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.