Working at the front desk of a hotel, I’ve come to learn that my job is primarily about two things: Making people feel welcome and solving problems. And there are plenty of opportunities to practice each. That’s the challenging thing about working here, but also what makes it interesting. No two days are the same, and just by helping someone have a memorable stay, I have accomplished something. The Japanese staff and I joke about there being a different storm to weather every day, but I have grown the most by dealing with these “storms”. When we look back together, those are the things we remember and laugh about the most.
First, as I mentioned in a previous post there was the skier on New Years Eve who went down the wrong side of the mountain, calling at 4:30 PM (dusk) to say he was lost and couldn’t walk through the deep snow. Being the only English speaker, I attempted to calm him down and suggest what I would do in the same situation, knowing he wasn’t likely to make it out alive. Thankfully, through a series of fortuitous circumstances and dumb luck he did survive, and with a few tears and apologies life went back to normal. From that however, Ed the Australian taught me to appreciate all of the blessings and opportunities that I didn’t even know I had. Life could end so easily in so many ways. Also to avoid idiotic moves like skiing off the back side of a mountain by yourself in a foreign country when there is a blizzard coming in.
Next, there was Edith’s broken bone and insurance situation. While going off a jump at a local resort, she completely shattered her right arm. The doctor said she needed surgery but couldn’t fly for a week afterwards. The insurance needed proof of her injuries before they would pay for her surgery or fly her home. And the Japanese hospital only produced reports in Japanese, which the insurance company in Hong Kong could not read. The situation took a couple of days to resolve, and several times she sat – slumped rather – in the hotel lobby, sobbing. I did all I could, and learned that while everyone has the strength to deal with tough situations like this, a little moral support makes all the difference in the world.
Then there was Hubert the angry American. His name wasn’t actually Hubert but for some reason that’s what I’m calling him. He wanted everything for free because he was important (self-proclaimed) had photographed in 45 countries, and worked for all kinds of well-known magazines (repeating this several times). Hubert met an American student during his stay, who skied with him and helped him photograph the ski resorts of Shiga Kogen. Said student stayed an additional day to help Hubert, but failed to inform the hotel that he would not be checking out. Despite this, Hubert demanded that we also let this student stay for free. When I said this was obviously against hotel policy, I was told to “shut the f up” (4 times), that I did not understand the big picture, and that this was the worst service he had ever received (having of course, photographed in 45 countries across the globe for numerous other important magazines and publications). I made the mistake of laughing at him, and got a further soliloquy threatening to withdraw the ad in the important magazine he was photographing for. The whole situation was a mess. I learned from Hubert, however, to never ever treat someone like they are less than you, no matter how successful, rich or famous I might or might not become. As Federer would say, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”.
Finally, there are the crises that we cannot resolve. I received a call yesterday saying there had been an avalanche on the mountain, and two Argentinian guys from our hotel had been involved. They found the bodies immediately and attempted CPR, but they had died upon impact. Actually I’m not sad for them: they traveled the world skiing and died painlessly while living out their passion. I am sad for the families. How do you tell someone that news? We have so little control over the things that we involve ourselves in every day. A single slip, a careless moment, a jerk of the steering wheel and our lives are over. That could be depressing or liberating. If you are reading this, you are probably healthy, at least somewhat wealthy (having a computer) and definitely alive. There is a lot to be thankful for. The suddenness and finality of death remind me to live every day the way we were meant to.
Those are my thoughts for today as I reflect on some sad, trying, and rich experiences.
Hanging out with good friends in Sugadaira