I am Writer

I am a writer who happens to work in the hotel world. I may have written about these details before but I’m pretty committed to sharing about my writing life. Writing has always been in me. I am aware that creativity has chosen me to work with and sometimes I have failed to not show up, I have chosen to slip deep into the hotel life, partaking in the drama that is connected with the hotel world, sometimes it’s all I can do to hang on from falling into old familiar patterns. All I want to do is be with creativity, to write the stories that have been shared with me, little whispers of characters, glimpses of places and situations that have a story, I am the one that has been chosen to tell the that possible dirty little secret or heart warming romance, scare the hell out of you thriller. It doesn’t matter to me, I’m my truest self when I’m here on the page and everything else can all fall around me.

I am writer who happens to have been chosen to work in the hotel world to gain experiences to share. I have seen some things that no longer make me think, what the hell are they thinking? Or, is this really happening? Yes, every situation, every guest interaction is happening right in front of my eyes and I get the privilege to share those moments with you. I get to share the most spectacular moments of human connection or down right idiotic conditions that really make me shake my head. I witnessed a man who looked civilized enough argue with the front desk agents that he did not sign his dinner to his room and he was very adamant he paid for it with cash. He was at a point where I usually step in to ask him to sit quietly in the lobby while we investigate his concerns. But, once the front desk was able to show him the signed bill that he indeed did sign he could not stop being wrong, he barked, ‘fine just leave it and charge my credit card.’ And walked away. He’d rather show face then apologize for his inappropriate out burst of unacceptable behavior towards an employee. Little did he know once he left, the others guests who witnessed this situation shared their apologies for this man who was acting like and ass. They shared to the front desk they hope they don’t’ take it personally and continued to give nothing but praises to the hotel and employees.

I am writer who witnesses a lot and will share moments that may help others learn and grow and for the pure joy of writing and sharing. I am writer who knows what she wants to write about and also happy to share whatever creativity is happen to show me. Bring it on, I’m ready!

Until next time, keep on typing. . . .

V is for Vicious Cycle

In the early days of my hotel life it seemed to be a vicious cycle, I know it sounds a bit harsh, but it’s my truth at the time and for others as well. As a follow, up from the underground world, the times we spent at the staff pub after our dinner shifts were more common than I’d like to remember.

As servers, we worked hard and we played even harder. We made serious money in a short period of time and once and awhile we would treat ourselves with an expensive bottle of wine or high-end whiskey or scotch, then drink it in one night. Why save it when we could by another one? We deserved it, we had to put up with some pretty unacceptable behaviour from guests who thought they were the next best thing since sliced bread. They would talk down to us as if we were their personal servers. Yes, we were serving them breakfast, lunch or dinner, but that didn’t mean they could belittle us with snaps of fingers, pointing at us and summing us to them,  oh waitress, bring me another martini and make sure the bartender puts four onions this time, he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of the perfect martini. Or so this is your career, waitressing? Don’t you want more for your life? I’m not kidding you, this is what one of many people have asked me over the years when I was serving.                                                                                                       Sometimes I would share I’m in the middle of my BA and my aspirations of becoming a published author then that started another kind of conversation, oh a writer, I guess you do need to serve to make money for rent. I wish I could make this up. After too many of these conversations, I wouldn’t waste my time on people who assumed. I started to tell people I was in the middle of my BA and my next step was a Master in literature to become a professor, or some BS like that. The things I said to avoid the judgemental look was becoming a new art form.

It seemed like each night was the same conversations and then the same bottle of beer after work at the staff pub. The same shot of tequila or rye to stay awake only to shuffle to the after pub party at someone else’s staff accommodations. Any day of the week there was an after pub party, you only needed to stay until last call at the pub to get the invite. If you weren’t careful months could go by until you realize that you’ve pretty much poured all your tips down the drain for one more shot at the after pub party. A vicious cycle. There is a happy end to this, most of us took the beer blinders off and saw the light. Like every habit to break, it took one night away from the pub to break the routine. Much like writing, I just needed to take the first step and start putting words on the page. Now here I am twenty years after all those interesting adventures, I’m grateful for everyone one of them. My first memoir about my hotel life is in the final stages of revisions and hopefully self published in the next few months.

