Saturday, January 28, 2006

How To Get Things Fixed

Running a small inn on a budget forces creativity. And when I say creativity, I mean desperation. Desperation as in, "I don't have money to fix that." In the old place that houses the Auberge de Stowe, there's lots that can, and does, go wrong. Pipes freeze. Circuit breakers pop. The hot tub foams over. And for the most part, I, the innkeeper's husband, can handle it. But for some things, I'm just plain ignorant.
That's where youth comes in.
And when I say youth, I mean the Internet, or computers, or whatever requires drinking a can of Red Bull to understand. Don't get me wrong; I'm not afraid to tackle my own computer woes. I'm just clueless, and I usually end up doing something really bad. Compare that to my forays into plumbing, which I always conquer, but which end up instructing my sons in the fine art cussin' as much as anything else.
This week we've got a large group staying with us, a ski club from an Ivy League school. We took this booking with trepidation: gaggles of twenty year olds aren't our target audience. But it was too good to pass up. Of course, when they arrived, they all whipped out their laptop computers and demanded to know if we had wireless. They needed to sit down right away and begin emailing each other: "Dude, we're here!" "I know, dude, I'm sitting beside you!"
But as they walked in, our Internet connection crashed. This was good news. I smiled and told Chantal that among one of these brilliant youth must be a computer geek--er, I mean, talented computer scientist. Now it was the guests who were desperate, and sure enough, one emerged. I think he was a sophomore, and he already had his own consulting business. Anyway, I brought him into the office, and he asked if he could start fiddling with wires. I cracked open a beer and said, "Knock yourself out."
A few hours later, before I went to bed, I went looking for him. He wasn't in the office. I found him out by the fireplace, with seven or eight of his friends. They were all sitting or sprawled out on the floor with their computers in their laps. The glow from the screens bathed their faces in foolish fire. But they were smarter than me. They got my Internet back up and working, and the wireless service, too.
They grunted absently when I wished them goodnight. But I didn't mind. I was thankful for their services. I was also trying to think of how I could get a plumber's club up here for a ski vacation, that way when the pipes in room one bust, they'd be as motivated to fix them as my Ivy Leaguers were motivated to fix the Internet service.
When you own an inn, these are the kinds of things you think about.