet to watch my handiwork. To my dismay, the plug remained fixed in place as the chain jeeringly bounced out of the water. I held my sleeve back once again and took the plunge. Well shit. I had found the problem. The hole in the plug meant for the chain was no longer a hole, but a tear. I thought about just stabbing a new hole into the plug and calling it good, but then I remembered that I was not a plumber and maybe such a decision would be more disastrous than simply asking the Head of Maintenance what we should do now.
“You’re going to need a few things,” Jason said. “First, the plug. Go into the maintenance shop and – you know where the work bench is?”
“Okay good. Go to the workbench, under the workbench there’s going to be a blue and white box that says Korky. That’s the plug.”
“Okay,” I responded, writing down key phrases.
“Next you’re going to need wire cutters.”
“Am I cutting wire?”
“No, but you need something to cut the plug.”
“Can’t I just use scissors?”
“You could.” I wrote a note to grab both.
Jason then began explaining to me exactly what I was going to do. I tried to follow as best as I could, but only managed to write down the words “90 degrees = water off.”
“Do you have your cell phone?” Jason asked.
“Bring it up with you and just call me.” It’s like he read my mind.
I have worked at the Orchid Hotel for two summers now. When Jason asked if I knew where the workbench was I didn’t want to admit that I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. I went into the maintenance shop and searched high and low for a bench. There were chairs and tables and even a footstool, but no bench. Luckily, I happen to be dating a guy who worked in maintenance at the Orchid last year. I called him, told him to never speak of this to Jason, and was lead straight to the “workbench” (which is just a very long table...), wire cutters, and scissors.
Having successfully gathered my supplies and removed all jewelry from both of my hands, I headed back up to 325. I was so thankful the guests were still not there and hoped desperately that they wouldn’t return anytime soon. I removed the lid from the tank once again and pulled the old plug out. The entire process seemed simple enough that I wondered if it was even necessary for me to call Jason again. I took the new plug out of its box and stopped. The new plug and old plug didn’t match. The old plug was a circle with a U on top. The two ends of the U connected to screws in the toilet that kept the plug in place. The new plug  was a circle, attached to a square that had a smaller circle inside of it.
I looked from the toilet to the new plug an excessive amount of times. There was a pipe standing in the middle of the toilet, which the plug was supposed to attach to. Obviously the small rubber circle inside the square was meant to go around the pipe. However, there was also a large tube going into the pipe that impeded the square attachment of the plug from being able to shimmy its way down the pipe. I pulled the tube to see if it would come out, but then, once again, reminded myself I was not a plumber and had visions of an Old Faithful-esque toilet dance through my head. I called Jason.
“Just cut it.”
“The part square part?”
“Just cut that whole part off.”
I was amazed at how simple an idea that was. New plug doesn’t fit? Trim it down until it fits!
Jason then walked me through how to get all of the water out of the toilet. I turned the valve 90 degrees and flushed the lever. “OH MY GOD WATER IS EVERYWHERE!” Jason screamed in my ear.
In my black lacey dress I straddle the toilet to try and use both hands while cradling the phone between my head and shoulder. This lasted for about a minute before I realized how awkward this would look if the guests happened to walk into the room. After what felt like an age the toilet finally did everything it was supposed to. Jason congratulated me and said, “Now get the hell out of there before the guests see you.”
I came back down to the desk (after running back into the room because I had forgotten the old plug and the wire cutters) feeling victorious. Jenny took a picture as I posed in my black dress, pearls, and pantyhose, while holding all of my maintenance trinkets (and the old plug of course). We stopped suddenly when we noticed a man at the desk: Mr. 218.
“Ladies,” he said, wearing his same downtrodden expression, “I know you’re going to get tired of hearing from me, but that restaurant next door – Tali’s Pub? I just want you to know that they’re very loud. And I want to complain now instead of at 10:15 when I know I’ll want to complain.”
Jenny and I assured him that we were sure Tali’s closed around 10 so the noise should not be an issue. However, right on schedule, Mr. 218 called at 10:15 p.m. to complain about loud music on Tali’s patio. I called the pub and asked if there was any way they could turn it down. Thankfully the man who answered the phone said that would be no problem.
Fifteen minutes later Mr. 218 called down once again. My tone must have given it away that I knew it was him. “You must have caller ID, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah…we do.”
“Listen,” the tension in his voice was growing steadily. Since he had first appeared at the desk ten minutes after check-in he had sounded like a man trying to keep his emotions in check. Now he sounded as though his strained patient demeanor may snap. “I have asked over and over about the noise. Now, the music is off, but there’s a group of what looks like employees just sitting out there and they’re being very loud. Could you go over and speak to them?”