Until next time, keep on typing. . . .

U is for Underground

 

Below the hotel is an underground world that you don’t know about. A place where only the strongest of will can survive, three is no room for the weak here. Or so I felt when I first started at the resort on top of a mountain. My young impressionable over active imaginary mind saw things a little differently, but not far off. It’s not that we walked below the hotel like a bunch of ants waiting to surface to go to our allocated departments, but sometimes I felt this sense of separation, guests versus employee type of feeling.

When we entered the hotel for our shift we walked along hallways where on the other side were guests paying hundreds of dollars to stay in a hotel that was famous for it’s unique location.  We were not allowed to enter any guest entrances or walk through the lobby, unless we were serving a function in the lobby area. We had our employee areas and if we steered away from the rules we would be reminded of our place. Sometimes it felt like the old saying but slightly off: don’t be seen or heard just do your job and go home. Yes, we gave great guest service while we were at work and I had people wrapped around my baby finger when I served them. If you asked for a gin and tonic I would up-sell to the most expensive brand because you’re on vacation and it where else can you say you’ve had this gin on top a mountain? When I wasn’t working, I had no urge to run back to the hotel and hang out with guests. I wanted to hike up to the Big Beehive and soak in the magic of the Canadian Rockies.

We had a staff pub and that was our place, a sacred homage of drunken debauchery to let loose and complain about guests who couldn’t pronounce Merlot – always with the ‘t’, seriously? Some nights it did feel like the dark pub was where only Hell’s Angeles were aloud by the way we talked and acted, like we left all of our intelligence at the door and replaced it with another shot of tequila chased with another beer and another. Unfortunately, this lifestyle was one that we fell into night after night. If you were not careful a month could go by and after each dinner shift you were still sitting at the same table with a line up of tequila shots and beer chasers. This underworld is a bit more of the darker side of working and living in a hotel resort setting, more like a viscous cycle that is for tomorrow’s letter, V is for viscous cycle.

Until next time, keep on typing. . . .

T is for Tired

As the summer went on at the hotel and resort I worked for, every week when the schedule went up I would pretty much knew what I would be working. A week of Breakfast and Dinner shifts. To be polite, split shifts down right sucked. When I first started at the luxury hotel and resort the HR department and some of our supervisors tried to sell the spilt shift like it was something special. What it meant to me was a long day which equaled being tired from lack of sleep. It was going from one shift to another with a pause in the middle only to have to do all over again the next day, week, month. I didn’t think I would be jaded at such an early age.


I was told how I could work in the morning then have the afternoon off to go for a hike, go skinning, head to Banff for a quick grocery run and then come back to work for 4 or 5pm to start dinner service until 10 or 11pm only to turn around and do it all over again, every day of your work week. Sometimes we didn’t get two days off in a row and working five splits shifts with split days off was not fun at all. Then as I moved up the schedule I would get consistent days off, usually Monday and Tuesday’s which was fine with me, I needed time to rest and recharge.
Some weeks I would work a few just Breakfast and Lunch shifts which meant the night off and that was a rarity in the F&B world. I usually spent the evenings away from the hotel, go to a movie in Banff, or catch up on sleep, but that was trumped with friends knocking at the door to go to the staff pub. That was much more interesting than resting.

