No Room At the Inn

Interesting guests and odd experiences that occurred at Pierce’s Inn inspired me to start keeping a list starting when I was in third grade. During those early years, my parents were hesitant to acknowledge anything odd or interesting when I shared my observations about our lives as innkeepers. Because it was their new job and lifestyle, they were eager to make it all seem normal. Owners of inns, hotels and motels shared an unspoken rule: What happens under your roof stays under your roof. This was considered job security for my parents and a comic feast for me.

Bidding farewell to the guests on Sunday morning after a long weekend

The very parents and siblings who marinated me in storytelling and encouraged me to develop keen observation skills were suddenly asking me to put on blinders. I disobeyed and kept adding to the list. My older siblings understood that their college tuition depended on the success of Pierce’s Inn, so they wisely supported my parents’ respectful denial even when things went off the rails. Because I was unaware of the realities of making ends meet and trying to make sense of what unfolded on a daily basis right in my own house, I made it my business to pay attention.

Occasionally, one of my older siblings would fall out of rank and acknowledge the humor or nuttiness of a situation. My rotating collection of sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law were quite helpful providing perspective of what unfolded in the family and with the guests. Their acknowledgement of some fascinating tidbits confirmed that keeping a record was a worthy pursuit. In fact, my former brother-in-law who saw it all from the beginning suggested it was time to get some of these stories written down and shared.

My original list is not accessible, but versions of it have made it along through some memory boxes to reach my writing files, journal and comic storytelling on stage. Even when I went off to college, I paid close attention to the stories before they were swept under the rug. By the time we were all adults, everyone was more willing to acknowledge the truth of it all. I decided if I every wrote a book about Pierce’s Inn, I would title it, Good Vibes and Duct Tape because my parents mustered some serious magic to hold the place and the business together over the years.

Reg and Nance sending off the guests after a big weekend at Pierce’s Inn

One night we hosted a large party. After dinner, a very drunk man burst into the kitchen to ask if he could rent a room for the night. My mom explained that every room was rented, but he was persistent. While directing a kitchen full of servers attempting to serve dessert and get the dishes done around this large, insistent man, my mom repeatedly made it clear that there was no room at the Inn. He would not leave the kitchen and was relentless in his pursuit of any nook or cranny she would rent.

In a huff of annoyance with a side of snarky humor, my mother told the man that the only space available in the whole Inn was a storage closet. Without even seeing the closet, he joyously claimed it for the night. The “Long Room” closet was at an all-time low of disrepair. The cracked and caving floor let in cold air as well as a waft of earthy mildew. The sagging shelves were bursting with old cleats, baseball bats, winter clothes, boots and stacks of rejected mustard-colored tablecloths and holy sheets. My dad prepared for the apocalypse by keeping every frayed towel, pair of ski boots, holy sheet and can of old paint just in case. All of these items were precariously stored in the Long Room.

Despite the musty smell and excessively cluttered space fully revealed on the tour of the space, the drunk man promptly offered my mom twenty bucks for a night in the Long Room. She and my sister-in-law thought it was so outrageously funny that they invested energy and time to find an old mattress. They threw on some old sheets, found a marginal pillow and topped it off with an allergy-inspiring wool blanket (known as a Civil War blanket among my nephews and nieces).

When this man emerged from the hovel in a somewhat sober state the next morning, he and my mom had some big laughs recounting the sequence of events that led to her renting him the most compromised bed situation in the history of Pierce’s Inn. He described being confused when he woke up to find a power saw and a staple gun inches from his face. He found it even more baffling when he rolled over and found excessive linen storage and a huge supply of sports equipment dangling off the sketchy shelves. When he finally found his bearings, he stumbled back to the kitchen to find my mom with a formal bill for $20. He actually paid her. He declined her offer of breakfast because he didn’t feel quite up to a meal, but he gladly accepted a cup of coffee on the house.

 

Innkeepers on the Edge

Cindy Pierce and Bruce Lingelbach

They warn you about running a business with your spouse. When Bruce and I decided to become innkeepers, we worried that it would be hard on our marriage. The previous transitions in our life together had seemed large before we made them – getting married, building a house, having kids, having one parent home with kids – but those seemed to be right in flow and made sense. Each phase, we prepared to have our world rocked, but it never really rocked too much. We were leery of getting married for good reasons. At the time, Bruce’s father was on his third marriage. Two of my brothers had been married and divorced by the time I turned nine. We approached marriage with open minds and ready to work at it. Innkeeping together, however, seemed like a much bigger leap.

We had the good fortune of watching my parents run Pierce’s Inn for thirty-one years with humor, courage and the ability to directly address their differences. Conflicts spanned the spectrum: from when the food should go into the oven all the way to decisions over money. They were a unique couple with one of the healthiest marriages I have witnessed in my life. We didn’t think we could compare ourselves to them. Our proactive approach included a lot of consultations with people we respected about all aspects of life, work and marriage. We also got some counseling to explore our different approaches. We wanted it to work. Continue reading

My Rooster Scares the Piss Out of Me

rooster

The rooster we have is very pesky. Everyone loves him, except me. His name is Puff Puff. He was named as a baby chick when we all wished he would grow to be a laying hen. When the chicks grew up, seven of them exhibited rooster traits and started crowing. Puff Puff was colorful but didn’t have any male features. He didn’t crow for the three weeks, during which we observed them to see who was going to end up in the freezer.

The day after we slaughtered the roosters, suddenly Puff Puff got some swagger on. It became clear Puff Puff was a male when he stood taller and started crowing. It even seemed that his tail had a few more feathers spouting off his backside. Having cheated death by hanging low with the ladies, he did not have much respect from his coop of hens. They pecked at him and attacked him every time he tried to crow. With a few missing feathers and a bad limp, he had to work hard to gain position as the alpha male. Continue reading