Thursday, July 08, 2010
As the regular readers of this blog know, I work part-time at a small, local boutique hotel. I generally don't write anything about my work but I will make an exception today. Last night I experienced the Perfect Storm.
The hotel where I work has 22 rooms, 2 suites, and 2 meeting rooms. All Twos one would say. Cute.
Yesterday when I arrived at 2:45 pm to clock in for my 3 pm shift (until 11 pm), I noticed the usual kitchen items were cleared out in the kitchen when the time clock is located. I casually mentioned to the front desk clerk I was relieving "Oh, we're having an event tonight?" She said "Yep. It's a surprise 40th birthday party at 6 o'clock." That things were cleared out meant that they were getting the kitchen ready for the caterers. I was told there were new caterers this night. That should have been my first warning sign. Little did I know this was the portend of what turned out to be a Perfect Storm.
Most times when I'm on shift, activity at the front desk from checking in guests to taking reservations or just answering questions runs smoothly. Many times working at the front desk is uneventful and boring. And then there are those times when the Perfect Storm occurs and all the dominoes fall at once. That is what happened last night.
It all began innocently enough. The birthday party goers start arriving. Quite a few children I notice, including one Basket Baby. That should have been my First Clue. The Birthday Girl was to arrive at around 6 pm. The party was to be a surprise for her.
As the party folk were arriving, the front desk phone rings. A potential guest is inquiring about availability in order to make a reservation. Of course they didn't have the exact date that they wanted (not unusual) and were asking the usual questions "What kind of rooms like and how much." While I'm trying to steer the caller on the phone to make a reservation, the phone in the back office rings. This happens when I'm on the phone at the front desk, the phone in the back (manager's) office rings. I ask the caller at the front desk phone if she could hold. I answer the phone at the back desk. This caller has a heavy accent (hard to understand - I get quite a few of these callers) plus he's talking on a cell phone and it sounds like he is talking from the bottom of a well.) This caller wants to know if we have availability and how much are the rooms. I attempt to bring up the computer at the manager's desk but I am unable to bring up the reservation screen because the manager was doing something with the networking during the day and he didn't put his computer back into the proper mode for me to access the reservation screen. I ask the caller if I could call him back. I ask for his cell phone number and he starts with a number "#0-00-571." I stop him and said "What kind of phone number is that?" He said "Danish." Oh no. I'm not calling a Danish cell phone number. I ask him to call back in about 10 minutes I go back to the front desk to renew my conversation with the person I have on the phone.
In the meantime a magician has arrived. I kid you not. The Magician arrived. He's here for the birthday party. Oh wonderful. He wants to know where to change and get ready for the party. Since the Birthday Girl hadn't arrived yet, we couldn't let her see him. I tell him in the Manager's Office.
While I'm on the front desk phone, the phone rings in the back again. I go back to answer it, stepping around the magician who is doing his thing getting ready for the Big Show. I was very careful stepping around him because I was afraid of stepping on a rabbit.
While I'm on the phone in the back I hear "WHIRL! EEEKKKK! WHIRL! EEEEEKKK! WHIRL! EEEKKKK! :" It's the smoke alarm! It's been set off by the caterers cooking in the kitchen! The sales directer comes rushing out of the kitchen to punch in the deactivating alarm. He twists around the pillar to reach the key code pad. I couldn't get to it fast enough because I was trapped behind the magician's box of tricks. The sales directer shouts to me to call the alarm company so they don't send the fire trucks and police. In the meantime amongst this chaotic scene two guests have arrived at the front desk to check in. I hear the bell of the elevator door open and an older couple who had checked in earlier spring out of the elevator with fear on their faces. They obviously think something terrible is happening. They rush to the front desk to join the couple who were there to check in. I dial the 800 number for the alarm company and I receive a message than "All lines are busy.....please HOLD." WTF? This is the ALARM COMPANY and I'm put on hold?
Well, you know what happened. By the time I got off of hold and talked to a real person, it was too late. Two minutes later a fire truck AND A police car is out in front of the hotel. The local volunteer fireman parts the cluster of concerned guests at the front desk and looks anxiously at me. I tell him "It's a false alarm." I apologize to him and tell him I couldn't get in touch with the alarm company fast enough.
He turns and leaves towards the front door of the hotel that is reflecting the flashing read light of the fire truck. Oh lovely. The guests, both the new check ins and the old couple who came down from their room are still at the front desk. Of course the phones are ringing again. Both the front desk and the back desk in the manager's office. The magician is still getting ready for the Big Show. I didn't see his rabbit. For all I know with all that running around I was doing between the front desk and the back office I probably stepped on his rabbit and squashed it.
I go back to the front desk. I explain (an apologize) what happened. Somewhere in the midst of this the owner shot in from the side door to see what all the commotion was about. He saw that I was with the guest so he motioned for me to continue doing what I was doing and he disappeared in the kitchen. I don't know how he got past the blockade that the caterers put up against the kitchen door but he's a big man so he managed.
Before I check in the new guests, I tell the older couple who had come down in the elevator that this was a false alarm. I apologized to them also. The gentleman said "I had no idea what was going on. But I knew there was a problem so I thought we better come down and see." Hey, that's what the alarm is for, to get you out of the hotel. I'm sorry it had to be because of the new caterers who didn't know to put a cap on the smoke alarm so they wouldn't set it off. It didn't help that the new caterers also had The Attitude." They acted like they were doing the hotel a favor by just being there. Well, EXCUSE ME!
Things started to settle down. I checked the new guests in. They asked about where to dine. I gave them advice and made a reservation for them at one of the local fine dining establishments. The older couple, now greatly relieved, sauntered out the front door to explore all the charms our local bayside community has to offer. The phone rings again from someone inquiring about availability. Like the other caller, they weren't sure what dates they wanted. The woman said she would have to check with her husband before they committed to a date specific. My question is, why didn't she do this BEFORE she made the call. Oh well, this is business as usual at the Front Desk.
Now it was time for the Magician to make his grand entrance at the birthday party. He goes in through the kitchen and then to the back door of the room where the birthday party is being held. His appearance is also a surprise. My question is, why the need for all these surprises? Oh well, that could be a subject for another blog posting.
I hear him make his entrance to the applause of the party goers and the squeal of the many kids in the room. For the next hour or so I hear his shtick. He must have been very good because the applause, laughter and the squeals were often and long.
Now there began a steady stream of party goers briskly walking by the front desk asking me the location of the bathroom. Same old, same old. This is the usual routine for the Events.
So that was my night at the hotel last night. Just another day in the life of this semi-retired former banker now a hotel front desk clerk. Maybe one or two more gray hairs and an extra age line but none the worse for wear. Never a dull moment.
Oh yes, the party was a great success. When's the next one? I'm ready.