Thomas packs ‘em in

She spoke just two words. Both broke my heart. It wasn’t what she said or how she said them. It was the impact I knew they had on her father.
I was working the front desk of a hotel in Boone today. The place was packed. No vacancy. The primary reason – Thomas the Train. He’s in town over at Tweetsie Railroad. Imagine the fanaticism that surrounds the World Cup, and bring it to an elementary level in a small mountain town. That’s what the white facade annually brings to Tweetsie. It’s the Beatles for three-year-olds.

All day long people walked through our automatic doors hoping for a room, only to leave with less than what they carried in. Not only did we tell them that we had no room, but we told them no one else did either. Boone was booked. If you came with no reservations, you were resigned to a very long night on the road.

Only once did delivering the news bring regrets. A father came in carring his sweet little girl. I guess she was three, with cute pink ribbions in her pigtails which matched her pretty dress. She was a cutie.

Dad comes up to the desk and puts her down. He exhales, bends back up to face us and says wearily, “Hello. I’d like to get a room for the night please.”

“We’re sold out sir,” was our reply. “There’s no vacancy anywhere in town.”

We could’ve told him his dog just died and I doubt he’d have looked any more disappointed. “You’re joking.”

“W’re sorry, sir.”

He half-heartedly waved and said “Thank you anyway.” He then bent with some exertion and picked up his daughter. As he turned to leave I heard her say, in a voice as soft as the ribbons in her hair, “Where’s Thomas?”

It was like hearing a puppy whine softly at the animal shelter. Thomas was all this sweet girl probably thought about since the moment daddy said they were going to see him. She was probably a bundle of nervous energy all the way up from wherever they came. Dad was probably just as excited at first, but then worn down a bit from the drive. He saw our hotel and probably had himself checked in and headed for a relaxing dip in the pool even before he left his vehicle to come inside.

Instead he was leaving with a daughter wondering aloud where was Thomas, while he was wondering silently, “Where the hell are we going to stay tonight?”

Maybe it’s the dad in me bonding with this dad, or at least his prediciment. I’ve been there and sadly suffered that. I felt for him.

This post really has no point other than to lament that sometimes what seems like a fun family trip can turn into a nightmare of shaking heads. It’s always better to call ahead.


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