let’s get the bad out of the way, because there’s a lot of good to follow.

this past weekend, from the last thursday to sunday of july, was the southeast alaska state fair. in addition to the weekend of the fair, the week leading up to it we were so full that most nights i was able to flip the sign on the porch window so that it read “NO VACANCY” to the world outside the inn. normally, this is a relieving thing, because i don’t have to worry about greeting potential guests or being around when the ferry docks.

however, there were a couple of occasions where people nonetheless walked in and asked, “do you really have no rooms available tonight?” to which Sarcastic Sally would have responded, “of course i do! i just like to flip the sign for fun and you won the prize by cleverly coming to ask. come on in, you can stay for free!” but Innkeeper Hannah politely says “no, we don’t. i’m sorry.” often this is followed by a series of questions about who still might have vacancies. i list a few. they’ve already been there, and they look to me as if i, who have never stayed anywhere else in town and have no need of knowing who has availability, possess lodging omnipotence. the pleading eyes, frustrated gestures and despairing tones seem to suggest that if they simply appear to be the most distressed people in town, things will turn in their favor. and, to be harsh (if i’m not already), i am under no obligation to comply with requests that i call around to see if lodge so-and-such still has room – they’re not my guest! but i can only say that here.

the opposite technique was employed by people on the phone. though the inn had been booked completely for months leading up to the fair, saturday afternoon, in the midst of fair hoopla, the phone was still ringing off the hook with people seeking accommodation (in both senses of the word). typical conversation went something like this:

“summer inn, this is hannah.”

spoken very slowly in a sugary tone, “hi there hannah, this is joe from juneau. i’m here in town attending the southeast alaska state fair. i was wondering if you by chance had any rooms available?”

“for tonight?”

“yes.”

“i’m sorry, we’re booked full for the fair.”

“oh.”

“you could try calling the visitor’s center. they try to keep track of who has vacancies.”

“thanks.”

now, normally this would be a pleasant phone inquiry. however, when these calls are one after another after another, i begin to be tempted to simply answer, “summer inn, we are full for the fair.” did you notice how joe put off getting the relevant information? normally, people don’t bother repeating my name to me or providing their own. the first order of business is to find out if we have space on the night they want to stay. most are friendly. this is perfectly professional and acceptable. but during the fair it seemed that these wanderers had been facing rejection everywhere, directly due to their poor advance planning, and had tricked themselves into believing that if they were as ‘pleasant’ on the phone as possible that i would say, “you know what, joe? you just sound so great, i’m gonna open up that extra wing of the house [that does not exist] that we haven’t been using. or, even better, why don’t you just take my bed?”

does all this sound bitter? i wasn’t. just tired. i’m still tired. i think i’m getting a cold. in august. happier recollections to come.

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