25 Apr, 2011
Sometimes I forget the Pfister is a hotel, meant for housing travelers and providing room and board. So much else happens there that it becomes its own community of comings and goings, drinks and dinners, events and celebration. So of course it struck me when I was headed out through the lobby and saw a line at the registration desk.
Sure, that’s what the desk is for—checking people into rooms—but more often I see the staff checking in on people, rather than checking them in. “How was the pizza?” “How was the show?” “Did you make it to the pool like you’d been planning?”
The line today was full of order and patience and a stunning number of people who weren’t casting their eyes about. How can you not? The ceiling above the central desk alone is breathtaking. Yet, these road-weary travelers, each of whom seemed to represent a different happening at the hotel, were blinders-focused on the desk.
I know that feeling, that need to settle in first. I forgave them that. But in reflection I have to report to them (hope you’re reading, guys!) what a fantastically motley crew they created. The line jutted out past the bell stand, near the stairs. Tromping down the stairs was one of the dancers in the annual ballroom dance extravaganza the hotel hosts. Her hair and make up were show ready. Her shoes—heels I wouldn’t dare touch—clicked down the stairs calling attention to her descent. Yet, her sweatshirt and jeans belied that she was about to swirl in gorgeous rounds on a dance floor. I was captivated by her, but the folks in line were dedicated to their task. There were even other dancers in line, waiting to get to their rooms to make ready to compete. They, too, were wearing the stiletto dance footwear that spelled only broken ankles to me, but perhaps a victorious foxtrot to them.
After the dancer passes, I notice nothing else can turn the heads of those awaiting a golden key. Each methodically moved first their luggage, then their bodies forward toward the desk as a guest in front of them would clear. The routine shuffle was familiar to them all, and revealed that it wasn’t their first day traveling. Kindergarteners everywhere could have taken a lesson from the perfunctory straightness of the line.
But what set each guest apart from the others was their luggage. Portable wheelie bags designed for carry on luggage—bespeckled with colorful tags and strings for distinction made way for my favorite bag in the line: A cumbersome old vinyl brown suitcase from decades ago. Even better, the case was transported by a gentleman who clearly was younger than the luggage. I liked the vintage appeal of grandpa’s brown suitcase partnering with a contemporary traveler in a historic hotel. Decades of adventure were well-represented in Samsonite.
It wasn’t just how they marched to the desk, waited in line, or shepherded various forms of clothing containers along with them…on this particular day, they were each there for different reasons and from different places: the dance competition, a visit with family, a business trip and more.
The perfect diversity of this line of guests reminded me that while so many locals make use of the Pfister for its romance and ambiance, it provides shelter to so many from afar. I laughed at myself as I remembered the hand game we learned in school where you folded your fingers together, layering thumbs and pinkies properly and turned your hands inside out to reveal wiggling fingers, matched to the chorus “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people!”
That’s the case at the Pfister. The doors are beautiful, the tower views breathtaking, but in the end, it’s always about the people.