Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sunday night at the Inn
Sunday night at the Inn is unlike any other night. It is a transition night, and as close to an ending point as we ever get in the innkeeping business. The weekend romance and pleasure guests are all headed back to work. The adrenaline of two busy nights drains out of my system, and I relax.
By 4 pm, all the staff is gone, and it is just me for the evening. The house is quiet. Even the squirrels in the back yard calm down. The few remaining guests, usually road warriors with their minds already on tomorrow’s appointments, filter in, one at a time, leaving me time to do other chores; bake cookies, work in the yard, repair a toilet, fix a sink…
But most Sunday nights, it becomes my night to sit on the back porch and think -- When is this recession going to end? Why is it causing my business to slow down? Why haven’t the specials and promotions I’ve put in place brought in more business? Why aren’t people traveling? When will they again? How are other B&B’s in the area doing? What about the hotels? Am I giving my employees enough hours to keep them happy? Why does the paint keep peeling off the porch? Is that an ambulance or a fire truck? Speaking of fire trucks, who is it who did the voice of Cruella De Ville in 101 Dalmations? Glen Close? Meryl Streep? Are they the same person? Why do I have to get up in the middle of the night to pee?
You know, important stuff like that…It needs to be thought. Sunday nights, I can think it.
Sometimes the absence of adrenaline and the quietness of the evening get to me, and I get a bit down. Innkeeping is a calling, a true service industry. Giving good hospitality, and not resenting it, is easy to do 20 times, but how about 200 times a month? Can you put on that “innkeeper personality” willingly, seven days a week? When the job is done right, it is all about the guest, and never about you. And it is never-ending. Oh, there is an end to the individual guest experience, but to the Innkeeper, no matter how you cut it, the job is never done. You are getting ready to check someone in, checking someone in, helping them during their stay, checking someone out, cleaning up afterward, then getting ready to check someone else in. The job just rolls on and on, like a river.
Running an inn has also been paralleled to running a dairy farm (sorry guests!) The cows must be milked in the morning, taken care of during the day, and milked in the evening, every day, 365 days a year. The milk cow never goes on vacation, never takes the afternoon off. Neither does the dairy farmer. Neither does the innkeeper. I think that is why many innkeepers burn out after a few years. It is not the workload, for many jobs are more onerous than innkeeping; it is the never-ending responsibility for someone else’s contentment. Always being “on.” Always wearing your innkeeper persona, at the inn, at the grocery store, at the ball game, always.
So if you are thinking of becoming an Innkeeper, come on in! The water's fine! There are many joys and rewards to opening your home to guests. But there is a cost too. And to be good at it, you have to lay “self” aside, and reap your contentment from the seeds of service sown for others.
Gary at Walnut Street Inn
900 E Walnut Street
Springfield, MO 65806