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!)


  1. Now I want to go to dinner at The Woods.

  2. They are amazing! Mr. Spalina really needed to take a chill pill, but The Woods is pretty fantastic.