Innkeepers On the Edge
Living and Working At a Scrambling Pace
Bruce and I carefully
considered all the warnings before we took over Pierce’s Inn. Having witnessed
a number of divorces in our own families, it was clear that marriage takes work
without owning an Inn. We were
surprised by how well we had managed life’s transitions and challenges up until
that point, but running an inn together seemed like a whopper of a challenge.
I had the good fortune of
watching my parents run Pierce’s Inn for thirty-one years. They handled
conflicts and challenges with humor, courage and grace. Whether they were up
against decisions about finances or what time to put the potatoes in the oven,
they addressed their differences directly. My parents had a uniquely healthy
marriage. Bruce and I consulted a counselor and our many wise people to explore
how we might keep the family ship steady through the inevitable choppy waters
of running an inn.
Groups usually stay at Pierce's
Inn on weekends, and the midweek days are used to prepare for the next group.
We entered our innkeeping adventure in the eye of the parenting storm with
three children, ages eight months old to four years old. In retrospect, already
living in a state of nuttiness served us well even as the madness notched up
five or six levels. We were so busy surviving that we didn’t have time to
reflect as we scrambled to pull the next thing off.
My initial vision of
innkeeping was to get the place fully cleaned and dialed in on Monday so that
we could have leisure and be less fazed when unexpected setbacks occurred.
Bruce's idea was to enjoy the time off and start preparing on Thursday with the
bulk of the work being done Friday before the guests arrived in the afternoon.
Bruce thought my Monday plan was neurotic. Going with Bruce’s Friday plan put
me in a complete state of neurosis by Friday morning.
Being in charge of
housekeeping, cooking and maintenance allowed us to spin our daily minutiae into
major achievements. Aside from our timing differences, we were both particular
about how things should be done. We bickered about how he left the bed skirts askew
and how I executed inferior, less thorough toilet cleaning. We decided to
divide the housekeeping tasks up to minimize disagreement. I took on beds and
laundry. Bruce took on toilets and vacuuming.
Housekeeping began after the
kids were in bed and usually took until midnight. If I decided to crank my
tasks out on Tuesday night, sometimes Bruce would reluctantly saddle up to his bucket
of cleaning supplies to tackle the bathrooms. In and around our lengthy
conversations, we would get some jabs in about who was the better housekeeper.
Most weeks, Bruce would
putter around on Thursday then kick in high gear Friday morning with the clock
breathing down his neck. After a few unexpected disasters on Friday afternoons
during his prime time, he was open to a new plan. Frozen pipes, a broken
furnace and a flooded dining room backed him against the wall enough times that
even he felt it was too much for his emotional wellbeing. Wednesday became our housekeeping
day, but Bruce still managed to find distractions the day of big events.
One night he decided to
install an old TV in the kitchen, so we could watch the Patriots game while we worked.
With sixty-five people arriving in a matter of hours, Bruce went on the hunt
for sixty plus feet of cable and a couple rolls of duct tape to connect the
kitchen TV to the satellite where the guests would be gathering. Instead of
spending energy trying to deter him, I buckled down to make up for his absence.
SCal, our main server – even as a huge Pats fan - was aghast. She frantically begged
him to focus on the immediate needs in the kitchen. Somehow we prepared the
meal without Bruce and enjoyed watching the game.
There are thousands of things
that need to be fixed or changed at Pierce’s Inn. A broken support board on our
Ping-Pong table was a very low priority on our to-do list and had been
neglected for four years. On a night when we hosted a large group and were low
on servers, our small team put our effort in high gear to get the food
prepared. Just when we needed him most, Bruce disappeared,
I found him under the Ping-Pong table building a new support board. I calmly suggested, "Bruché, we are a bit behind with the meal prep, table setting and dessert making. Any chance you could help us in the kitchen rather than tackle this unnecessary project right now?" Without missing a beat, he responded, "Pinzy, if I didn’t do all the sh%* I do when I am supposed to be doing something else, nothing would every get done around here." And that, people, is how we find balance and humor in the most stressful times at Pierce's Inn.