Friday, July 25, 2014

Like Coming Home

I’ve been with Bank of America for too many years to count, and for many of those years, I’ve been traveling to Charlotte.  These days, I only get there a few times a year, but back in the day—mostly in the late 90s and early 2000s—I was there what seemed like every other week.  Back then, most of my Charlotte team mates worked in an office building right across from a Doubletree Hotel, so that’s where I typically stayed. The Doubletree is the only place I’ve ever stayed where the staff recognized me and knew my name.

The office I visit now is located a few miles up the road, and I try to stay at hotels within walking distance. When the more convenient hotels were booked up this week, I was happy to return to the Doubletree. Even though it had been over a year since my last stay, a server in the restaurant asked me where I’d been and how I was.  Something even more special occurred, as I returned to the hotel one evening.  I walked in, and a friendly gentleman behind the desk greeted me and asked how my day had been.  He looked strangely familiar.  Later when I went down to the restaurant for dinner, he came through a few times, and I kept thinking, “Could it be?”

“Could he be the same person who worked the front desk back when I was here so often?”  I stopped by the front desk and said, “I know this is a strange question, but did you work here in the early 2000s?”  Sure enough, he did!  And he felt as though I looked familiar too.  He reminded me that his hotel job had been his first job out of college and told me he’d gone on to work for a few banks in town, but like so many bankers, had been laid off and so returned to the hotel.  When I told him that I recalled how friendly he’d always been and how he’d say, “Good evening Miz Penn” when I walked in the door, he exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, you’re Miz Penn! I’ve got to have a hug.”  And then he surprised me even more when he said, “And you were always here with that tall blonde lady!”  Now, that’s a great example of “knowing your customer.” 

Indeed, I was very often there with a good friend and co-worker, and he always enthusiastically greeted us both.  When you consider I’m 5’3”, and Stephie’s 5’9”, I guess we did make quite an impression—the short brunette and the tall blonde.

I smiled all the way to my room and called and left "the tall blonde" a message about the encounter. Her email reply the next day let me know that the phone call brought back all kinds of memories and made her chuckle.  She had the same reaction I did--that it was hard to believe he remembered us after all these years. 

You know, I’m smiling even as I type this, and as inconvenient as the Doubletree is these days, I almost want to stay there next time I head to Charlotte. Somehow, it always seems like coming home.