Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hotel Stories: Finding things

There is a human propensity for “returning to normal” even in the worst of times, the worst of circumstances. It is comforting to have things where you know you can find them. It is disconcerting to feel things are never in the same place twice. But, finding out what is normal is the catch.

We are in a bad market, a down economy, and everyone keeps watching their favorite indicator to find out when things will be the way they used to be. Well, hotel life is an interesting microcosm of what is happening, I think globally, and at least nationally.After 14 months of “temporary living,” Jay and I have decided—well, again, mostly I have decided—to live as if this were our permanent abode.

Now I don’t mean we are expecting to live here long term. That is a scary thought. What I mean is, life goes on, so we must find some of the things we are used to having in a permanent residence: doctors, dentists, food purveyors (really this is always first), church, charities, friends (these are not in order of priority), gyms, hairdressers, memberships (YMCA for instance), and just generally all of the vendors and people who make life feel worthwhile.

We have, at last, found a dentist, which we decided to keep in Connecticut. That was a good experience, and although I had to train my Illinois dentist office in what I expect and need, this one seemed to already have that, which was a pleasant surprise.

When it comes to doctors, who may entail more than one visit every six months—not usually, but sometimes, and optometrists, we aren’t sure whether to choose someone in Connecticut, or in Western Mass, where we expect to live—but we aren’t sure about that either. So we have put that decision off, but there is this gnawing feeling in some of my brain cells that I had better get this done before winter and the dreaded “flu season” descends upon us.

We have also found a hairdresser, which was a serendipity based on the Italian hair color I use. She is amazing, and just right, and I will have to commute to her wherever we end up living—and that is every five to six weeks!

As for exercise, I have already mentioned that we can use the company health center, but that entails having a physical which I have already mention entails finding a doctor, which I have also mentioned we have not done yet. Result: no formal place to work out. I have looked into the senior center in our little town, and that too seems to imply longer residency than another three months, and an acceptance that I qualify as a senior (over 55) and my husband does not. Oh, what to do? What to do?

The good news is, I have settled into a cooking and eating routine that evidently is resulting in some weight loss. And, I still take my walks around the hotel, so that is something—if it isn’t rainy, which it usually is. I still feel the need to find some formal place to learn upper body exercise where there is equipment. I miss my treadmill--especially on rainy mornings. My daughter taught me some yoga positions, such as the right angle, which I can’t actually remember well—so I think I may be at 70 degrees instead of 90 on that. And, I haven’t done my Latin music routine for weeks, but I do still believe that dancing is good for me.

The pool here is not inviting with so many children in it, that first, I cannot do laps, and second, I believe may be laced with urine (I read somewhere that a large percentage of people feel comfortable urinating in public pools). My daughter told me to suck it up (not the right image for the urine-laced pool water) and get in to do my workout anyway. Is there some mask or diving equipment available to cover my mouth, nose, and even my whole face if I do decide to do this?

Well, suffice to say, that after we locate these back-to-normal entities, we will feel much more settled, and the hotel will not be a foreign place of suspended animation. However, I suspect there is a resistance to finding some of this normal stuff too quickly, because that indicates an acceptance of our temporary lot as at least more permanent than fleeting—and that is really a strange thought. We are really not in the acceptance stage of loss. I think we are somewhere between bargaining and depression. We don't believe in depression, so we will probably stay at bargaining for quite some time. I know this stage well: it's the one where I imagine winning the lottery and having the down payment for a house here, even before we sell our house in Illinois. And, being me, I actually believe I could win the lottery, and have a large figure in mind.

We know we will not, cannot continue hotel life for too much longer. But temporary life—well, we are looking into house and pet sitting, and if that isn’t temporary, what is? And, then all of our finds will be moving targets. Very strange and unusual for homebodies like us. Although we may be in a bargaining stage for quite some time, at least it's not shock and denial, even if it is not quite acceptance and hope.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hotel Stories: Daily life goes on

I see I’ve been kind of self-centered with renditions about us, us, us living in a hotel, now 14 months, when really there are a lot of people here with their own struggles:

Two women who had a house fire around Christmas, told me their insurance company still hasn’t decided whether to raze their house or repair it. That means they won’t know for some time the projected hotel stay, or what further fate will befall their home.

A family of growing boys has been house hunting for many months, and waiting for their southern home to sell. They have specific geographic parameters, because they home school, and some legislation areas aren’t “friendly” toward home schooling. Yet even in their months here, with active boys needing space, their parenting is exemplary, and they remain cheerful and friendly.

Another resident, a physical therapist on a special assignment away from her home, is finding it challenging to get a good night’s sleep, especially when there are guests who party all night. She cares for cancer patients and sees daily patient deaths, so it’s not easy to handle this without sleep. Her tired eyes, and aching muscles were apparent one Friday morning, and I wished I knew some way to assist.

Staffing is also challenging during these hard times. It’s common to see the General Manager and her Assistant General Manager stooping down to wipe up spills at breakfast, or taking desk duties nights and weekends, even though their own management tasks are many and complicated. I see the morning hospitality staff now coming back in for the social hour in the evening—extra hours so new staff isn't needed, I imagine. There is some feeling of fear and panic in everyone these days, including hotel personnel, yet, our entire staff are so friendly and solicitous regarding our comfort and welfare, that you wonder how they de-stress after their day’s work. Some of them have more than an hour’s commute, and small children to care for after the long day. “You do what you have to do,” one of the staff said, “because jobs are scarce these days.” All of these people relate to us as though our housing crisis is the most important thing happening. Compassion and understanding are just their normal attitude. It makes you want to pitch in and help.

Actually, I find myself hanging out at the gate house, sometimes guiding guests to entertainment options for the weekend, directions to places, help on the best places in town for dining, and even invitations to our church in Massachusetts, because we really know the area pretty well now. For instance, the family here from New Jersey, with little children, perused brochures wondering what to do over the weekend, and didn’t know about the Mystic Aquarium or even that Mystic Pizza is still there.

One couple looking for good food, asked for the local restaurant list, and I found our favorite missing from the printed hotel suggestions, so of course found it necessary to add The Whistle Stop to the list. Elizabeth, the chef at this amazing family-run restaurant, trained at the Rhode Island culinary school, and it shows. Every single time we have eaten there, whether for her wonderful breakfasts, including cheese grits, or her amazingly authentic Philly cheese steaks, or her delicious entrees, which change often, this is a find not to be missed.

For another family, I suggested the Connecticut Authors and Publishers meetings and membership for their 12-year-old, who evidently has written more than forty books, and is wondering about publication. They're here on contract at a major company for an extended time, and like us, have decided to bloom where they are planted. Really, none of us know much about tomorrow, so why not? If each day is fruitful, we have food and shelter, and we generally have what we need, who says we have to "know" where we are going to be on some future day? None of us really does, you know.