“To the people at Tali’s?”
“Yes. I just think it’s ridiculous to be paying this much and to have to deal with that.”
“Okay…yes. I can certainly go over there and speak to them.” If Mr. 218 could not hear the hesitation in my voice then he was truly dense.
“Thank you, I would greatly appreciate it. It’s just – we’re so unhappy with all of this.”
“I am very sorry about that. I will go over there and see what I can do.”
And so I walked over to Tali’s Pub. On the way a man passed me who looked to be a cook just getting off from Tali’s.
“Hey, Beautiful!” he called. I gave a short wave and smiled. “Where you goin’, Gorgeous?”
“In there.” I pointed at Tali’s.
“Oh yeah I bet you are. You want to come in here?”
I stared at him for a moment. I wanted to say, “Sir, I am wearing a nametag and pantyhose. Do I look like I want to go through this right now?!” Instead I turned and walked into Tali’s.
The restaurant was mostly empty except for a few patrons at the bar. I approached a waitress standing beside the bar.
“I am so sorry about this,” I said, wearing my feelings of discomfort on my sleeve, “but I’m from the Orchid and we’ve had about five noise complaints now and I realize this is not your fault at all, but I just wanted to let you know.”
A small blond woman sitting at the bar spun her chair towards me. “I’m the manager,” she said in a tone that was surprisingly curt and slurred at the same time. “Those people out there are guests.”
“Oh! I had no idea. Honestly, I can’t see anything from the front desk. I’m just going by pure hearsay from the guests and I just wanted to come over basically because that’s what I told this man I would do.”
If someone’s eyes could literally light with fire, then this woman’s did. “You – I have been more than accommodating to you at the Or-chid. You tell your manager that I have a Noise Ordinance that says I can do what I want until 11 p.m.”
“Do you?” This would have actually been very beneficial information when 218 had first started complaining. “That is really great to know because I honestly had no idea.”
“Yeah!” She pointed at me for extra emphasis. “I have a Noise Ordinance that goes until 11 and your manager once came over here while I was hosting a wedding at 9:30 P.M. to ask if we could quiet down.”
“Well he’s not here right now so no one told me to come over except for the guests.”
“I have been more than accommodating to you people.” She clenched the bar tightly. I noticed that her two employees were curiously taking steps in the opposite direction. “You tell your owner that I have always been accommodating to you and I will do it this one last time, but no more. I will do this – for you. For you I will be accommodating this one last time.”
By now I was having an internal heart attack that I had overstepped some major boundary and my own manager would be this upset at me in the morning (although she would be considerably more sober). “I really appreciate that,” I said. “And I am really really sorry about this. I promise I would not be over here had I not just been berated five times.” (I may have over exaggerated a tiny bit.)
“I will accommodate you this one last time.”
As I left, Tali’s two employees mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ to me. Back at the hotel I began writing this entire ordeal on the message pad so that our manager would be aware of the situation. As I debated whether or not to mention that the manager of Tali’s had obviously enjoyed her own bar a bit too much, who should walk into the hotel? Miss Curt Slurring Blonde herself. I greeted her and waited for the verbal blow.
“I just want you to know,” she said, swaying a little, “that that was an eight top out there. Of guests. MY guests. And I made them move to the other side of the patio. For you.” Her eyes began to well with tears and her voice was unsteady.
“Thank you so much for doing that,” I said,
“I should not have had to ask them that,” she responded indignantly. “Those were MY guests and I should have asked them to move like that, but I did. I accommodated you and that is the last time.”
“You are absolutely right. You should not have to do that because your guests obviously come first. I am really really sorry.”
“You tell your manager that I will never do that again.”
“I will make sure she knows and I know she will greatly appreciate it.”
“I should not have had to do that.”
We went through this back and forth a little while longer. Finally, Miss Curt Slur was done and began to walk out of the hotel. She stopped suddenly and clasped her hands together. “Calm down, Tali,” she said to herself, taking deep breaths in and out, “Calm down.” She then opened the door and carefully made her way off of the front porch.
It took a few days, but soon every one of the managers of the Orchid heard about my Tali’s ordeal. I waited to be told that I had been out of line and should have never gone over to the pub in person. Instead one manager told me about the time he went and cut the power cords to Tali’s speakers when her bartender was rude to an Orchid front desk girl. The owner of the hotel was as fascinated as I was about Tali’s love of the word “accommodating.” However, I believe the General Manager said it the best: “Tali likes her alcohol and honestly...” she looked around to make sure no one else was listening. She then leaned closer and whispered, “She’s a real bitch!”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Egg Family