Then there was the interesting shift, a BLD, work breakfast, lunch and dinner all in one day. We would only be scheduled this dreaded shift when the department was short-staffed or they wanted to schedule a full serving team and if we were not needed then we would be sent home. I had a few of these shifts and I don’t think I ever experienced being that tired before. I was twenty-one and felt like I had every ounce of energy sucked out of me. Waking up at 4:30am for a 5:30am start. I tried to learn the art of rolling out of bed into my uniform, put my hair up and not care. I couldn’t. I needed a shower to wake up, and I had to do my hair or I’d get sent home to do it to the hotel standards.  So basically I working until the end of lunch service which could have been 1pm or 2pm. Then head home for a nap, have a shower to freshen up and head back to dinner service for either 4:30 or 5:00pm and work until 10 or 11, sometimes midnight if the night went sideways. Sometimes you were scheduled for breakfast the next day and that was down right wrong but who was I to say anything, especially when other servers would tell me that they use to have to work the same shifts, it was now my turn as the newbie. Gee thanks.

When I look back at those times I wouldn’t change any of it. Sure, I was tired but it was a good kind of exhaustion. I was surrounded by the majestic Canadian Rockies, working and living at a luxury hotel and resort where my creativity was having fun.

Until next time, keep on typing. . . .

S is for Stress

I’ve been sick for the past week and haven’t gotten to the letter S yet. It’s 10:20pm on Friday night and I just got home from work. I’m at the tail end of my cold and honestly I’m not really up to do much as I have to work tomorrow morning. Wow, do I ever sound like that person who has a huge file drawer of excuses.

I was going to write about stress, it seems fitting as I’m feeling a bit stressed to write this last letter for the week as my husbands and his friends are sitting around drinking beer, chattering about their day and I want to join in. No, I’m committed to this blogging challenge and I’m here to write.

What does stress mean?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response.

I don’t really have a lot of physical stress. I have more mental stress which I am able to manage about 97% of the time. I’m human so there are moments that I do feel stressed, not being able to think clearly, moments of panic and feeling down right awful. When I first started serving that might have been the first time I experienced stress of being in the weeds; basically, being “in the weeds” means you’re so far behind that you’re having trouble seeing a way to not being completely fubared. It can be stressful trying to get yourself out of a situation that you possibly have put yourself in, but that’s another story.

Stress can take on many forms in many different ways for different people. I used to feel the pressures of work when serving large tour groups of up to forty people. The same appetizer, entrée and desert to everyone, the same white or red boxed house wine that we would line up each tour. We use to call it Frisbee service. It sounds easy but it can be stressful because it wasn’t only one group of forty, there were two at the same time and knowing that we had another two groups in another two hours. I learned time management quickly at an early age, but it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, if the guests eat slowly or want to drink more or it takes time to clean up then you are feeling the stress of getting the guests out the door for the next round of tours.

Needless to say after a year of this revolving service I came to learn the patterns of people, the kitchen and myself. Then I was able to manage my smaller a la carte tables, I had a dance with my tables, everyone was involved and we would all have a very nice time. No one waited for an inappropriate time and from my McDonald’s training, I was always smiling even though I may have been chopping at the bit because I thought I didn’t have things under control. It’s all part of the dance.

Now, I am able to handle stress much better as a result of my time being in the weeds. As I finish this post I feel a lot better than I did when I first started.

Until next time, keep on typing. . . .

 

The 3 R’s – Refresh, Renew, Restart

I’m not feeling well today. I caught the spring time cold that has been going around the hotel. One person gets it and bam, it runs rapid through each department causing a bit of stress due to filling in shifts due to illness. This is not meant to be about sickness, it is about what spring time brings us – refresh, renew, restart. Spring is a fresh and new season filled with change and sense of newness. There are new baby birds in a nest in the red maple tree chirping away outside my writing window. Their songs calm me and fill me joy. This cold has given me the time to reflect on what I have accomplished in the past few months and what I will renew for this Spring.

Much like the hotel life, creativity has chosen me. The message I have been given is no accident – the ideas that I’ve been given deserves to be shared. I had the sense that I wanted to be of service and going into the hospitality world seemed like it was the best avenue to fulfill that urge to help people. I knew there was being of service within church, but me and my ego had a conflict with religion at the time, so when I had the opportunity to work across the country from Nova Scotia at a luxury resort on top of a mountain in the Canadian Rockies – I found a different kind of religion. Nature. I also had a renewal of love for creativity. Not that I wasn’t aware of my creativity, it’s always been there, waiting for me to be ready.

