I remember the staff at our public school. You know, we had a saying, uh, that “Those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach, teach gym.” And …uh, h’h, of course, those who couldn’t do anything, I think, were assigned to our school.
That’s from Annie Hall. An adult Alvy Singer is recalling the intellectual depth of his grade school teachers. It’s a line that has me worried.
Because now I’m starting to think the quote continues, And those who can’t teach gym, open a bnb. And make muffins. And beds. For ever. And ever. And ever…
This is a difficult thought to ponder because it tugs at the foundation of my new-found career.
To put it differently, what if after 40 years of work, through the lows (tent roustabout, toilet cleaner at the auto assembly plant, bus boy at the local Holiday Inn) and highs (news director, editor in chief, managing editor), you discover that what you excel in is at odds with what you imagined yourself doing. Believe me, when I started this bnb I was prepared to fail; my fantasies of running a cafe or bar or bnb were patently unrealistic and I recall talking pure gibberish with my Berkeley pals when shamelessly daydreaming of opening a restaurant. But then I jumped into the bnb profession by buying the house, buying a bunch of bed frames, mattresses and towels and then just getting a page on VRBO. The coffee wasn’t bad. The meals were ok. And now, 100-plus reviews later, I’m a certifiable innkeeper.
But I still don’t get it. In the mirror I often see a fuzzy tattoo on my forehead, when I splash water on my face on the way to muffins. I see the letters W T F.
So I try to makes sense of the experience.
The good stuff about running a bnb; it’s pretty sweet. There’s always good food in the fridge. Pounds of french roast coffee beans in the freezer. There’s a wall of stacked, clean towels a’ready in the bathroom. I get to walk Molly on the beach twice a day. Sometimes wine just appears on the table before a meal (true). I’ve met some big-name Hollywood directors seeking satori by the Smith (really fun). I had a Pulitzer winner all to myself over breakfast one morning and have hosted dozens of post-docs/professors emeriti/google and Intel-type execs…in other words, the conversation can be outstanding. The musical talent of some guests has been mind-blowing. There’s a lot of laughter. And I will never, ever, ever run out of toilet paper.
The not so good. I do a lot of laundry. Bake a ton of muffins (banana, again?!). Make beds, repeat. Clean bathrooms, repeat. Shop, repeat. There are a lot of repetitive behaviors required to run a bnb. I’ve learned to survive on five hours sleep (today, three). My to-do list spontaneously regenerates every day during the summer and no, It. Can. Not. Wait.
So what I conclude is this may be a good fit but I naggingly ask, is it the best?
I know what you’re thinking. Curt has too much times on his hands today. Well, maybe I do. But why not think about the perfect and imperfect attributes of this fairyland place and job.
And so I think. About the place. The work. All the reviews (I’ll have to do a blog post some day on the curse of the five-star review). All the business.
As the reviews have added up, so do bookings. I get more popular, more busy, more pushed around by, well, a teeny, tiny hair-like strand of success.
[long blog post alert…yes, too much time.]
Oooo, but that’s an elusive word. If success = money, you might as well open a burger franchise or dry cleaners. Or go back to law school. Or marry up the money chain. For each of us grinding out a living, the low hanging fruit is there and it is suspiciously attractive, and often gets called….yes, success.
My low-hanging fruit looks like this. Yay, August is totally booked! Oh my, isn’t the river just perfectly crystal clear! Another stellar sunset! More food, more wine, more fantastic guests! On the deck! In the hot tub! Taking my advice and walking the James. Irvine. Trail. !!
What I really want (or what I am trying to understand I want) is accomplishment. And self-worth. And pride of commitment. And a feeling of notching a big, big win from a ginormous challenge. He shoots! He scores! That’s what I’m looking for. It’s just got to be the right pair of goal posts. And they’re not so easy to pick out in all this vegetation.
I’m left with the inner voices: So, is it nirvana on the Smith, running a bnb in the redwood forest? Sometimes, yes. Or does it suck? Sometimes, yes.
Well now, I haven’t come to any conclusions. My day off comes to an end in about 45 minutes when new guests show up. I’ll turn the question machine off and slip into my innkeeper’s velvet jacket. Yes, purple. Just like Hef’s!
I probably have to see Annie Hall again …I might just need to laugh a little more.
Here are a bunch of recent guests who did make me laugh. Special thanks to the ones who conjured up wine. 🙂