I was eighteen when I got my first job in the hospitality industry. Some civilian in charge of the military joint thought it would be great fun to hire a teenager (me!) to contract Reserve weekends and NORAD blockades, find lodging for stranded families holding vigils for their sick and dying loved ones, care for the young (sometimes younger than me) airmen who had just been dumped out of a cab and onto my Lodging office's front doorstep, and coordinate the Turkish Air Force's arrival with only 20 minutes' notice.
That job kicked ass.
The very memorable experiences I had with the staff and guests at the Lodge made a huge impact on me and eventually led me to work in other hotels in every city I lived in after I left Maryland. I've had a few other incredible moments at other hotels, but overall, the Andrews Air Force Base lodging office (also known to the outside world as The Gateway Inn)was the best job ever.
Here are just a few of my favorite tales:
Gateway Inn (Andrews AFB, Maryland):
NORAD was coordinating some kind of Hide & Seek game in the nearby woodsy bungalows and our military staff were instructed to section off the area to keep pedestrians out of the way. I was fully aware of this and knew better than to walk anywhere near the obvious & bright yellow "Do Not Cross" tape. I enjoyed my lunch at home and walked back to work where I caught one of the desk clerks (in military uniform - she knew better!) facedown on the grass with about five masked men armed to the teeth and pointing guns at her skull. Poor Bobbi. She was released after about 2 hours and was sent home to find a clean uniform. Being facedown in a field of dirt and grass can do a job on one's BDUs.
Another funny story involves the massive winter storm of 1996. History seems to be repeating itself because the storm that recently blanketed the eastern part of the US in snow and ice is very similar to the blizzard of 1996. Our bungalows were outdoor lock-activated and guests were given their own set of electronic key cards in order to enter their rooms. A very prominent Colonel was invited to speak at a retirement ceremony of another very prominent Officer and was checked into one of our outdoor bungalows. Within a few hours, the state of Maryland went into freakin' crisis mode when the snow started falling by the foot and then suddenly melted, leaving a thick layer of ice on everything. Everything! Especially inside the small slots in which a key card is to be inserted. Our guests could not get into their rooms as the slots were filled with ice. This also affected the batteries in the locks and prevented guests from getting out of their rooms as well. Our staff managed to find battery-operated hairdryers and off they went, into the blizzard (on foot!) to melt the ice from the key slots. We rescued about 20people that night but, unfortunately, the prominent Colonel did not make it to his friend's retirement party. I don't even know if there was a retirement party that night.
Cabot Lodge (Gainesville, Florida):
I spent many years at this hotel and had the most brushes with celebrity in this town. I know, it's Gainesville. But, go figure. It's home to the University of Florida (and the Gator Nation *shudder*) so we never saw alot of big name musical acts blow through here. Tom Petty grew up here, some members of Sister Hazel hail from Gainesville, and Gainesville's own For Squirrels is one of the greatest bands that never lived. So when Marcy Playground came to town, all the college kids went crazy. I, on the other hand, just wanted them to STFU. Two of MP's bandmembers came down into my hotel lobby around 2am to practice. Seriously, they turned my lobby into their buddy's garage and pulled out their guitars and went through a pack of cigarettes each, all while playing Sex & Candy over and over and over and over and...well, you get the point. I only had a few complaints from other hotel guests but they were still complaints that I should not have had to deal with. So I asked the two bandmembers to quiet it down or stop altogether. In turn, they asked me to answer the phones more quickly as the ringing was distracting their band practice. I took away their ashtrays. They left my lobby. Pricks.
(Marcy Playground aka Pricks)
Then there's the night I thought I was going to get robbed. I had been called in to cover the audit shift since my midnight guy had a stomach virus. The only other company I had that night was my very overweight security guard. So he was really only good for company since it was plainly obvious that he couldn't chase anyone down in the event of a crime or attack on account that he sweated and panted simply from getting out of his chair. My security guard went to do his rounds at about 3am when suddenly this huge, loud, black guy came busting through the hotel front door demanding a room near an exit and slapping down cash to pay it out in full right then and there (holy shit - who'd he rob? Am I next?)(and for the record, I would've freaked if he was a white guy, so don't go there). Anyway, I kept my eye on him while I counted his cash, got his info (a local address - why was he here?), and didn't even bother to check his ID card (stupid, I know) before sending him off to his room. Near an exit. The guy was shaking so hard that I honestly wondered what he had done and how soon my hotel would be surrounded by the SWAT team and Hello, Robert the Security Guard!! Where the **** are you!!!?!??
Aaaah, silly me. Turns out that my mystery guest was none other than Jevon Kearse and he'd been out partying too late to return to his dorms without getting into trouble with his coach, Steve Spurrier. Jevon checked out with me a few hours later, flashed me a grin and a huge "Hey, thanks!" before he headed back to UF. He's a big NFL player now and I like to think I played a small part in his success. Since I didn't call the cops that night and all.
to be continued...