This week, I had the pleasure of spending some time in a small rural town in Western Missouri. To me, it was a typical farming town – a county seat with twenty thousand people, with traffic lights numbering no more than what two hands can count, two Catholic churches blocks from each other (one historically Irish and one historically German), a bell tower than played Missouri’s state song in the quiet of the evening, and an old fashioned ice cream shop, soda fountain and all.
I stayed at a hotel that was built in 1907. Though I readily describe it as lovely, it was simultaneously quirky. The lobby elevator was what I would call retro, with a set of exterior doors off set by a set of interior gates. I half expected a bellhop dressed in a maroon, gold, and black bellhop uniform with a pill box cap to step out when the doors opened. Riding the evaluator up, I hopped out and could have used the six flight U.S. postal mail slot that whisked letters from the top floor to the bottom floor if my heart had so desired. Sadly, I had nothing to mail as I did want to see if those old-fashioned letter slots really worked. I turned the corner and peered down the hallway. Plastered above a sixth floor window were the words FIRE ESCAPE. In case of emergency, folks would crawl out the window and use a set of collapsible staircases that had definitely seen better days. God-willing, my time at this location would be uneventful.
I entered my room – which was outfitted with crisp, fluffy upscale bedding, and thought . . . where is the rest of the room? For the whole thing was . . . well . . . unusually. . well . . . tiny. In fact, I am quite sure that my GMC Acadia SUV has nearly the same square footage as the room. There was just enough space for the door to open and not nick the bed, and just enough space on one side of the bed to actually open the narrow bathroom door. From my vantage, I could see that the shower was clean and pristine, but I knew that I would have to do some type of sideways samba to get into it. Likewise, the sink was built for one hand only and the toilet, well let’s just say it was small.
My suitcase fit well underneath the television stand and everything else fit . . . well . . . on the bed, which was the only other surface for any type of storage. I found it interesting that I could turn on and off the overhead bedroom light, the bathroom light and the television all while resting comfortably in the middle of the bed. The note on the back of the hotel room door kindly and politely listed out the available services including overnight laundry and daily shoe shines (just leave the shoes outside the hotel room door and by morning, they will be refreshed!)
Keep in mind, that everything was nice. This place wasn’t some seedy, run-down flop house that folks entered and were never seen again. Oh contraire! The lobby was swank with enormous prism chandeliers and high wing back chairs tilting towards each other to form a conversation area. There was an upscale restaurant – also tiny – but with patrons at each table. On the second floor was the fitness center – which was better described as a closet with two treadmills; but, the fact remains that workouts were possible. And the employees were helpful, cheerful, kind people. And did I mention the cost . . . $39.99 plus tax.
Normally and admittedly, my hotel room requirements can be described as a little high maintenance. And for those who know me, feel free to change that statement to really high maintenance. No stays at rooms with shag carpet – ever. In fact, I generally prefer anything but carpet. I check all reviews and make sure that the hotel location is safe and secure. Four stars are great, but five stars are better. Key cards with deadbolts are minimum standards and valet parking if at all possible. So staying at a place with indoor/outdoor carpet, house telephones in the hallway, no visible fire alarms, and space that seemed to be rented out by the square inch was a stretch for me. It challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and test the waters.
And I am glad I did.
The experience was actually wonderful. It gave me a new type of vision about possibilities – not only regarding business travel, but just possibilities in general. First, the people working at this particular location were nothing short of wonderful. Their kindness with any questions that I may have asked or anything that I may have needed exceeded all expectations. The actions of the people running this hotel brought life back to a simple level for me. Succinctly stated – taken from a favorite M.A.S.H. episode: “It is nice to be nice to the nice.” Life becomes better when surrounded by nice people. Nice people figuring out ways to help other people.
Second, I realized that by removing some of the limits that I may have been placing on travel – thus myself – opened up new doors and new experiences for me. I saw, heard, did, and thought about things differently for a brief moment in time. And it was fun. Who needs a twenty square foot shower when a four square foot one (four feet may be an exaggeration) works just fine. I didn’t try the mail slot, but would have liked to do so. I didn’t try the fire escape, am glad that I didn’t, but would have liked to go out that window just once. I didn’t make any telephone calls on the house phone, but it would have been a hoot. This little hotel . . . in the middle of small town Western Missouri . . . made me get out of my rut and gave me back that free fall feeling once again.
What a joy.