The Orchid Hotel is one of the more expensive places to stay on Mackinac. I have even been told by many an irate phone caller that it is in fact the most expensive place on Mackinac Island. Whichever may be the case, it is safe to say that about 95% of the Orchid’s guests are fairly wealthy. This, unfortunately, does lead to a certain level of entitlement with many of our guests. When you’re paying anywhere between $500 - $1,000+ for a one night stay I suppose it’s natural to assume that if you ask for something as measly as soy milk for breakfast or a carrot cake at dinner then it will be served to you on a silver plate. However, no matter the request, everything comes down to attitude. If you're nice you'll hopefully get what you want; if you're mean then good luck getting me to send you a bucket of ice promptly.
A few days ago we had two rooms check-in with the same last name. It was obvious this was a family traveling together so when the porters radioed that the Jeff party had arrived I stood at the desk with both registration cards and waited. An Indian man entered the hotel and greeted me as Mr. Jeff. Two young girls came behind him as I showed Mr. Jeff the registration cards.

“I just want to verify that we have you staying for the one night, correct?” I asked.

“Yes, that is correct.”

“And there are three people staying in each room?”


“May we have the names of the other members in each room?”

Mr. Jeff took the pen from my hand. Because he had made the reservations his was the only name listed on the registration cards. He circled his name on both pieces of paper and wrote “& co.” He handed the papers back to me.

“No,” I said, “I need the actual names of each member staying in each room.”

“I do not know who will be in what room yet.”

“That’s fine. If you could just write all of the names then and we’ll sort the rest out later.”

“It is Jeff and company.”

“Yes, but I need the actual names for security purposes.”

“We are not going to steal anything.” He turned as a girl who looked about my age entered the lobby. I assumed this was one of the four adults we had listed between the two rooms (Mr. Jeff had booked the rooms as each consisting of two adults and one child).

“Oh it’s not about that at all! If we have to evacuate the building for any reason then we want to be able to account for everyone.”

“Here, I’ll take care of this,” the new girl said. She took the pen and papers from me and began writing a series of names.

“Do you evacuate the building often?” Mr. Jeff asked with a note of concern.

“Pretty much never, but it’s something we’re very conscious of,” I said. “It’s better to always be prepared.”

Suddenly, I noticed that during this back-and-forth, other members of the Jeff family had arrived. Our porters Ian and Elliot were bringing in bag after bag and the lobby was a jumble of luggage and people. It was clear everyone in the lobby was related to each other, but I couldn’t discern who was actually staying with us and who wasn’t. A few of the family members began taking the bags out the hotel the moment Ian or Elliot set them down. I hoped they had all just carelessly tagged their suitcases for the Orchid Hotel, but were actually staying elsewhere.

A woman appeared next to the girl who was still writing the names of the six people staying in the two rooms. “You have a breakfast?” the woman asked.

“Yes. It’s a light complimentary breakfast and it’s served from 6:30 to 10 a.m. right over there in the circle porch.”

“You have omelettes?”

“No. It’s just a light breakfast with fresh fruit and homemade pastries. There is a more extensive continental breakfast selection available through room service, but that is at an additional cost.”

