Since my friends Bill and Angie Rapant, owners of the Cape Pines Motel on the Outer Banks, were good enough to take me in when I was essentially ‘homeless,’ I decided to pitch in and help them during their busiest week of the year. Although I offered to clean rooms or man the front desk, they decided I was best qualified to do the laundry. Angie briefly showed me how to operate their various washers and dryers and then left me to fend for myself.
The room attendants began delivering dirty laundry around 9:30 a.m. as guests checked out or left for the day. I examined each of the bath towels, hand towels, washcloths, and sheets for stains that needed to be treated with special spot removers before loading the big commercial front-loader, and then waited for the pre-soak cycle to finish before adding the detergent. When the load was done, I divided the clean towels and sheets between three dryers, setting the timer on 40 minutes for loads of towels and 30 minutes for loads of sheets. So far so good. I figured this would be a piece of cake.
By 10 a.m., the volume of dirty laundry began to mount. No problem. I was on top of it. I put the second washing machine to work and started folding the now clean piles of towels and sheets. Let’s see…the bath towels are folded in half, then in thirds. The bath mats and washcloths are folded in half once, and then in half again. The hand towels are folded in half lengthwise and then quartered. I was tremendously focused on the task at hand; no grass was growing under my feet. Oops! Forgot to put the detergent in the commercial washer after the pre-soak cycle. Well, it’s just a few minutes late; I’ll add it now.
I again unloaded the washers and turned around looking for more dirty laundry. Whoa! The three giant plastic tubs behind me were overflowing. Where did all that come from? The cleaners must have sneaked in while my back was turned. These latest towels were heavily soiled. Every third washcloth was stained with mascara. Some bath mats were black, as if they had been wet down and used to wipe off filthy feet. Towels contained a variety of stains; some seem to have been used to clean barbeque grills, while others appeared to be spotted with blood. When I applied the stain remover, some of the spots turned bright yellow, which is apparently an indication of bodily fluids. I don’t even want to THINK about WHICH bodily fluids.
What is WRONG with people? Do women wipe their mascara off on their towels at home? Would parents allow their children to use a good bath towel to sop up spaghetti sauce at home? If not, why would they allow such behavior in a motel? Never mind – back to the task at hand.
I spotted, loaded, unloaded, folded, and stacked for hours. My feet hurt and my back ached. At 5 p.m., there were still several loads to go and I was absolutely out of steam. Fortunately, Angie insisted I take a break and we sat down for a quick meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and watermelon. Unfortunately, once I stopped I was done for; I am ashamed to say that Bill finished the last few loads. The most horrifying thought is that we must do it all over again tomorrow.
I sold this motel to Bill and Angie when I was still working as a real estate agent. Back then, I specialized in commercial property, specifically targeting the listing and selling of motels and hotels. Little did I realize the amount of work that goes into running a motel. With only five hours, at most, between check-out and check-in, the business must be run like a finely choreographed dance. I must say that from this moment on, I will have a a much greater appreciation for the owners and employees of smaller mom and pop motels. And frankly, it’s a really good thing I’d never spent a single day working in the hospitality industry prior to selling this business to Bill and Angie. Now, if a couple walked into my office and told me they wanted to buy a motel, I’m afraid the first words out of my mouth would be, “Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?”