Wednesday, February 3, 2010
“Inadvertent sound bites”
One of the fun things about being an innkeeper is (inadvertently, of course!) overhearing our guests' conversations. This usually happens at the breakfast table, because we are just around the corner in the kitchen, out of sight, but within hearing distance. Get a bunch of strangers around a table and the darnedest things come up!
Politics and religion are usually left alone, but personal experiences are paramount and the more bizarre or personal the better. This must be what I call the “bartender effect”; you know, if you are in a strange city, you can tell the bartender anything! You know you won’t see them again, and it just feels good to get it off your chest! Sometimes it turns into a contest, “we just got back from Spain!” “You too? Did you go to France as well? We did, and you’ll never guess what happened to us there!”
Sometimes the table goes quiet, as one guest shares a touching story about the loss of a child, the finding of a birth mother, or the story of his or her first kiss. That is the time I enjoy the best.
All the while, we are coming and going, delivering food, clearing plates, pouring coffee, checking people out, and answering the telephone, so we don’t normally get the entire story, just a snippet of the conversation. We often take that snippet back to the kitchen and embellish around it to complete the story.
A common example would be when someone in the group at the breakfast table says, “Does anyone remember where we left the car last night?”
Since our parking lot is small, we know they are not talking about our parking area, so it leads to the assumption that they drove the ½ mile to old downtown Springfield, had a wonderful dinner and drinks in one or more of our 41 dining and entertainment venues, got a bit “over-served” and chose to walk back to the Inn, catch a carriage ride back to the Inn, or hail a cab. All very good options!
We can safely surmise that now, through the miracle of time, the brain fog has started to lift, and the practical need to find the car has arisen. Based on 15 years experience, this is usually a good assumption from that 10 word statement.
But sometimes the story isn’t so obvious, and poetic license has to be granted to finish the thought. Sometimes we “play tennis” with the quote, each adding to the story, hitting it back and forth across the kitchen island, embellishing as we go, until the story reaches some logical conclusion. Often the police are involved…
I’ve collected a few of these snippets through the years and categorized them as “inadvertent sound bites.” In a different blog, I will share a few of them with you. But first, what got me noticing them as a thread, and recognizing the potential for some interesting insight, was something that happened at Silver Dollar City about 14 years ago.
By way of explanation if you aren’t a local, Silver Dollar City, just an hour’s drive from the Inn, is an 1800s recreated village that has blossomed into one of the most-visited theme parks in the United States. It is spread over hundreds of acres and is an amazing educational experience wrapped up in some of the most terrifying and heart-palpitating rides a soul can find. You can be “edutained" in SDC for the price of admittance, and I highly recommend it.
While standing in the main gift shop waiting for the tour through Marvel Cave, I noticed two elderly gentlemen dressed in bib overalls, conversing quietly as they leaned against the rail for the tour line. From their clothing, shoes, and calluses, I surmised they were local farmers or ranchers. They seemed to know each other, and from their demeanor I gathered that they had gotten hooked into coming to SDC with their families at the request of the great-grandkids, but would really rather have been somewhere else.
There was something familiar about these men from the first glance, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. When the line for the cave tour started forming, I wandered by them. As I passed close enough to overhear their conversation, I heard one say to the other, “Well, to me, it just ain’t church if they don’t sing Just as I Am.”
Those words hung in the air in a bubble over the gentleman’s head, and, being an old Assembly of God boy myself, I knew in an instant what he meant. His life story, his work ethic, his hopes, his dreams for his family all flashed through my mind. I could have even pinpointed the time he answered the call and came forward to that altar in an old country church, so many years ago, to give his heart to Jesus. Unbeknownst to the man, I connected with him, I knew him, and loved him for who he was and what he represented to his family, church, and community. He is the backbone of the Ozark Mountains, the moral compass that emanates influence throughout the hills. He is repeated again and again in our own families as our dads, our grandpas, our uncles, or family friends. I “knew” this, I felt all this from the simple, inadvertent sound bite, “It just ain’t church if they don’t sing Just as I Am.”
We are all, it seems, connected through our community leaders, our mentors, and role models. We all seek guidance and truth. The Ozark hills are full of characters and character. I hope you have someone to lift you up in their thoughts and prayers like this man’s family surely does.
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871
Gary at Walnut Street Inn
900 E Walnut Street
Springfield, MO 65806