“There are no omelettes?”

“I’m not actually sure what is available through the extensive breakfast selection, but you’ll find the menu for that in your room. I believe there is some type of egg dish on it.”

“What are the pastries?” the older girl asked, handing me the two registration cards.

“Mini muffins and different types of breads. It changes everyday.”

“Do you have pancakes?” a little girl asked, straining her neck to look over the desktop.

“No. Not that type of bread. Like banana bread or cranberry and walnuts.”

The mother of the group was looking severely offended now. “So there are no omelettes?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“But it is the weekend...and you will not make us omelettes?”


Had my office manager been checking this family in it is quite probable that this woman would have gotten her way and every single member of the Jeff family would have received their own specially made omelette. Unfortunately for Mrs. Omelette I am not quite as accommodating. I handed her a stack of menus. “These are the places on the island that serve breakfast. I am sure one of them will have an omelette.” I then grabbed two room keys and attempted to lead everyone down the hallway.

I got to Room 104 with only the oldest daughter behind me. “Is there only one bed in here?” she asked, looking around the room.

“Yes. The rollaway will be brought in during turn-down service.”

One of the smaller children entered behind me. Another soon followed, struggling with a bag that was more than half his size. Two other children passed as I rounded the corner to lead the next group to their room. The lobby was still a mess of people and bags. My office manager was standing at the front desk. She looked at me as if to say, “What is going on?” as a few other family members grabbed various bags and walked out of the hotel.

I gave up waiting to catch someone’s attention and went down to Room 106. I held the door open and waited for someone to finally leave the lobby. As I stood there, two old women and an old man walked into Room 104, each holding a small duffle bag. Finally, Mr. Jeff walked down the hallway followed by three grown men. I showed them into the small room consisting of a queen bed and a single-person pullout sofa. Mr. Jeff looked around. “We will need a rollaway for this room,” he said.

I pointed at the sofa. “That pulls out and will be made up during turn-down service.”

“Okay, okay. I will tell you if we need another rollaway. Do not disappear.”

I wanted to ask why a room consisting of two adults and one child would need a third bed, but my question was answered as another pair of grandparents walked into Room 106.

When I got back to the office everyone was staring at each other looking aghast. “How many people just went into those rooms?” Trisha, the office manager, asked.

“Hell if I know!” I exclaimed. “People just kept flooding in behind me in each of those rooms.”

“Did he say there were only three in each room.”

“Yep, but he wouldn’t give me names. Just kept saying, ‘And company.’”

Another desk clerk, Bridget, pulled out the two registration cards. “There are more than three names on these,” she said. Upon closer inspection it wasn’t immediately obvious whether the names listed were even first and last names or just two rows of first names.

Mr. Jeff appeared at the front desk. “We will need those rollaways,” he said.

“Mr. Jeff,” Trisha said, putting on her soothing-but-serious voice, “how many people are staying in each room?”


“Only three people sleeping in each room.”

“Three plus children.”

Obviously, the Egg Family was trying to pull a “fast one” over the hotel. We could tell by looking at Mr. Jeff’s reservation that he had called and spoken with someone to book the two rooms. He had therefore been told that each of those rooms could only hold a maximum of three people (children included).

One of the men who had followed Mr. Jeff into 106 approached the desk. “Can we use those couches?” he asked.


“On that porch.” He was referring to the first floor side porch, which was only available for rooms 102, 104, and 106.

“Oh yes. That porch is only for those of you in those specific rooms.”

“So we can use those couches.”

“Yes...” I wondered what he was actually trying to ask because it was clear he didn’t mean to simply sit on the side porch. “You are sharing it with the other rooms on the first floor,” I added.

“Thank you,” he said as if I had solved some equation for him. I turned to Olga, the Head of Housekeeping. “I think people are going to be sleeping on that porch tonight,” I said.

“They’re probably going to use the cushions and make beds,” Olga replied.

Trisha looked as though she was going into shock. She grabbed the master key, said she was glad the owner of the Orchid was off-island for the weekend, and left.

About an hour later Mrs. Omelette and the eldest daughter came up to the front desk. “The air conditioning in our room doesn’t work,” she said.

