Unlearning Assumptions

Written by Michael Wilson //

The idea of justice appeals to me. As a hotel manager, I have faced problematic behavior every day and would love to dole out the proper punishment.

Each day, my two jobs, both in a hotel lobby environment, put me in the frontlines of guest interaction. Trying to make ends meet in a rural, tourist destination brought me to back-to-back shifts on two separate properties, four days a week, six in the morning to midnight, and my patience was wearing thin.

I was a supervisor at one job and a desk agent at the second, but it seems that my managerial demeanor allows my co-workers to let me take the difficult guests at job number two without guilt.

In they came, a multi-townhouse booking. These families reserved last minute, every week for the last month. They booked through an online third party, with different names on the reservations each time so we have no way to know they travel together. Each of my fellow deskers slowly creep away from the area, leaving me to tend the oncoming group.

They were of Middle Eastern descent and came into the lobby with a noise level that made doing business with phones or other guests almost impossible. Fathers, mothers, children all spoke at the top of their lungs to each other. The reservations showed two adults per unit, but there were easily twenty-five people in this group, which, from an hotelier’s viewpoint, is very frustrating.

They needed side-by-side townhouses at 9:00 p.m. on a sold out weekend, cots (which this property did not have), and cribs (which it did). They knew this from every other visit in the past month, yet they asked again, as if this time things will be different. They talked so loudly amongst themselves that they could not hear my answers to their questions.

I was tired and cranky, hungry and in arthritic pain from twelve plus hours on my feet and they would not listen!

It was difficult to keep my calm. I became terse. Not rude, but less than friendly, which is the cardinal sin in the hospitality field. I was left to deal with the whole group by co-workers that didn’t want to ‘deal with them’.

There had been talk of this group, because they are foreign, because they spend lots of money on these weekends, because the men quite plainly do not speak to our female employees the same way they do to the male. There are preconceived notions, prejudices and wariness on both sides of my desktop.

And despite my weariness, I came to realize that it was a ‘moment’, a time to both learn from another culture and teach my co-workers how to be better.

I thought of justice as a former cop did: bad behavior ought to be punished. This is a bedrock principle of law. And they were badly behaved.

There are other definitions.

To do justice means to act or treat justly or fairly, to appreciate properly or to acquit in accordance with one’s abilities.

That was not what my co-workers and I had done. We looked at languages and skin tones and failed to treat these people fairly or appreciate their circumstances. They were in a foreign land with a new language and who knows how others treated them before us.

One guest and I struggled with communication over the registration form, which required a license plate number. He went back to his rental car and took a picture of the numbers. As he returned and scribbled them down, I saw the picture of the plate. It was from Wyoming.

With a deadpan face, I said, “You have to draw the picture too please.”

His jaw dropped as he looked down at the picture of the cowboy atop the bucking horse that lies between the numbers of that state’s registration.

He looked up at me in shock, sure that he must have misunderstood me.

Slowly, I let a smile creep onto my face and shook my head ’no’.

A huge grin spread across his face as he realized that I had gotten him.

He laughed and relaxed, as did I. We finished the check-in process. He took charge of the group, settled them down and helped them finish their paperwork. It made the whole night better.

My hiding co-workers could see and hear the difference in the rest of our transactions and asked me,  “What happened? How did you get them to settle down?”

We had a ‘moment’ that turned into a shared mirth. I had the ability to ‘do him justice’, treated him justly and fairly, and it made a difference.

The next week, in they came, straight to me. The same gentleman grinned at me and nudged his friend’s elbow. He passed the joke on to his buddy’s dismay.

“You have to draw the horse!” final-grey


Michael R. Wilson is: Husband, Father, Hotelier of 19 years and Wordsmith! He has self-published two Fantasy novels called Huntsman and Dagger. These are the first two books of a series called The Hunted Mage Trilogy.


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