I try to be cognizant of the three-day rule when I am a guest, whether I'm visiting with friends or family. After three days, fish or guest, one stinks. One notices the speculative eyeball, "When do you think she'll leave?"
There is a slight difference when one is a paying guest, such as I am at the hotel in Hot Springs where I spend hours each day soaking in steaming pools, sleeping, reading and healing. Just this morning when I was warming a chair in front of the fireplace, a young man who works here, Willy I believe his name is, asked, "You still here?"
The day I arrived I committed to three days. One or two would not be enough so surely three would be perfect. However, the second day I found myself thinking about leaving and a mild state of panic set in. Not real panic but pseudo-panic, which feels the same. So I added another day. Then I asked for yet another day, or maybe two — no, let me see the calendar. So will my room be available for another week? Aw, let's just run my stay through a full two weeks.
So the first three days I am indeed a guest, rather pampered with my needs catered to by the cheerful staff.
Day 4 segues into an interesting blend of being a guest and being family. Definitely, I am family the rest of the first week. I help myself to coffee. I know where the pot sits on the burner beneath the coffee maker. When I need fresh towels, I know which staff is doing house-keeping this day. Silverware is wrapped comfy in a roomy napkin in the basket on the table around the corner. I helped a guest get some this morning at breakfast.
Now and then, someone checks to see if I need anything. But mostly we have short conversations. They know my name. I am getting to know them.
And like with any blended family, tasks are shared. The woman taking reservations might also be waiting tables in the dining room, two phones stuffed inside her apron pockets.
The maintenance man doubles as the breakfast chef. Job descriptions at the hotel must be either a nightmare of paperwork or everyone simply signs up to do whatever task needs doing. See what I mean — family.
After the first week I feel like furniture, quite comfortable perched in my corner, ignored by everyone. Any day now I expect to be dusted as “house-keeping” makes the rounds, especially if I've already been to the hot pool and am sitting immobile in my favorite chair before the fire, seemingly comatose but actually in perfect imitation of a Zen meditative state.
I will leave eventually, honestly, I will. Saturday I will be on my way to Washington, happy to have use of my phone once more. Oh, dear, the maintenance man is coming my way with two light bulbs and a lampshade. Oh, dear, do you suppose ... .
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little diffeent. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)