Appeared in our Summer 2000 issue
I am driving from Petersburg, VA to Greenville, SC. I have just left one B & B, and I am on my way to another one. No matter how many inns I visit or how often I stay at one, my affinity for them continues growing. No doubt about it-I love 'em!
As I approach Charlotte, NC, I am thinking about how much I enjoyed being with my innkeeper friends, Peggy and Cherry, the night before. I met each of them while visiting an inn, managed by Cherry, a year ago. After I arrive at the inn, Cherry delivers afternoon tea to my room on a large, round tray. Before leaving for dinner, I decide to return the tray to the kitchen. However, I do not go down the stairs in the.manner most upright beings do. No, not at all. Instead, I miss a step and go sprawling onto the staircase landing. Lying, in a most undignified posture, I watched my tea cup become a flying saucer and attempt to access my condition as a fallen woman in "Virginny."
When Cherry catches me, in spite of my most discreet efforts, bouncing down the stairs to breakfast the next morning, she hurries over to check on me. Thank goodness, I was the only guest at the inn.
"Is that some morning exercise routine you do or what?" she asks. "Well, I'm afraid it is this morning." I respond, sheepishly.
After I eat, Cherry takes me to an emergency clinic and assists me as I struggle to walk. While X-rays are taken and my ankle is treated, Cherry arranges for me to stay in a ground-level suite at her friend Peggy's inn. After picking me up at the clinic, Cherry takes me back to her inn where she props me upon a couch. She then serves me lunch and comes running every time she hears me wiggle or stretch an appendage. When my new accommodations are ready, Cherry drives me and my belongings (gathered together and packed by her) to Peggy's inn.
"Innkeeping is a service-based business in the hospitality industry providing a fulfilling career for individuals who enjoy meeting new people and making them feel at home. Good innkeepers enjoy meeting the needs of their guests-the channing as well as the challenging ones. In essence, an inn becomes reflective of the innkeeper(s)."
Peggy and her husband, Tom, treat me like royalty and insist on providing me with lunch and dinner each of my three days with them. I begin wondering if I should have arranged a sprained ankle earlier. I have never had so much fun being incapacitated! When I leave, I am grateful I was not staying at a Motel 6 when I performed my tumbling act. Even having their "the light left on" would not have been worth a toot.
By the time I reach Charlotte, I am startled into the present when I find myself in the midst of a blinding snowstorm. Weather forecasters had predicted it all week, but I ignored them. After all, I was going south. I had no need to worry. "Right!" I think. White I see. White, white, white. As the storm becomes more blinding, the traffic inches along slower and slower. I become hungry, but every place has shut down because of the storm. Even the fast-food joints. I have never driven in snow before, and I do not like it. Not one bit! As night approaches, I become frightened. Wrecks are happening everywhere. I grip the steering wheel until my knuckles ache; I pray that I will get to my destination. I fix my gaze upon the taillights of a 32-wheeler in front of me':" Creeping behind it in my blue Malibu, I wish I could wiggle my nose or toes and convert it into a high-tech snowmobile. Or, if a snow angel could just appear and whisk me the rest of the way to Greenville. Fantasies set in.
I call the innkeepers to let them know I will not be arriving at 4:30 p.m., as scheduled. In fact, I have no idea when I will arrive. As soon as Fred hears my predicament, I sense his concem. I am comforted and calmed by his composure. He stresses the importance of my safety and assures me that he and Sherry will not go to bed until I arrive. He invites me to join them for dinner, when I get there, and encourages me to call if I run into any problems on the road. I call two hours later telling them to go ahead and eat without me. I am traveling at an average of 20 mph.
At 10:15 pm. I arrive in Greenville. The streets are deserted and everything is covered with snow, except for the walkway which Fred has cleared for me. I call him, from my car phone, when I am a block away. He becomes a human lighthouse beckoning me with a flashlight. I do not have a sprained ankle, but my wrist is numb from gripping the steering wheel with such intensity. Fred helps me to the door, where Sherry greets me. He parks my car and fetches my luggage. Sherry offers me a cup of tea while she re-heats my dinner. Once again, I feel like royalty-a snow queen who is melting in the warmth of human kindness and embraced within the arms of another very special bed and breakfast inn.
For the next two days, I receive the same silver service treatment I received in Petersburg exactly one year before. When it is time to leave, Fred clears the walk, scrapes my windshield, and turns on the heater so the car will be warm for me. No tips are expected. The snow has stopped, and the ice is melting. I would be home in a few hours. With farewell hugs and expressions of gratitude, I'm on the road again. An hour later, a new storm blows in. When I hear the Interstate has been closed by the State Patrol, I start looking for a place to spend the night. At this point, all I want is a warm bed. Electricity would be a welcomed treat, but it is no time for being choosey or expecting favors.
At my fourth stop, I hear good news through the bars separating me from The Budget Motel clerk.. "We have one room left, but it is ver-r-r-y small. Look at it before you decide."
"Does it have a bed, heat, and a lock on the door?" I ask.
"Yes," he responds, with a heavy accent.
"I'll take it. Do you have corporate rates?"
"It's thirty-five dollars flat, ma'am-one hour or one night with tax included. Thirty-five cents for local calls."
Five minutes later I slosh into a bedchamber more unique than any bed and breakfast inn I have ever stayed at. It has a bed, heat, a paper bath mat, and a partial lock on the door. But, listen up, it has more! Yes, indeed. It has a mirrored wall, adjacent to the bed, and a purple neon light above the bed. I know I'm about to have a psychedelic experience!
Why do I love B & B inns? Certainly I relish their uniqueness, aesthetic qualities, amenities, and pampering. But the inns which inevitably become my favorites, attain that status because of the innkeepers-the human qualities imparted at their inns. Are the experiences I've related unusual? I do not think so; I could have related dozens more experienced by me and others. From stories shared with me by innkeepers, their repertoire of special stories is equally heart-warming, amusing, memorable.
It takes more than a fuchsia light, over a bed, and a heater to provide the special comfort zone most individuals desire when away from home. I consistently find that warmth and sense of well-being at B & Binns.
Maxine Pinson is the publisher/editor of The INNside Scoop, a quarterly B & B newsletter which may be accessed or subscribed to at: www.the-innside-scoop.com. Former Market Guide commentaries are at: http://www.the-innside-scoop.com/Backissues.html. Maxine lives in historic Savannah-Georgia's "Bed & Breakfast Capital and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.