Hotel Staff Must Treat Guests Like Stupid Chickens
The Vagabond Journey family have now completed their tenure at the Finca Tatin, a hotel in the jungle of Guatemala. Three months of working with tourists have left me a little wobbly on the breed as a whole: who are these people and where do they come from? I once thought that humans were a sensible, self sufficient species, after tending to tourists for three months I have been forced to question the true extents of human intelligence.
I have meet some truly competent, gregarious guests during my time at the finca, I have also met the occasional stupid chicken.
From my occasional bouts of farm work around the world, there seems to be a tendency for chickens to be very intelligent animals:
The chicken knows how to fend for its self preservation.
But there is often one stupid chicken in every flock. It is a funny flip of nature: when a group of chickens are in danger, most of them get out of harm’s way in the most expedient way possible, but there is always one stupid chicken that runs right into the wolf’s mouth.
When working at the hotel in the jungle — which is more of a backpacker resort than just a hotel — I know that 95% of the guests will understand the parameters of staying on an obscure river in the Guatemala jungle, most will understand almost all that I tell them and “get it.”
But there is always that stray guests who runs straight into the wolf’s mouth, like a stupid chicken.
I check in guests at the Finca Tatin, and when I do I explain that they need to arrange their transportation away the night in advance of the day they want to go. I even go around and log what everybody wants to do after dinner. This works out well 99% of the time. But some guests don’t seem to comprehend that we are in the middle of a jungle and they cannot just walk outside and flag down a taxi. I must be sure that I speak very clearly and slowly so that they understand that they cannot just leave this place on a whim, that they must first schedule a boat in order to make a get away — and the boats only leave at certain times.
Today an ambivalent guest swaggered down from his room at 11 AM — an hour after check out time — he had his backpack in ready position, he made for the dock. “Where are you going?” I asked him. He said that he decided that he wanted to go to Livingston. The night before, he had no idea if he wanted to go, stay, or where he was even going. I told him that we need to know early in the morning if he wanted to leave, that the boat was leaving at 9:30.
At 11 AM, apparently, he revealed his plans.
It was two hours after the boat to Livingston departed.
He walked out to the dock and tried to get a boat. The fishermen and cayuco travelers all say that they could take him to Livingston — later. But the people of the jungle often have a difficult time saying no, and “yes” very often means its exact antithesis.
I obviously failed to make this guest realize that we are in the jungle and that transportation does not sprout on demand.
But I demanded anyway, I got him a boat, we took him to Livingston.
“My Coca Cola is not cold,” a Spanish woman complained at around 4:30 PM at the Finca Tatin.
I looked at her a little odd. “We don’t have electricity until 5:30,” I reminded her.
“But my Coca Cola is not cold!” she countered with a touch of scorn in her voice.
“We don’t have electricity until 5:30,” I repeated and then waited for my words to sink in. I watched as she computed that the refrigerator which she withdrew her Coca Cola from in fact runs on electrical power.
“Oh, the refrigerator doesn’t have electricity either?”
A guest at the Finca Tatin asked me if she could hang her wet clothing in a place where they would dry. She sounded sarcastic to me, she already knew where the clotheslines were and it was a bright sun shiny day.
I told her to hang her clothes on the clothes lines in the back of the Finca.
She said that she had already done this last night and when she woke up in the morning her clothes were not dry.
“It rained last night,” I reminded her.
“So you did not take your clothes down from the line when it was raining?”
“That is pretty stupid.”
I could not help vocalizing my analysis of the situation.
The phone rang at the Finca Tatin.
“How much does it cost to get to you from here?” spoke the voice on the other end.
“Where are you?”
“Is there a boat that leaves directly from the bus station in Rio Dulce to your hotel?”
“No, you have to walk to the dock first.”
The anecdotes go on. I received a good training in human silliness while working at the hotel in the jungle. I have worked in the hospitality industry before, but never this closely. I laughed a lot, I yelled a lot, I found myself exasperated, bored, amused, unamused. After 11 years of traveling it is remarkable how stupid tourism can make a person. A change of landscape and routine is often enough to jump start a tourist’s perceptional set.
I learned a lot working at the Finca Tatin. I learned that I am not cut out for the hospitality industry, even if that means that I just sit without a shirt on, with no shoes, and just a little pair of shorts on my body in the jungle wilderness of Guatemala swimming in the rivers, walking through the trails, and boating from place to place.
In the end, I only remember the Finca fondly, I remember the laughs. I remember the clients that I laughed with, the ones I laughed at, and I have already forgot the ones who frustrated me, those who angered me.
It is a good attribute of memory that the fondness of life sticks way more easily than the hardships. I often worked from 8 AM to 10 PM at the Finca, I nearly drove myself mad trying to care for my family, run this website, and deal with other people’s vacations. But when I try to think of the days where I was overworked and frustrated