I recall when a rather aloof woman customer checked in to the office at our motel. Dressed in what one immediately recognised as designer clothes and beautiful fashion shoes, her tone of voice indicated a lady of a well educated background. Essentially blonde with a winter tanned skin, the middle aged attractive, well proportioned woman perused the breakfast menu that was sitting on the counter with what could only be perceived of as disdain.
With a flourish of the pen, Mrs Prudence Fitzsimmons filled in the register with obvious impatience. Barely listening as I gave her directions to her room, Mrs Fitzsimmons snatched the key to her room from my hand and literally flounced out of the motel office. To describe this customer as snooty and rude would be an understatement, but another old adage stayed with me, ‘the customer is always right’.
Several hours later, Mrs Fitzsimmons returned to the office requiring directions to the local church where she was attending a wedding. Ever obliging, if not a little tongue in cheek, I gave her directions to the church, plus a complimentary town map.
A busy night ensued, but eventually all customers had booked in and we were able to close the office doors at 8 pm. Watching television and half asleep with the sheer exhaustion resulting from being on call 24 hours a day, the night bell rang at 9.30 pm. This wasn’t uncommon, but it was always disappointing when our time out was interrupted.
Brushing tiredness away, I walked through the darkened office to unlock the door, to be confronted by Mrs Fitzsimmons who had inadvertently locked the key to her room in her room. In an exasperated voice, as if saying to me ‘it’s all your fault’, she demanded I come and open her door with a spare key.
With great control, I asked after the wedding and commented, “You’re home early”. Imagine my surprise when her modulated voice quivered, her aloof appearance crumbled and she began to sob uncontrollably. I was shocked and put my arm around her in a comforting gesture. I walked her back to her room and helped her inside, sat her down and offered to make her a cup of tea.
An hour later I emerged having listened to Prue’s story. Recently widowed, this brave lady was making her first social appearance without her much loved husband. A very genuine person, Prue talked as if I was a cherished friend. I felt privileged that she shared so much with me over that cup of tea. I also was relieved that I had remained courteous at all times and that she felt free to share with me her grief and loneliness.
The next day Prue left. We even kissed goodbye. As she drove away in her imported sports car, another adage crossed my mind. ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’.