My Dad, as I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure out from my post title, is celebrating his birthday AND retirement today. This is a huge milestone for him, and he’s been counting the days until his retirement for months now. (Although he’s “retiring” from his job as a full-time hotel manager, he will still be working, exact job TBD. He has a couple of irons in the fire!) He has been in the hotel business for more than thirty-five years, but did lots of things before that, from serving in the U.S. Army (Vietnam) to delivering mail for the U.S. Post Office to making balloon animals (pretty sure that was when he was a teenager).
I decided that, in honor of this special day, I would interview him. I emailed him some questions and asked him to get back to me in three days, but I had a reply from him an hour later. (This should sound familiar to you, if you know me in real life.)
Me: What was your very first job, ever?
Dad: When I was 11 years old on Saturdays and after school during the week, I was hired to sweep floors and perform general clean up in a barber shop close to where we lived.
Me: What was your favorite job, ever?
Dad: Front desk clerk at a downtown Chicago hotel.
Me: You obviously work with the public, being in the hospitality industry. How has working with the public changed since you started managing hotels?
Dad: Unfortunately, for the worse! Most people are kind and reasonable but quite a few seem to be more demanding. less reasonable. and they seem angrier than I remember.
Me: What is your proudest accomplishment in the workplace?
Dad: Developing so many staff people that worked with me throughout the years.
Me: When we lived at the Holiday Inn in Knoxville, did you know that the guy who came to collect the money from the arcade games was setting Julesie and me up with tons of game credits?
Dad: I sure did! He asked me if it was okay!
Me: Were you annoyed that I used to eat cheeseburgers and fries in the hotel restaurant for nearly every lunch and dinner, or did you find it amusing?
Dad: Amusing? No! I found it to be hysterical! I always told my staff that I expected you to turn into a cheeseburger and fries someday!
Me: I know you are working on a book of stories from your time managing hotels, but can you give me an exclusive with a short story about something odd that has happened?
Dad: Hmmm, let’s see…When I was the Resident Manager of the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in Chicago, I personally booked a block of rooms for the Vienna Boys’ Choir for a two night stay while they performed in the city. I hosted them before in another Chicago hotel and became very friendly with the choir master who booked their room accommodations on all their tours world wide. Afer I left that hotel, when he contacted me and asked I’d be willing to book the choir at the Mart Plaza, which of course I quickly agreed to! The Mart Plaza was a beautiful hotel with a the lobby located on the 15th floor in the middle of a super sized atrium starting on the 15th floor reaching up to the 26th floor of the hotel. There was a very nice restaurant, cocktail lounge, large wonderful relaxing music during the lunch and cocktail hour at night. At one time when I first met the choir master at my previous hotel, we talked quite a bit about our families, business, the choir, and we became good friends. It must have been during one of conversations that I mentioned my birthday and he remembered the date. When the choir stayed with us at the Mart Plaza, it happened to be on my birthday. During the lunch hour, I was summoned from my office to come out the lobby because a guest wanted to speak with me. When I got there, the lobby was full of hotel guests and the atrium restaurant was full and had many people waiting in line be seated to have lunch. To my huge surprise, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, dressed in their performing uniforms, were on the platform around the piano. As soon as the choir master saw me enter the lobby, he had the boys begin singing Happy Birthday to me in English and then sung it again in their language! I was then called up on the platform and they sang another song dedicated to me. The people in the lobby restaurant, and many guests staying in the hotel, came out of their rooms and looked down into the atrium and enjoyed the choir, but not nearly as much as I did! After the small ‘impromptu concert’ for me was over, the choir master told me that no Vienna Boys’ Choir had EVER done that and they would never do it again! I was deeply honored and very touched!
Me: What will you miss most about hotel management?
Dad: Interaction and development of my employees and getting to know most of my guests.
Me: What are you looking forward to most about “retirement”?
Dad: Being out of direct management, not working 6 or 7 days a week, and definitely not being on call 24/7!
Thanks, Dad! Happy birthday/retirement day to you. I’m thrilled that your special day is finally here, and I can’t wait to see how you turn retirement inside-out and upside-down. I love you!