Okay, I know it’s a Southern cocktail party staple, but I got 8 boxes of cheese straws. And I am thankful for them. In fact, I probably would’ve chosen the same thing for a hostess gift. Cheese straws are a whole other food group in the South, right after dairy and fried. And actually, it is dairy AND fried. No wonder.
Okay. Now I’m a little nervous. I’m at the point now where I am actually sort of dreaming of the stuff I have to get done for the Christmas tour. My subconscious obviously knows I need to get on with it. And I have done a lot of mantles. But, the greenery seems a little wilty and I am considering pulling it all down and replacing it with cedar, (which I should have used to begin with). I have done the Christmas tree. It looks great.
The Christmas tour is 5 days away.
The AAA inspector comes roughly, the same time every year. And it is always a little nerve-wracking, whether we were trying to get our 4 diamonds, or trying to hold onto them.
It was one such attempt, a AAA inspection, around 1998, that I’ll never forget. We’d finished serving all our guests breakfast and one man was left, sitting at the table. He was offered the twelfth cup of coffee, he refused, went to his room, (all part of the ruse), and then returned 20 minutes later.
“I’m from AAA,” he says, thumbing his card onto the table.
“Oh, so nice to meet you,” I reply. I’m thinking, I should have known. None of our real guests would have asked for jelly on their pancakes but I smile, hopefully conveying the calm of a genuine, hospitable host.
He has his official nondescript black plastic/faux leather folio and his ink pen, which he snaps into service, simultaneously smoothing down his abnormally long moustache and clearing his throat. His tie almost is choking his neck and his pants a tad short.
“Please sit down.” I offer the dining room table.
“Thank you”, he manages. I can tell that he’s been to a lot of Holiday Inns, that he actually prefers them, and that he has been yelled at, a lot. It’s not easy telling someone they can’t have 4 diamonds, again.
About this time, the office door opens. I am facing the door, the inspector’s back is to it. Out walk my two maids. Now, I should preface this whole chain of events with the fact that during the “inspection season”, I made sure all areas were in tip top shape. And I had many, many meetings with the staff, to impress upon them that they would be miserable, if they didn’t take it seriously. This meant wearing their uniforms, without fail, which they hated, beacuse they were black dresses with frilly white aprons. “Is it okay if we wear pants sometime?”
“Is it okay if we wear pants sometime?”, Kay had asked.
And I replied, “Sure, as long as they match. I’ll see if I can find some uniforms with pants.”
So this particular morning, I’m sitting there and the office door opens and I’m chatting up the inspector. And Mattie and Kay walk out, just having arrived for work. They are both wearing “matching uniforms”. They consist of black pants and bright pink t-shirts. On the front of each is a big cartoon Mercedes and a cartoon African American woman, wearing a bikini, surrounded by dollar signs and in quotations, “I can’t stand No Broke Ass Man”, in BIG letters. Big PURPLE letters. They’d gone to Little Joe’s Liquor Store and Clothing shop and purchased “uniforms”, with pants.
They paused, right behind the inspector, who is consternated over his moustache and his folio. And they waited.
Mattie and Kay are beaming, obviously proud of the matching ensembles. Kay’s right hand rests on the back of the inspector’s chair, a white unbrella hanging from her wrist. Mattie’s arms are crossed at her waist, just a dollar sign and a big bouffant hairdo visible across her chest.
I consider knocking the leftover scones into floor to create a diversion. “Oh, ya’ll can start in the kitchen!” They turn, a little disappointed, I can sense because I hadn’t mentioned their matching shirts.
“So, did we make 4 diamonds?” I ask the inspector after they left, with the most sparkly, sparkle, upbeat innkeeper voice I could muster.
“”Not quite.” He’s staring at his plastic black thing and I’m looking at the top of his skinny, already thinning head, bent over to avoid my eye.
“Well, it seems that you have a chandelier in the cottage that some of my inspectors would find, well, sub par”.
“That is an antique. It has been in my husband’s family for four generations.”
“Well the AAA guidebook inspections code requires all light fixtures to have been purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot , Sears, or likewise similar faux home store, and must be comprised of faux brass or faux copper and installed in the last 12 months.”
“And, at turn down, you placed the pillows facing up, not out.” He scratched his head with his pen.
“It says, ‘turn the pillows up’ ‘” I say. “Yes, that means down,” he says, writing in his black plastic faux piece of propaganda.
“The pillows must be down. On the bed.”
“Okay, I see,” I said. “Well, there’s always next year, I guess. Any advice?” I offered him a scone, which he took and dribbled crumbs on my “assessment”.
“Just change that light fixture out and you’re pretty much there, and oh, the pillows, and oh yeah, next year, all bathrooms have to have marble floors and countertops”, he mentions.
“But they didn’t use that stuff in 1870, this hexagon tile is perfectly appropriate and it seems so wasteful…,” I say.
“Well, you know those big chains, they set the standard. Marble baths used to be considered 5 star. Now it’s standard, even for 3 diamond.” He rocks back on his heels, one hand in his polyester pocket. “Even Embassy Suites have marble now”.
As he gave me a copy of the year’s inspection, I noticed 2-3 crumbs of Lemon-Ginger Scone, half hidden, like so many diamonds, in his red-brown moustache . And we said goodbye, until next year.