Saturday, June 15, 2013

Beyond Hope

I don’t travel much. I am beginning to want to travel more, but opportunity and funding is somewhat elusive. So I take what opportunities I get and make the best of it.

One such opportunity arose last week. The Beyond Hope Library Conference in Prince George took place on June 10th and 11th and so my staff and I all piled into our Program Coordinator’s Jeep and off we went. Leaving on the 9th we drove for 3 ½ hours and reached our destination mid-afternoon. We checked into our hotel, chosen for its proximity to the conference venue and settled in for two days of conferencing.

Beyond Hope is a bi-annual conference hosted and organized by the Prince George Public Library. It’s designed for the northern libraries that are situated – geographically speaking – beyond Hope (BC). Unlike the big annual library conference put on the BC Library Association each year, Beyond Hope is tailored to the smaller, more rural libraries of the north, being more accessible, more affordable and less overwhelming. It’s a great way to connect with library staff and management with which one has something in common.

As conferences go, this year’s was fantastic. The sessions were varied and interesting. I even co-presented at one session on Interlibrary Connect: the Evolution of Resource Sharing in BC Libraries. It was pretty cool!

Besides conference activities, there was shopping (I kinda over-spent) and I got some time to toodle around an art gallery. I haven’t done that in years and years and it was just a really nice thing to do, even if the art on display did have a bit of a dark side to it. I’m convinced that at least two of the three featured artists are in dire need of some serious therapy. The other one, while a bit creepy, managed to inject a certain sense of whimsy into her work. It was well worth the $7.50 fee, though.

The conference was the main reason for this short foray away from home. And, as with any travel, accommodations are a significant part of the planning. As I said, we chose a hotel close to the conference venue, assuming that, being a well-known chain, it would be relatively comfortable and a decent place to stay. I can attest to the beds being not too bad. Otherwise the rooms were nothing special. In fact they were in need of some updating and TLC. Which might have accounted for the notice in the lobby stating that the hotel was undergoing renovations.

On the ascent to our rooms in the elevator, we took notice of a notice that informed us that the water would be shut off between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. the night we arrived and that there would be jack hammering going on the following day until 4 p.m. Okay. We would just make sure that we had brushed out teeth before 11 o’clock and since we were going to be at the conference during the day, the jack hammering didn’t appear to be a problem.

Right on schedule, the water was shut off at 11 p.m. I had already settled into bed and had just finished a bit of pre-sleep reading when this occurred. I turned off my bed-side lamp, plumped my pillow and scrunched the covers up under my chin. My eye-lids were drooping immediately and I was ready to sleep.

At ten minutes after 11 a god-awful noise tore through the peaceful quiet of my room. It sounded a lot like a repo saw and hammering. I listened for a while – I could hardly help it, it was so loud – to the sounds of sawing, hammering and drilling coming from beneath my room. I was a bit stunned by the racket. But I assumed that it would not (could not) last long. Surely they understood that the hotel guests were trying to sleep.

Apparently not.

The noise got closer and louder as midnight approached.

I decided to call down to the front desk to find out what the heck was going on and was left on hold for several minutes before a very harried desk clerk answered my call. She was clearly stressed (I could tell because the first thing she said was: People are yelling at me.) I didn’t want to be one of those people, but I was a bit stressed, too. I assured her that I did not blame her and asked her to please ask the workmen to stop. I needed to get some sleep. She told me she didn’t know what to tell me and then tried to assure me that the noise would not go on much longer.

At 1:30 I called back. The desk clerk was crying. I asked her to please call the manager and get him/her to stop the noise. I was tired and growing increasingly more cranky with each blow of the hammer, every grind of the saw and all the whines of the drill. She said she was trying. I asked her to give me the manager’s number so I could call him. She said she couldn’t do that. “Then please,” I begged, “go over and tell the worker to stop.” Her response, an obviously desperate ploy to appease me, was to say that they would be done in 15 minutes.