“There actually isn’t any air conditioning in those rooms,” I said. Mrs. Omelette looked as though I told her we let horses sleep in her bed.

“What do you mean there is no air conditioning?” Her eyes were intense and threatening, but I was in no mood to make apologizes.

“That is actually very common up here. Many of the hotels do not have any air conditioning. Neither do some restaurants. Even my apartment doesn’t have it. This is Upper Michigan and we really only need it about two weeks out of every year. This weather is unusual for us.”

The mother looked at her daughter with wide eyes. The daughter gave a sharp laugh. “We’re from a different country,” she explained, “that is just unheard of.”

I resisted asking why their registration card listed a Michigan address and using my Cuba-card – you can’t play the “I’m a poor foreigner” game with an international military brat, Eggy!

“So our rooms...have no air conditioning?” Mrs. Omelette repeated in case I hadn’t understood the question.

“I can give you a fan,” I said with perhaps more attitude than I should have.

“Well, there are just so many problems I have with this hotel,” Mrs. Omelette said, stuffing her scarf into a small purse.

“I am sorry to hear that,” I said, trying desperately to lose the sass.

“Like the décor,” the daughter laughed.

“Yes...the décor is interesting.” Mrs. Omelette then cocked her head and raised an eyebrow at me. “And sad.”

I stared at her for a moment, so taken aback by the blatantly antagonizing remark. My mind raced with, “I was just thinking how funny it was that your outfit matched the walls perfectly,” “Everyone has their own tastes, don’t they,” and the standard juvenile, “Your face is sad.” Luckily, I choked down the string of snarky remarks I wanted to respond and instead smiled widely, said, “Thank you so much,” and walked away. When I relayed all of this to my office manager she said that we must simply “kill them with kindness.” I said shutting off their power would be more effective. (I later learned that Room 106 asked for three rollaways at the end of the night. This is not Hogwarts. Where exactly were three twin beds going to fit?)

For as nice and accommodating as Trisha is with every entitled and rude person who walks through our door, there are times when she enacts a very subtle and nearly unnoticeable form of revenge. Right before I left for the day Room 102 checked out early. As usual, they simply did not want to stay in a room without air conditioning, but they were very nice about the entire situation. We were fully booked for the night and didn’t have any air conditioned rooms to upgrade them to so they packed their bags and left for another hotel. This move was most likely for the best because not only would the guests have been sweaty and miserable, but they were the only other room sharing that side porch with the Egg Family. Sometimes when a large family is crammed into a small room, Trisha offers them a complimentary extra room or, if it is available, a suite.

The next morning the Front Desk message pad consisted of only one comment from the night auditor: “Did anyone think to offer R 102 to R’s 104 & 106?”

Apparently not.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Gettin' Hot in Here

This week marks my third week on Mackinac Island. Or maybe it's my fourth? Let's be honest, when you're on "island time" the days and weeks seem to become one whole. Thus far the Orchid Hotel has been busier than ever. The staff is about 60% new and 40% 'returners'. Our restaurant is full four out of the seven nights we're open and we have had zero rooms vacant at the hotel on several occasions.

Sadly, the hotel has been slightly lacking in the "interesting characters" category this season although the severe heat wave striking the non-air conditioned Midwest has caused many of our guests to be grumpy and irritable. This has lead me to create The Problem Child(ren) of the Orchid Hotel awards. Already in my short time here I have realized that these awards will have to be given out weekly with maybe even a few Honorable Mentions here and there. Lately, these awards have been given to the people who come to the Front Desk, angry that their room does not have air conditioning (as is common to Mackinac Island hotels/the entire Upper Peninsula), and demand an upgrade. As mentioned above, often this upgrade to a waterfront room with air conditioning is simply not possible because we have no vacant rooms. This led one couple to angrily slam their key on the desk and stomp out of the hotel without ever checking out and another to ask to speak to management at least once every half hour.

