Friends & Family

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately: what a blessing it is to have true friends, and what a long journey it is sometimes to find out who they are.

My current definition of a real friend: Continue reading “Friends & Family”

Notes from Maine: Each Day’s Journey

After driving for about 10 miles through a very pretty kind of nowhere in particular, the road curves around to the right and you suddenly become aware that you are entering a village. A blink-and-you-miss-it road turns left to the country club. Before you is the Commons, a medium-sized field with a gazebo (and frequently a craft fair or farmer’s market), rimmed on two sides with a lot of old wooden houses and a crab shack. It is balanced on the right by the Traffic Triangle, grassy and adorned by a stone statue of an as-yet-unidentified man. Continue reading “Notes from Maine: Each Day’s Journey”

Gratitude and Apology

Last week at the office I made coffee, realized the creamer display was empty, refilled it, and spent several minutes unsuccessfully trying to get the box to fit back into the cupboard so the door would close. I finally gave up and resolved that I would mention it to the receptionist – duly apologetic, of course. Just then she walked into the kitchen to do the restocking so I mentioned it, she looked, saw it, and said, “Oh, thanks – I’ll take care of it.” Her tone was cheerful and there was nothing in the whole exchange that seemed to require a second thought.

Except five minutes later another member of the admin staff walked into my office. Apparently she had happened to be walking past as it took place and found it offensive. She thought my request was disrespectful – as if I thought it was the receptionist’s “job” to do that. She made a point of saying that she didn’t care about “whose job it is,” she just does whatever is needed, and would have kept working at the box until it fit. She then asked, in a tone that implied she already knew the answer and it wasn’t good, if I would have just left it that way [indefinitely].

Continue reading “Gratitude and Apology”

Microscope vs. Telescope

One of the most educational aspects of my trip to New York was the hotel. I was allowed to book somewhere I had particularly wanted to stay and was therefore very, very excited – which is not something one can often say about business trip hotels – in spite of the very divided reviews on TripAdvisor. It seemed that people either love it or hate it, with little to no middle ground.
 
I expected that I would tend more to the “love it” side, and indeed, here is a partial list of Things About My Hotel That Made Me Happy:
  • The atmospheric (aka dim) lighting. It made it like a nightclub for intelligent people.
  • Keycards that NEVER demagnetized, even when I accidentally put them next to my phone.
  • The tiny perfection of the room’s arrangement, even if it didn’t always adhere to “Anatomy for Interior Designers” best practices (i.e., if you can’t fit through a space 9” wide, you’ll have to climb over the toilet to get in the shower)
  • The Library Bar. It’s a Library! And a bar! Together! Genius!
  • A very effective air conditioner which did not rattle, thus soothingly drowning out Blondie’s “Atomic,” which could be plainly heard echoing up from the courtyard 7 stories below at 9:59 p.m.
  • Hudson Hall. The concept pleased me – Harvard/Oxford-esque communal dining made cool (and also fitted out with a beautiful bar).
  • Unbelievably delicious bread.
  • Louis-something chairs painted silver and upholstered in mustard suede – the perfect blend of uber-formal and rocker-chic.
  • Potentially snooty design, very casually helpful staff. Almost everybody I dealt with was somebody I’d want to be friends with, too. The combination made the whole place fun and cool rather than pretentious.
To be sure, there were things here and there that were escaped perfection by some little distance, but I greeted them with cheerful indulgence. It was much like when Junior captures the neighbor’s cat and starts pulling out all its fur, only to have his doting mother exclaim, “Oh, boys will be boys! You can’t expect them to behave all the time!”
 
But eventually some of these things needed to be dealt with, which was more of a hassle than it should have been, and all of a sudden everything snowballed. I was going to present you with Things About My Hotel That Made Me Furious, but honestly, the list goes on and on. You know how it is – once you see one flaw, you see them everywhere. Eventually it overwhelmed all the positive feelings I started with until my whole mood and demeanor collapsed under the weight. 
 
I had to force myself to refocus. Get out of the room with patchy internet, and go sit in the Library Bar with a book. Don’t think about paying $19 for a nectarine (don’t ask), just take another helping of the spectacular bread. I was never able to get back to that early, effervescent delight, but at least I wasn’t angry all day.
 
The thing is, I still really do love parts of the hotel. (As a product, not an experience. I can’t help viewing all this as a lesson in Marketing and Brand Promise failure. But I digress.) And I knew almost from the moment I stepped inside that loving it would be the product either of them having a really good day, or my willingness to make allowances, my ability to ignore the less-than-ideal details and revel in the concept of the place. The hotel does not fare well when gone over with a fine-tooth comb, but if you zoom out a bit and add a bit of romantic blur to the picture, it’s irresistible.
 
From a marketing perspective, it’s great that the standard of service has been raised so much and customers have gotten so pampered, but expecting, and demanding, perfection isn’t the best way to enjoy it. Nor is it realistic. Things will never be perfect – and neither will people.
 
There’s an old saying that you choose on a daily basis whether you will be happy or unhappy. And we know that love is a choice too. Turns out it’s the same one.

Oh.

I just noticed for the first time that I have eight people following this blog. Oh. You mean people actually read it? Terrifying. Must now try not to freak out.

But, seriously, guys, thanks for the support.