At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
I wasn’t feeling all that …special…when I walked into the lobby of Atlanta’s South Drury Inn. Nicely dressed travelers filled the lobby sipping drinks and snacking. I straggled up to the desk wearing 2nd day sweatpants and road crazy eyes. I looked like a hollow-eyed survivor from a post apocalypse movie.
But at the desk, Teagan was expecting me. She knew who I was and greeted me with a big smile.
30 minutes earlier we were on the road at the end of the second day of our annual snowbird flight to Florida.
We almost didn’t get a room.
Our GPS shows us hotels nearby. You can even search by name. (as you careen through Atlanta at rush hour) But they are nearby as the crow flies, not necessarily on your route. Once I finally found one that was on our route, I called ahead.
The voice on the other end of the line…the voice that belonged to Tegan…sounded friendly, kind. It was midweek so I didn’t expect it to be full, but there was only ONE room left. If I was only so-so about staying there before, now I had to have that room. “Hold on” she told me.”I’m gonna grab that last room for you before someone else gets it.” She had my back.
I felt cared about.
20 some hours into this trip and 10 or so left, 1143.94 miles down, 591.23 to go. Not that I was keeping track.
Being in Florida for the winter is awesome, getting there from Minnesota with an old dog, two cats, two antique bicycles and the business office in the truck is not awesome.
It’s better than it once was. At one time there were 3 dogs, two cats, and a chameleon in 1987 Winnebago dragging a jeep with a 200 pound antique buffet wedged in it. The office is almost virtual now and the chameleon went to live with someone she actually likes. The load is lighter, but its still 30 hours of drive time.
I fled Minnesota early this year, right before the first big snow, which was also early. I came early partially because our dog, Nimble Minx, got vertigo. I was carrying her up and down the stairs…oh say…6 times a day. We have no steps in Florida. Especially no steps coated in “wintery mix.” Seemed like a no brainer. Except now it’s travel with a DIZZY old dog, two cats….
I love a road trip, but not this one. Can’t get out much with the “crew” in the car. So it’s 3 days of drive through eating. I think whatever they put in that stuff adds to the road crazies.
Then there are the hotels. Usually we go with a Motel X (name changed) They allow dogs, cats, any size, any number. Chameleon? That’s fine. Elephant? Sure, as long as he’s quiet. But you pay. I don’t mean money because they are cheap. But you never know what you are going to get. Or not get. The carpets are sticky. There was no heat once. No extras…no shampoo and conditioner. Certainly no warm greetings on arrival. No one’s got your back.
My mother and her twin (the moms) live in Florida, and come to Minnesota in the summer. They have cats. They are much more choosy about their accommodations than we are. Their trips are meticulously planned. Researched down the price of gas, the bedbug population by county, which McDonalds has the dipped cones, and where the Drury Inns are. Especially where the Drury Inns are.
Drury is where the extras aren’t extra. Drury allows pets. For free. I don’t think they go for chameleons or elephants, but this might be a good thing. On and on and on, I have heard from the moms that we should stay at the Drury. “The rooms are so nice,” they say. “So clean. They have free long distance, they have free WiFi, they have free popcorn and pop in the lobby, they have DELICIOUS hot breakfast and they have KICKBACK!”
What is Kickback you ask? What could fill these 76 year old ladies with enough enthusiasm to plan all their trips around a certain hotel? Kickback is free hot food and cold drinks. And, yes, my friends, those could be adult drinks.
These girls don’t even drink. But I do. So I get it. A cold one and some chow right there? At the hotel? After 10+ hours in the car, dragging in litter boxes and pets; the last thing you want to do is go out hunting dinner. But Kickback is over at 7pm. We don’t stop until way past then. So we usually drink warm beer in our room and for dinner? More fast food. And while I love a good breakfast, a lot of hotels offer breakfast, right? It’s not that good. But it’s free and it’s there.
So we never stopped. Until this time.
Not sure why this time was different. Maybe it was because we were going to Florida early and treating it as a bit of a vacation. Maybe we braved Atlanta traffic and not only survived, but are still married, and were rewarding ourselves.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad we finally stayed at a Drury. Very glad.
Tegan checked us in, but we were too late for KICKBACK. It didn’t matter. We got a nice big clean room. The moms didn’t lie. And the extras that aren’t extra? I guess it’s the small things, but the Juniper infused shampoo and verbena body wash almost brought tears to my eyes. It was spa like.
I felt taken care of.
Rollo ran out for dinner and came back with wings. Ok, I know that’s still sorta kinda fast food. But I love wings. From Wingnuts. I felt really taken care of.
We went to sleep with a happy bellies in a clean cool room.
But that was just the beginning.
In the morning, we stumbled down the hall as yet coffee-less. We were greeted with a a huge good morning. “C’mon in, C’mon in, get some food. Come see what we have.” She fairly sang it. Like we were long lost cousins she was proud to cook grandmas secret recipes for.
She was wide eyed-with the biggest smile you ever saw.
She’s been up awhile, I thought. ” I want whatever SHE had this morning! ” I whispered to Rollo.
It was Tequilla.
That’s her name, not what she had for breakfast. But whatever she had, they should put it in the water at all hotels. Or in the municipal water supply. We know nice. Big fake smile, lets do lunch, air kisses, icy Minnesota nice. But this was big old warm family style southern nice.
I felt a little too comfortable, I guess. I started telling Tequilla more or less my life story ending up with the moms recommending the Drury and missing Kickback by minutes the night before. She seemed to take that personally. She told us we should have called ahead and she would have saved us a plate.
What?! Save us a plate? By now I knew we would always stay at this Drury.
I met the other “breakfast lady” Renae, every bit as nice. I asked her about herself and working at Drury. She said she loved people and customer service and had been told “She never met a stranger”. Amen to that.
I felt like family.
By now I was ready to join the staff and start serving breakfast just to hang out with these two.
Other guests started stumbling in. This was a fancy brunch crossed with a trip to grandma’s house.
There were eggs, sausage gravy, big fluffy warm biscuits, fried potatoes, pastries, juices, waffles…Did I say big fluffy warm biscuits? Renae and Tequilla were getting things for people. Serving them. Very Unlike any hotel breakfast buffet I’ve ever been too. I heard one say “You want hot sauce? You sit and eat..don’t you let that breakfast get cold. I got it.”
There were kids on their way to school. Renae asked them about their classes. There was a woman in fleecy penguin onesie PJs. Some breafasters were getting hugs. I wanted one.
Everyone felt special.
Writing this, I found out Drury Inn is a 100% family owned and operated business. They should be very proud.
**This image from their website might also help explain their pet policy!