The old adage, “time flies” contains real truth. It seems by the calendar that very shortly, June 19 to be exact, we will begin our 16th year of learning and growing in skill as innkeepers and caretakers of our Victorian home.
Both my husband and I arrived in Asheville bringing with us job experience of long standing in completely different fields. Gary, an FP and L refugee, dealt in employee concerns in the nuclear industry helping employees deal with the corporate entities they worked for ensuring a safe and fair working environment. I have been a registered nurse since 1976 functioning primarily in women’s health care but also E.R., dialysis and public health.
While both of these jobs have no basis in innkeeping- the skills have transferred seamlessly. During the time we have been hosting guests at our Asheville inn, there are certain things we have come to know.
1. It is not the current custom to rate guests:
Sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp and Google provide guests every opportunity to rate their lodging experience. That said, there are some guests that I truly believe are sent as a gifts to their innkeepers. These guests are naturally joyful, uncommonly courteous and spread their gift of kindness, consideration and joie de vivre not only to their innkeepers but to all the guests fortunate enough to share our home with them. For the many of you I know God has sent to me, I send you my most sincere gratitude along with my wishes that the kindness, thoughtfulness and courtesy you have extended so graciously will be returned to you many fold on a day you need it most.
2. It’s not always about you:
Sometimes, despite all your very best efforts to provide a good guest experience, the connection with a guest is not created. Innkeepers take personal ownership of this occurrence but often, it is out of their control. Guests are people and sometimes they are dealing with events we know nothing about affecting their stay and their demeanor during that stay. None of us is happy everyday.
3. True desire to provide real happiness to another still exists in this world:
Many of us watching the nightly news broadcast would have ample reason to believe the world could be in real trouble. Many of the guests that book at bed and breakfasts make that choice because they are celebrating something really important to them or someone really important to them and feel they can enlist the help of their innkeeper in this endeavor. On a completely personal note, it is so heartening to receive calls from potential guests as they design the perfect getaway for their loved one. I once had a call from a young man planning a honeymoon for his bride. He began his conversation with me with his truth that he was marrying the most wonderful woman in the world. This woman, he was clear to tell me, could have married anyone but had chosen him. He stated that he was not wealthy and that their lives would not be noted by privilege but just for this one honeymoon time he wanted it to be perfect. He began payments, always received on time for this stay. He was never late in the 7 months he sent them. I felt his bride to be the luckiest of women to have found a life’s partner who felt so lucky to have her in his life and sought a tangible manner to let her know just that. I haven’t changed my mind. It is one of my happiest innkeeper moments.
4. Humor is a gift to be cultivated and maintained in the face of challenging times:
When people are on vacation they are seeking relaxation and to be cared about. Humor is so helpful in the successful navigation of an innkeepers day. An example: You have arrived in the kitchen at dark o’clock to create a fresh, delightful and very special breakfast for your guests. All the ingredients for the breakfast were selected with care designed to please. No mixes are used which would save time but would not be nearly as special. The pancake recipe is from your Nana and it is wonderful. The sausages are a local favorite and delectable. All finished with your perfectly garnished plate you proudly leave the kitchen with your totally fresh, perfectly garnished plate when your guest, looking a bit alarmed, says “Oh, I think I forgot to tell you but I’m gluten free.” Humor is not only a gift….It’s a necessity for survival.
5. Flexibility may be the key to happiness and can bring about serendipity that might otherwise be missed:
The “policy” at our inn is that we host children 10 years old and up. One winter morning in Asheville ( off season so guest numbers are reduced), a guest who’d stayed with us many times called the inn. She was in a tizzy. She was in Asheville, alone with her 3 month old daughter in tow and had booked another inn due to our child age policy. She did not wish to remain at this inn. She was plaintively begging to come to the inn for her remaining 2 nights in Asheville promising faithfully that her baby did not cry, would not create a fuss and could I just let her stay with us? She would come down only after the other guests left the breakfast table so as not to disturb their breakfast with the policy violation. I had only one other couple in the house and they were on our first floor so I was feeling like this could happen with no inconvenience to our other guest. She sounded so frantic I relented and told her to come.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the other couple expected at the inn were dealing with serious problems. She was undergoing chemotherapy and had traveled to Asheville for a consult on her treatment regimen. Things were going well but she was fairly frail.
As fate would have it, they encountered each other straight away. It can be described as nothing less than “love at first sight.” The woman reached out her hands to the 3 month old baby- often wary of strangers and resistant to overtures of this kind – the baby clearly did not view this woman as a stranger and held her little arms out to be received. A match made in heaven was formed. They were instantly smitten all coming together to visit every evening and at breakfast time. Her husband told me he’d not seen his wife so relaxed and happy since she’d become ill.
These 5 things are true. It is the smallest of lists. There are many more innkeeper games to relate, learn and write about and we remain along for the ride.
Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers