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!”