Marissa Explains It All #9 – Hotel Life During the Quarantine

A few weeks ago, I was preparing for the football season, nearly done with my final full semester of grad school, visiting the zoo regularly, planning on various travel, anticipating my March Madness bracket, and excited for the tundra to finally melt and give us those glorious few weeks of a Minnesota summer.

Seems like another lifetime.

My life has changed dramatically, as my partner has moved in and I, like so many others, have changed their routine. For an autistic person, this is not an easy accomplishment. But what remains the same are my hours at the hotel, though that’s about the only thing familiar there at this point.

I of course acknowledge that I’m lucky as far as hotels go in that sense. I believe the staff has been reduced to eight people including the GM at this point. Most people have been let go or furloughed, but the fact that nobody wants to work the night shift means that I’m not likely to see any alterations to the schedule.

But holy shit is it isolating right now.

I watched as the number of rooms occupied went down. 32, 25, 16… We still had breakfast going, albeit altered to help comply with food regulations. Then one day I came in and all the furniture that wasn’t built into the floor in the lobby was gone. No chairs, no stools, only the sofas. Then the carpet was stripped out. Then the breakfast people told me it was their last day.

I came in after my days off to find the grand total of occupied rooms was… 3.

Night audit shifts are usually quiet, which is why I prefer them, but this is an eerie, uncomfortable silence. For two straight shifts, I didn’t see a single person. Our front door is permanently locked to avoid non-customers even coming inside. Running the audit is practically pointless because there’s nearly nothing to add up. Only two or three cars are in the parking lot. When I stand outside, maybe one window is lit up.

The breakfast food has been completely removed. The coffee is still technically there, but there’s no one for whom to brew it anyway, and even if there was, I’d have to go in the back to brew it and bring them a cup because it minimizes a common area. My supervisor was the one whose shift I replaced, and the GM has been the one relieving me in the morning. For most of the day, only one person is working at a time. No breakfast people coming in at 5. Maybe one housekeeper to change over a room. It’s bizarre.

I’ve played a lot of pool. There’s a pool table in the lobby and it passes the time. There are several TVs, but overnight TV with limited options doesn’t often bear much fruit.

I can’t stand overhead Muzak as it is, because I still have yet to understand why literally every public space has to have the same shitty adult contemporary playlist on repeat, but keeping it on with nobody there would be haunting. It’s bad enough hearing no sound throughout the hotel without adding in the withering waves of safe music bouncing through the halls.

The other day I was so shocked to see an actual person that I had to remind myself how to use the keymaker to give them a room.

Here’s an abridged tour of what my night is like:

A conversation before I left my most recent shift with my GM revealed to me that I would be considered an “essential” employee if Governor Walz added our state to the shelter-in-place list. I now have a list from the DHS should I be pulled over traveling, which is good since Governor Walz has issued the order to take place before my next shift. I also learned that even if the hotel did shut down, someone still has to be there 24/7, so my hours in a closed hotel would still remain the same, except I’d be an official babysitter instead of a glorified one. At least this way I’d know for sure I wouldn’t be seeing any people.

It’s a bizarre time, for sure. Hotels aren’t brought up in any of the essential/non-essential lists I’ve seen, but I understand that some may be commandeered for hospital space. For now, I’ll be defeating myself at 8-Ball while I occasionally check the TV guide to see if anything I can tolerate is on. Otherwise, I’ll be catching up on all my podcast subscriptions while hoping people are doing the same for the 3 I create.

But it’s weird to be more isolated and quarantined at my job than it is at home. At home, my house has three to four other people in it. At work, I see the second shift person at 11pm, and the third shift person at 7am, and most likely no one in between.