However, there are those Problem Children recipients who I believe would have earned their award whether the temperature was a blazing 92 or a cool 70 degrees. Take the Hildebrands for example. From the moment they checked in they had something to complain about. As one of my co-workers, Rachel, welcomed the Hildebrands to the Orchid Hotel Mrs. Hildebrand asked if they had a waterfront room. Rachel explained to them that they had booked a Gardenside room and that we were full for the night and had no other rooms to even let them consider. The Hildebrands were not happy. They had booked their reservation online and had either not understood the term "Gardenside" or perhaps thought we were at liberty to upgrade everyone. Rachel showed them to their room and listened as they complained about the view, size of the room, and then gasped at how they could possibly be expected to stay in a room without air conditioning.

Over the next two nights Mrs. Hilderbrand continued to nitpick everything about the hotel: turn-down service started too late, why was there no ice machine (we have it sent to your room), why did they have to pay full-rate for their son who wanted to spontaneously join them the next day, etc etc. Typically these complaints went to poor Rachel. One evening, Rachel was on the phone when Mrs. Hildebrand came up to the desk. Thinking Rachel probably needed a break, I got up and greeted Mrs. Hildebrand. "I've been working with her," she said coldly, pointing at Rachel through the small glass window. "Oh," I responded, a bit hurt that she wasn't even going to give me the opportunity to try and assist her. I suppose I should have thanked her because for the next half hour she gave Rachel flack about trying to book the room for her son and his girlfriend who had suddenly decided to join them. (And she demanded a rollaway to be put in the room because an extra bed will certainly keep premarital sex from happening.)

On their last evening with us, Mrs. Hildebrand came up to the desk once again and was kind enough to speak to me. "There's a man on the rocks behind your restaurant with his pants down," she said. "You need to call management because it's inappropriate." Her son was with her and added, "There are children out there."

"Certainly," I responded. "I'll call our night manager right now."

Now, knowing Mrs. Hildebrand's M.O. I assumed some young kid was climbing around on the rocks and was wearing pants that sagged below his butt. However, I knew not calling our night manager would do more harm than good so I dialed Trey's cellphone number.

"Hello, Hotel."

"Trey, a guest just complained that there's a man behind the restaurant with his pants down."

"..." (Trey isn't exactly a prude and doesn't really care what people are doing as long as they are not destroying the hotel.)

"She's a guest who complains a lot and I think she's just going to get really uppity if she doesn't see someone checking," I explained. "She just said a guy has his pants down and that it's inappropriate."

"Alright, I'll go take a look."

Ten minutes later Trey entered the hotel looking perplexed. I was on the phone so Rachel relayed exactly what Mrs. Hildebrand and Hildebrand Jr. had said to me. I saw Mrs. Hildebrand walk in and tried to point to her through the office window so that Trey wouldn't make one of his normal snarky remarks. Mrs. Hildebrand pointed out the window and then took Trey with her to show him exactly what was going on. Rachel and I watched as the Hildebrand clan lined up against the fence bordering the park next to the hotel. They were all pointing at the lake. Rachel and I went into the owner's office so that we could see what they were pointing at. Nothing. What the hell was going on?

We sat back at our desks and joked about how much Trey was obviously enjoying all of this. We waited for him to return and tell us what morons the Hildebrands were, but as the minutes passed he never did. Suddenly we heard a commotion in the front lobby.

"Can you see them?" a guest coming down the stairs asked a couple sitting in the glassed-in porch.

"We just saw the girl," the woman in the chair responded.

"It doesn't look good," the sitting man said.

"His pants were down and everything!" exclaimed the woman who was now off the stairs and careening her neck to see a spot in the lake.

Rachel and I were fed up. I leaned over the desk, "What exactly is happening?" I asked. "We can't see anything back here, but we just keep hearing about a guy with his pants down behind the restaurant."

"Not the restaurant," Sitting Man responded, "they're on the break wall."

For my non-coastal living readers, break walls are barriers set up along shorelines as a defense against rough waves. Sometimes these are large cinder blocks or, like on Mackinac Island, they are gigantic (almost five to six feet tall) rocks. While technically these rocks are behind the Orchid's restaurant, the break wall is actually located about seven or so yards from the hotel and sits about three to four yards from the shore. These were definitely not the rocks I thought Mrs. Hildebrand had been talking about.

