Friday, March 26, 2010

5-Star Guests

A couple of weekends ago we had a nasty March Nor'Easter in these parts, winds gusting into the 60 mph range, driving rains for nearly 48 hours and chilly temps. All the guests for the weekend canceled except a couple coming in from Brooklyn, normally a 2 1/2-hour drive. They braved the storm, but it was nearly 7 p.m. before they splashed across my parking lot.

They toweled off and then went back out into the deluge for dinner. As I was preparing to turn in at 11:30, the lights suddenly went out. After shutting down the fire alarm system, which emits a piercing warning tone when power is interrupted, I set my watch alarm for 7 a.m. Breakfast wasn't until 9:30 and that gave me time to deal with storm damage. With Seely out of town, I had my work cut out for me.

I awoke to a still blacked out household, with 4 inches of water in the basement because sump pumps run on electricity. Porch furniture was on the lawn and trash can lids were two houses up the street. Still, I was better off than my neighbors, who had a tree limb crush a parked car belonging to their tenants. I straightened up as best I could, then turned my thoughts to making breakfast without a coffee maker, oven, toaster, broiler or lights.

The baked apples with oven-browned orange french toast and grilled bacon were no longer possible. At least I could manually light the burners on the gas range, so I improvised a grapefruit, pan-fried bacon and griddle-cooked french toast menu and set to work  in a hoodie. Because the thermostats that tell the furnace when to heat up the rooms are electric, temps inside were dipping fast.

I was startled to get a knock on the kitchen door at 8:45 with breakfast only half cooked. I had been so totally focused on the power failure I had forgotten that the clocks changed to daylight saving time the night before. It was actually 9:45 and I was late providing sustenance. After apologizing, I got the couple started on the grapefruit, threw the toast on the griddle and pondered the beverage problem.

I had a kettle boiling for tea, but coffee was a greater challenge. I decided to try pouring boiling water through the grounds in the filter to see if I could make something strong enough to pass for drinkable. It was awful, but I got kind words for trying. Managed to get breakfast on the table by 10 and kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn't have to refund the cost of the second night's stay.

In a similar situation -- awful weather, no guarantee of lights, heat, or other creature comforts, an innkeeper struggling with his basic duties -- most guests would have packed it in, demanded a refund and I couldn't have blamed them. But Brad and Amy turned out to be two of those exceptional people I mentioned earlier.

After breakfast they pulled out the laptop and discussed what might be open on Sunday and how they could check who had power before leaving. Thank heaven for laptops and cell phones that can be charged with car batteries. They spent the day in Newport touring mansions with generators and ran up to Providence for dinner.

By the time they returned, power had been restored and the inn was back operating as close to normally as possible. I truly appreciated their spirit and patience. I hope they will come back to see us again when they can discover all that our area has to offer -- including sunny weather and beautiful beaches.