Reception Trouble

23 Aug Reception Trouble

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 30.8.21


It is useful, I think, to know when you are most likely to be the worst version of yourself.

Some people are a bit touchy first thing in the morning – slow to wake, in need of a shot of caffeine before they’re ready to engage. For others there’s a mid-afternoon hangry slump that shortens their fuse. Parents struggle to maintain their usual charm and poise around dinner/bath hour, and people who leap out of bed at dawn to go for a run can get a bit snappy if they’re kept up beyond their bedtime.

I try to be a pleasant person to be around – it seems the least we can do for each other since we’re sharing a planet – and it’s easy to pull this off because I genuinely like a lot of the people I meet. But recently I’ve worked out there is a particular place that I am most likely to be a horrific grump – at a hotel or motel check-in.

The problem is that, in my head, arriving at my accommodation is the end of something – the end of the early start, the bag packing, the trip to the airport infused with general anxiety about missing flights, the waiting, the boarding, the flight itself, then navigating a ride with a stranger from airport to accommodation.

Good cab rides are either peaceful or a conversational delight – I met a woman who does fly-fishing recently and I still miss her – but there are also bad cab rides that do terrible things to your blood pressure and your faith in humanity.

Arriving at reception looks like the end of all this – you are tired and also grubby for no reason you can pinpoint, and in need of a wee, and you would like to be alone now. But for the person on the other side of the desk, it is the beginning of their bit, which is Being Welcoming plus Admin. Forms, credit cards, questions about newspapers and breakfasts that seem so far off into the future you can’t imagine ever needing them in your life, and that ubiquitous question, “How’s your day been?” which feels hard to answer prettily given your day has so far consisted only of those dull things listed above – though you have high hopes for the remainder of the day once you’ve made it to your room, soon please.

Day Three of a four-day multi-stop trip, I turned into a proper Karen. (Apologies to all my friends call Karen who are, one and all, adorable, but you know what I mean.) Faced with a three hour wait until check in, stranded in a carpark outside a locked office and with nowhere else to be, I badly wanted to ask to speak to the manager but realised I already had her on the phone and she couldn’t help me no matter how much I suggested she might.

But one of the cleaners let me leave my suitcase behind and wander off (see also: get me out of their hair) and a couple of hours later I came back and there was a room waiting and I apologised to the staff for being terse earlier. Not at my best, I said, at check-in, especially when I can’t.

They say that if you feel uncomfortable about a pattern of behaviour, then on some level you are already moving towards changing it. Expect warmth, charm and cheerful descriptions of how my day has been next time you see me at reception.