I checked in the day after the fire, after a long
day of absolutely no sleep. My boyfriend Don, thinking safety was key, said I should take a second floor suite. It was the size of a studio
apartment, with a little living room area with a king bed and a bathroom on one end. It did have a full kitchen. That place lasted one day. Safety is great, but hauling band equipment and groceries up a flight of stairs is not. The second day I settled into what would be my “home”, the exact same suite, only on the ground floor.
The weeks wore into months. Christmas was a bit of a bummer. I always host Christmas Eve at my house, with the tree and house decorated, with anywhere from 10 to 20 people. That year, Don and I spent a quiet evening having dinner with a single wreath and two battery operated Christmas candles.
My only real hobby and stress reliever is doing projects around the house and there was none of that.
The bed was not my bed and although having the cats with me helped, the place never really felt like home. Whenever the stress of everything going on got to me, I would pull out paint samples. Yes, paint
samples! I would stare at various shades and try to decide what the new colors of the house would be. A little psycho, I know, but for some reason, it helped me to believe I would one day be finished with this mess, even though many days, I totally doubted it. Some nights, after a particularly hard day of dealing with contractors and insurance companies, I would lay in bed and have a good cry. The next morning, I would usually wake up next to a cat toy, put on the bed by my cat Elsa, in an attempt to cheer me up. It always worked.
Besides, there were positives to the arrangement. The place was cleaned every day. I had air conditioning, something I did not have at my home at the time. There was complimentary breakfast every morning and a once a week wine and beer reception from 500pm to 700pm. There was also a good size pool and a hot tub. Although I didn’t make any lasting friendships, I did get an opportunity to talk to a lot of people who were in the same situation.
The best part was the service. When I first checked in, I was still a soap opera addict. (The
cancellation of “As The World Turns” ended my addiction, although I do occasionally fall off the wagon on a day off with an episode of “The Young and The Restless” or “Days Of Our Lives.”) I brought my VCR from the house (pre-DVR days and watching episodes online), but had no idea how to connect it. The night clerk, who couldn’t leave the front desk, drew me a great diagram and I got it put together in under five minutes. One of my weekly rituals was a Sunday night soak in the hot tub with a plastic glass of wine. One Sunday the hot tub was being serviced and when the on duty staff found out my weekly ritual was in danger of being cancelled, they called in a favor from the hotel next door. Walking across the parking lot in my flip flops and bathing suit, with my plastic wine glass in hand, my ritual was saved, via the hot tub at the Embassy Suites where their night manager provided me with a key and told me to “soak as long as I wanted.”
Any issue, any question, over the 11 months, someone was always there to help. The staff were the best part of a long and sometimes painful experience. When I finally told them I was leaving, no one believed it because I had been close so many times! I wrote a three page letter to management, naming all the names and all the wonderful experiences I had after I got home. When I went back a year later for a visit, most of the people I had gotten to know had been promoted, either there or at other Residence Inn properties. It was nice to see a business that rewarded employees for great service.
Unfortunately, the great service did not extend to all the other people involved in this tale. Next up, if only a show like "Catch a Contractor" had been on in 2003!