At 2:30 I called back again. It took a lot of will power and discipline not to yell at the poor girl. I’m not good with being over-tired. But I did reassure her that I understood that it wasn’t her fault. I asked her if she had gotten hold of the manager and she said she was calling him. Not sure what that meant, but I didn’t think it meant that she had. Through gritted teeth I firmly suggested that she tell the workers to stop. She said she couldn’t do that. I told her that she absolutely could. She reiterated that she could not.

At this point the work was being conducted directly under the bathroom in my room. At the same time that I hung up the phone, the repo saw flashed up and cut not only through a stud or something, but through my very last bit of restraint and patience and I lost it.

I stomped into the bathroom, beat my heel against the tiled floor and screamed… Well, let’s just say that a vile series of expletives overpowered the power tools, turned the air quite blue and – as I discovered the next morning – accomplished the hysterical feat of adding an element of entertainment to the situation for many of the other guests on my floor.

As the F-bomb dropped, so did the noise. Silence filled the hotel.

I am guessing that my eruption simply coincided with the manager’s issuance of a cease and desist order to the workers and was not the sole motivation behind the muzzling of the motor-driven commotion.

I went back to bed and lay there, eyes wide open for over half an hour longer, waiting for the clamour to start up again. I wanted desperately to sleep, but could not bring myself to fully trust the quiet. Eventually fatigue won out and I fell asleep. For three hours.

The midnight renovations were a hot topic between sessions at the conference. There were many, many bedraggled attendees, looking for all the world like they had just survived the zombie apocalypse wandering about the corridors at the Civic Centre that day. How I managed to get through it, I’ll never know. But I did.

After the lunch break I returned to the hotel with the goal of talking to the manager in mind. When I approached the front desk, I was equally mortified and amused by the fresh-as-a-daisy desk clerk’s countenance; there was palpable trepidation reflected in her face. I was determined to be polite and, having had a chance to calm down (or being too bloody tired to muster much bluff) I asked if the manager was in. I was told he was in his office. I asked to speak to him. I was asked what about. I told her it was about the noise. I was asked if there was anything she could do for me. I began weighing my options. I was told that my room would be “comped” (hotel speak for free). I added my staff member’s rooms to that. The desk clerk apologized. I told her it wasn’t her fault, I appreciated being “comped” and then proceeded to ask what I really wanted to know: What the hell were they thinking? The desk clerk swallowed and told me that they didn’t know there would be any noise involved. Good grief!

I didn’t get to speak to the manager. I have an image in my head of some spineless guy cowering in his office, afraid to face his guests. Clearly he had instructed the desk staff to “comp” the rooms of the guests that complained – the whole thing was rather anti-climactic. I kinda wanted to look the guy in the eye and, perhaps, educate him on the intricacies of renovation work and the need to organize things a bit better, but I’m guessing he now knows.

I’m relatively sure that no one dared pick up anything that even resembled a tool the following night. I can see the Night Audit thinking twice about picking up a pen or tapping a keyboard. (If she didn’t quit after all that.)

The whole affair baffles me. Even if none of the principals involved in the organization and planning for the renovations had any direct experience with construction work, could they really have been that naïve as to think that it could be done without disturbing sleeping, paying guests? It seems impossible. And yet it happened.

Where was the breakdown in communication? Did the manager actually think he was saving money by asking construction workers to renovate a hotel over night? Did he not realize that saws and hammers and drills make noise? Or did the order come from somewhere above him? Was he helpless to stop the mechanizations of corporate bureaucracy? I can’t even begin to fathom it.

As for travel experiences, this one will go down in the annals of personal history as semi-negative. I will check first, before booking any other hotel room ever again, to see if there is any renovation work scheduled during my proposed stay. Once bitten and all that…

And now that this missive is nearly as long as my two-day conference adventure, I will attempt to put it behind me and not let it jade my feelings about future travel possibilities. Surely they cannot all be beyond hope.


  1. Ain't life grand! If every thing went well we would not have to grow.

  2. Oh, my goodness! Not sure how I missed this when you first wrote, but ... oh, my goodness! And I thought it was bad listening to an all-night poker game (and nobody at the desk to call with a complaint). You showed amazing restraint waiting so long to blow up! I'd have been at the desk at 11:15 not just on the phone!


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