As I review the past few months I am very grateful for the time I’ve been given to finish one memoir of a three memoir series. I’m grateful for the story ideas that linger around waiting to be written. I jot down notes and will be back to write what needs to be shared. Creativity is so ready to get going and wants to work through me. Much like writing, the hotel life has kept me around for a reason. As I was a work today, under the weather, I was still able to witness the odd behaviour of people – I’m grateful for encounters, I collect characters along the way as a renewal of my love of creativity. What are you renewing this Spring? Any themes that keep showing up that you can’t ignore any longer? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, keep on typing. . . .

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Questions I’ve been Asked in the Hotel Life

We have been asking questions from the beginning of time. We are full of questions and answer. Questions are great for deep meaningful conversations that can connect us on another level. In keeping with the Hotel Life theme of this years A to Z challenge I wanted to share some questions that guests have asked me over the years. Now, I must warn you, I’m not making these up, and I may sound a bit condescending but bare with me, you’ll understand. I’ve written about these questions in my latest memoir of working and living in small resort towns, Behind the Swinging doors, my crazy resort life. Summer I.

When I first became a server I had to train for about two weeks with a senior server. I had many questions about general service, how do I keep my tables in sync to avoid getting in the weeds? How do I sell wine I’ve never tasted before? How do I describe the tiramisu to someone who doesn’t speak English? I never thought I would have to ask questions in retort to guests questions like, How much does that mountain weigh? Seriously this was a question asked on a nightly basis. As servers, we had the full range to be a smart ass in a polite way.
With or without the glacier? I could hold a straight face, even though I was pretty much cracking up inside. Then I would be surprised when the guest would say, with the glacier. I kid you not. I would then say, give or take a few tons.
Guests would respond in some dumbfounded way, Oh. Like it was a surprise. I sometimes wondered if guests would believe me if I said or about 50 tons, only because we had the exact number of 35, 675 feet above sea level when the would ask how high up we were on the mountain.

Other questions asked:

• Does the shrimp come from the lake (the questions was prompted when guests ordered the shrimp and clam pasta entree)
• Can I take a picture next to a bear?
• Do I get American money back? (when paying cash for anything)

My Standard answers:
• No, the lake it too cold for the shrimp, but there are small minnows in the lake.
• Bear’s are dangerous, it’s not a good idea to get close to them.
• You will get Canadian back. If I was in the states would I get Canadian back? (Sometimes I had to thrown in a smart-ass answer, I wouldn’t get tipped, but I didn’t care, I liked to throw their stupidity back to them.)

One of my favourite questions was: When do you drain the lake and paint the bottom? Sometimes I would hear other servers share that we paint the bottom of lake. They would go into great detail, such as: well first we wait for the ice to melt and that happens in late May early June. Then we drain the lake at midnight when everyone is sleeping and all the staff have to come out and paint a section of the lake. There are about a thousand staff so it takes no time at all and we fill the lake back up by sunrise. I kid you not. And sometimes guests would believe the story. I would shake my head and think what are these people thinking? They look intelligent, did they leave their common sense at home?

When people asked me about when we drain the lake to paint the bottom, I would go with the truth. I would start with how the minerals from the glacier fed the lake and when the sunlight….I’d lose them there. Guests couldn’t understand that the color of the lake was natural. There was no way there were shades of blue that blue, ever. The power of stubbornness at its best. I politely would change the subject and ask them about their travels and in one moment they would forget about the lake.

As I reflect on my times in the Rockies, it doesn’t surprise me as much when people still ask me about if they will get American change back if they use their US funds to pay for something. Once again I direct the conversation to how they are enjoying their vacation and instantly the question of the money disappears.

Until next time, keep on typing. . . .