Rachel and I dashed into the owner's office once again. Finally we could see everything: the crowd of people watching the activity occurring at the break wall, the two cops standing at the edge of the shoreline, and a man in a bright green shirt wading back to dry land. We wondered what he was doing out there by himself and then we saw the top of a woman's head from behind one of the massive break wall rocks. As soon as she hit the water it was obvious Home Girl (as we termed her) was not having a good time. She stumbled a bit, but managed to keep herself from face planting into the cold water. At first we thought she was perhaps not coordinated in the water and walking on the slippery rocks. When she finally reached dry land, however, we could see that too much water was not Home Girl's problem. While one of the cops talked to Home Boy the other tried desperately to keep Home Girl upright. Even from yards away Rachel and I could see her hysterical tears as her body wobbled violently to and fro. We looked over to the fence where the Hildebrands looked on scornfully. Trey was grinning ear to ear.

The owner's office can neither see nor hear what is happening at the front desk so Rachel and I took shifts to keep each other updated.

"Home Girl is on the ground now," Rachel said. "Oh oh, and now she's puking. Oh man. The cop is just standing over her. Come on, at least hold her hair back or something."


"Okay she's standing now," I reported, "and whoa she's pissed. We've got arms flying everywhere. Oh yeah, she is not happy." I opened the window. "I can't hear what she's saying, but I can tell she's yelling."


"Now they're both on the ground. Oh, Home Girl's trying to get up. Nope - she's down again."


"The Hildebrands are at a picnic table giving their statements to a cop. Good god, I bet this has just made their night."


"Home Girl is puking again. Where are her shoes? Where are either of their shoes?"


"There are a lot more people gathered around now. They're both sitting and the cop is doing something behind Home Girl's back...there's no way they're cuffing them. Are they cuffing them?"

They were. I called Rachel over and we watched as Home Boy and Girl did the walk-of-shame across the point and straight into a police cruiser. Mackinac Island is a no-cars allowed town with the only exception being emergency and construction vehicles. When the cop cars come out you know something serious is going down. For this circumstance the SUV cruiser seemed a bit overkill, but with the strength one of the cops was using to keep Home Girl on her feet it was clear the car was not due to the severity of the crime, but the fact that one of the two delinquents probably could not make the quarter of a mile walk to the police station. Poor Home Girl sobbed and yelled all the way into the car.

When Trey finally appeared back in the office he was like a kid on Christmas; he absolutely loves when people make fools of themselves (and being Mackinac's Fire Chief he's always one of the first to know when someone is making a fool of themselves). He filled in the rest of the story for us: Home Boy did not just had his pants down on the break wall. He and Home Girl had been up against on of the rocks having sex. Now, I should mention that this was not happening at 10 or 11 at night. Oh no. The entire ordeal spanned from about 7:45 to 9pm. The sun does not even begin setting until 9:30pm. Home Boy and Girl did it against the rocks for all of the world to see (they could have at least been smart enough to lay down between the rocks and try to shield themselves) and even had children throwing rocks at them to make them stop (hence the "there are children out there" observation). I swear you cannot make this stuff up ( can, but isn't it so much better knowing that it's all real?).

Nearing the end of my shift (Rachel left at 10pm and I continued on until midnight) Trey suddenly burst through the office door. His eyes were wide with excitement and he smiled like the Grinch after he took all of Whoville's Christmas presents. "Georgia, it gets better!" he cackled. I waited as he caught his breath. The man was literally giddy with whatever news he had just ascertained from one of his cop buddies.

"So, we have shipped Home Boy over to the mainland because not only does he already have a string of priors on his record, but there is a felony arrest warrant out for him." I started to gasp. "Wait," Trey said, "it gets better. Home Girl is only twenty so we obviously gave her an MIP [Minor in Possession] AND..." he paused, giving the punchline the weight it deserved, "Home Boy and Home Girl are HALF brother and sister."


"That is the BEST shit I have ever heard!"

"That sounds like something that should happen in my area of the country."

"Doesn't it?! Oh my god I love my job sometimes."

And thus ends our tale of The Break Wall Bangers.