Four and a half of my eleven years in Savannah, GA were spent manning the front desk of the Eliza Thompson House between 3-11 p.m. on weekdays. That red front door was a doorway onto the world that I remember fondly. I never knew who was going to walk in or what adventures could be lived vicariously while sitting in the house’s front parlor.
It helped make talking much easier. Having to answer the phone and have conversations with folks from across the country and the world that made it easier to speak without fear of stuttering. There are folks that say they’re waiting to leave a message when they realize that it’s actually me talking to them live. I could easily write posts about the people I got to meet over the years and what I learned in the process.
There were a lot of famous people though I only sought one autograph from a person during that entire period; that water-damaged copy of The President’s Daughter is one that I enjoyed reading tremendously.
There were politicians, humanitarians, university department chairs, law enforcement officers and planners. There was the doctor who came in once a month to do surgery and the pharaceutical representative from the West Coast who always talked about driving her convertible with the top down. There was the couple who came to town every year to sail overseas on a container ship when I could here about the previous year’s journey and the numerous couples who came to town to see if they could live there. There were the high school seniors who visited Savannah to see if SCAD was the place for them and the parents who timidly hoped that life would be OK afterwards.
I remember watching horse-drawn carriages along Jones Street on Christmas Eve and trying to get over to City Market to eat dinner before the kitchens closed for the holiday and some memories that will never fade away.
This time of year brings one particular memory to mind.
I’d had a fairly busy Monday at the inn, including a long conversation with a woman from Japan who had always wanted to visit Savannah. I’d walked her through the process of reserving the room and she was excited about how much fun she and her husband were going to have when they visited in November. We got to talk about all of the landmarks she wanted to see and all of the things she wanted to do.
The next day’s events made going to work difficult, but necessary. I only received two phone calls the entire day from the front desk – one from my brother letting me know he was OK. That call came after the other one – from the woman in Japan cancelling her reservation even though she really didn’t want to.
She stayed on the phone a little longer than most who called to cancel rooms normally, but I understood why. That desk and that phone had been my door to the world for a long time and it was made comforted me the most over time.
A whirlwind of events occurred two weeks later that led to me getting a promotion and no longer being behind that front desk. There are times today that I figure I’d still be behind that desk, or something like it, save for the fact that I was tired of seeing the world through one red door. For some reason I began to believe that I couldn’t live life fast enough despite living in a city that made it easy to take it slower and to enjoy it.
I’ve learned a frew lessons since then, including the fact that as much as I believe that you’ve got to get busy living or get busy dying, sometimes it’s nice to think about life through one red door. That said, there are times when folks are looking at things the same way that you are. Perspective can be seen by some as a dirty word, but it’s something that should always be considered. That desk gave me a perspective that I will always have as I take advantage of trips and relationships I’ve enjoyed across the country. And as much as I’ve benefited from what that decision to leave that desk gave me in terms of experience, there are days when I do miss traveling the world through the eyes and ears of others while sitting around talking.
Today is one of those days that I miss it the most.
In this age of instant communication, what is your window on the world? Or is there something else that you’d wish was that window?