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The Many Hats an Innkeeper Wears

If the following story sounds like something that might happen to you, you might be cut out for the innkeeping profession: I was in college. One night, I was chatting on the phone with my cousin, Rachel, who was also attending university. She lived in an off-campus apartment and had just welcomed a new roommate. I’ll call her Kristen. Kristen and Rachel weren’t exactly hitting it off. “For starters,” Rachel complained, “she insists that we color code our sink sponges – yellow for dishes and orange for countertops….she says it’s gross to wipe down the counters with a sponge you’re going to clean dishes with.” I feigned horror at such a proposition, but was really thinking what a brilliant idea Kristen had come up with and was adding “colored sponges” to my grocery list. Who knows what happened to Kristen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she joined the ranks of obsessive compulsive innkeepers like me. I knew that becoming an innkeeper would only encourage this behavior. What I didn’t realize were the many other hats I’d wind up wearing – here are just a few:

Traffic Analyst – I may look like I can predict the future, but trust me, nobody, not even Sky Chopper 4 News guy can tell you exactly what time to leave to avoid any traffic. As much as I try to sidestep this question, guests always counter my “leaving in the morning is probably your best bet,” with, “so should I leave at 10:00 or are you saying I should wake up really early and leave at 8:00?” The truth is, I have no idea when accidents will happen, exactly what time construction is going on, or when every other person in the area will decide to hit the road and head home.

Handyman – Guess what? Innkeepers don’t typically have plumbers, electricians or IT consultants on their payroll. I’ve plunged many a toilet in the last five years and have even learned how to use a snake (don’t ask). I can relight the pilot on gas fireplaces, solve a lot of computer problems, and even fix the occasional broken table leg. Despite being a true “girly girl,” I now know the difference between a Phillips head and flat head screwdriver. Usually, though, I hunt James down for the maintenance issues.

Weather Forecaster – I’m happy to advise guests about typical weather patterns and temperatures during different seasons. Please bear in mind, however, that even professional weather forecasters can be completely wrong two days ahead, let alone months in advance. If I could guarantee the weather, trust me, I wouldn’t be an innkeeper.

Exterminator – One of the first investments we made after buying our second inn was a screen for the top of the chimney. If you’re serious about innkeeping, you better not be too squeamish about “nature” because you’re not going to have time to call in the pros when a raccoon finds its way down the chimney and a guest is due to check into the room any minute.

Locksmith – What happens when a lock jams on a guest’s door and you want to avoid calling in a locksmith on a Sunday when you’ll have to pay time and half? You climb through the window in a dress and fix it yourself.

Detective – I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve left items behind at hotels, in taxi cabs, and at restaurants. I’ve locked keys in my trunk, looked high and low for my watch which is on my wrist, and left the oven on overnight. I attribute being a little scatterbrained to the fact that I am running a busy inn while trying to raise a family coupled with the fact that I didn’t have the greatest short-term memory to begin with. So I am very sympathetic when a guest calls and asks me to hunt down a missing item – once I even unearthed a diamond ring from our vacuum cleaner!

Psychologist/Marriage Counselor/Referee – I really can’t divulge too much about the stories behind these hats I’ve worn. Just trust me – innkeepers are a lot like hairdressers – we listen, advise, and save marriages.

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