This particular post won’t be about hotels as I normally think of them. Yes, I work in a hotel and have worked in hotels for the better part of a decade. When I think of hotels though, it’s normally as my time spent in them as a guest, not an employee. When I think of hotels I think of the amazing hotel in Palm Springs where my family celebrated a cousin’s 50th birthday (my 2nd cousin, I believe) or the hostel in Paris that was so dark and dingy I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking about that horrendous shower. I think about the hotel in Amsterdam that I would return to just in time for breakfast after a night of partying, or the hostel in Brugge that I met a girl from Madrid that I still talk to almost 10 years later.
No, this post is about the stories I’ve gained from working in hotels instead of staying in them. As all hotel employees will tell you, and anyone in any customer service type job for that matter, we see all kinds of people. The happy, the tired, the intoxicated, the impossible and the angels have all passed through my lobby at one point or another. I’ve had guests yell, spit and throw things at me over the desk. I’ve also had guests that brought me lunch, given me birthday presents/Christmas cards, checked on me after being sick or asked about how my latest hobby was going. These are some of the people that really make what I do worth doing.
Usually these are my regulars that are here every week or the same time every month. They are my hotel family, here for work or visiting relatives but always brightening my day as I hope to brighten theirs. As happy as I am to know most of my regulars, most of my best hotel stories are the one offs. These are the people that are only here for a night or two for some random reason. Car broke down, flight cancelled, work ran late or family member in the hospital, these people are here once and then back to their normal lives once the crisis is averted, never to return.
Today, for example, I have encountered two things that I’ve never experienced before. The first was a guest hugging me. This may sound weird from multiple perspectives. Either it’s “why would she hug a guest?” or “who doesn’t hug their guests?” I, personally, am a great believer in personal space professionally. Off the clock I can be a very touchy feely type of person. At work I am still extremely jovial and friendly but with a desk between us or a good sized personal bubble if I have to leave the desk for any reason. On this day of all days though, I was stepping out of the back office into the hallway by our elevator, and out of nowhere there is this older gentleman on his way to his room. I say hello to him and as he says hi back to me he just sweeps me into this big hug. Every rule instilled in me by my mother about rudeness coursed through my mind. He had definitely invaded my personal space but was otherwise not doing anything inappropriate so I let him hug it out. Afterwards he explains to me that he was just back from the funeral of his 15 year old grandson that just died in a car crash and that no grandparent should have to bury their grandchild. He wanted to show how much he and his family had appreciated the support they have received from the hotel during their time of grieving. It was definitely a hug that was unexpected and hopefully I never get another hug from a guest for the same terrible heart-breaking reason.
Just to keep emotions running high tonight, I had an elderly woman check in who informed me that she’s here to meet her son face to face for the first time since she gave him up for adoption at 4 days old. 48 years ago she gave birth to him on a navy base in Utah and had such severe health issues that they thought she was going to die. She got to hold on to him for 4 days before the closed adoption (it was 1978 after all) went through and she began the long, difficult road to recovery. 9 months ago she got a letter in the mail that said someone was looking for her and he thinks that she’s his mother. 48 years, more health problems and many phone calls later she was finally able to meet him face to face. Tonight, after almost five decades apart, I was witness to the reunion of a mother and her son. I got to see the looks on both their faces when they first laid eyes on each other. I saw her tear up at meeting the two grandchildren she didn’t know about until less than a year ago. I got to see two brothers separated by a decade in age and two lifetimes apart meet for the first time and have that first brotherly hug with a clap on the back.
Moments like that, things that wouldn’t be witnessed by any other profession, are the biggest reason why I love being in hotels so much. There’s a lot of sadness that walks through my doors but there’s so much more happiness that walks back out that it makes everything well worth it. To the family that buried such a young member today, my heart goes out to you and to the family that just found each other, I wish you every happiness for this new beginning. To everyone else out there, I wish your life to be full of love and laughter.
Until we meet again,