I’ve been working for Juniper Springs Resort for over a month now as facility maintenance for the hotel. I do everything from explain to guests how to use the DirecTV remote, to swap out busted appliances with functional ones, all while maintaining some sort of a friendly, playful persona for all of those who have come to this town for an enjoyable vacation experience. I have had many friends throughout the years who have worked in the service industry. Most (if not all) of them have, at some point or another, voiced their opinions on the difficulties of working in the service industry. When I hired on with this job, I was fully prepared to tackle whatever challenges I incurred from the guests while here.
I took this job for multiple reasons. Firstly, it allowed me a season pass to Mammoth and June mountains. Snowboarding isn’t my number one passion, but it is something that I have enjoyed for well over a decade. I picked a good year to be a snowboard bum since the seasonal snowfall this year in Mammoth has broken the historical record, and we are only halfway through the season. I picked this job because I wanted a job where a closer connection with “the customer” was available; it feels much better to work as hard as possible when I can see the results, which in this case is solving a problem so that someone else can enjoy their vacation relatively hassle-free. I’m also doing this job because it is offering me the opportunity to spend ample time with Morgean. Morgean and I have created some wonderful experiences on our shared days off, snowboarding in feet of powder on untouched lines and bouldering on world-class rocks in Bishop, among other things.
When I started this job, I was prepared to deal with disgruntled guests. What I haven’t been prepared for is the manner that the hotel operates behind the scenes. On the surface, this is a four star resort. There is luxury creatively written on every pillar in the lobby, in every bathroom shower, and in each of the three outdoor jacuzzis and heated pool. But that luxury quickly fades away when a simple issue such as a broken shower head in the morning is still an issue after returning from a day of skiing, hoping for the relaxation of a nice, hot shower. Or maybe you need a TV to fall asleep, but your room doesn’t have the coaxial cables wired to the wall jacks properly, meaning there is no TV for you this evening. Or the next one, or any of the nights that you’re staying here.
Like I said earlier, this season now holds the record for seasonal snowfall in Mammoth Lakes. Since mid January, this hotel has been booked to capacity every weekend. It will be booked to capacity every weekend to come until the end of March, and likely will continue to be booked solid even further into this year. Currently, I am the only maintenance employee responding to service calls on weekends, and I have the least experience out of the entire maintenance staff. I am quickly learning the job, but there are still many areas of expertise that I have not learned due to time constraints and a severe lack of training. A large part of my job has become explaining my situation to guests in order for them to adequately understand why I may not be able to fix something, or why something goes for an entire weekend without being addressed.
Some nights I get off of work and I want to throw in the towel. I think about following the path that others have laid by getting a job in the food service industry, where the pay compensates for the demanding nature of the job. I wake up the next day and keep trying though. I keep trying to find ways to improve the operations of my job as well as the functionality of this hotel. I keep doing it because of that connection that I build with the people who come here for a vacation. I do it for those moments when a person is elated after I show them how to use the TV, thanking me over and over as I make my way out of their room and on to the next. Last night was one of those nights.
I went into a room to help some guests get their DirecTV to work. While working on their TV, we casually chatted about their stay here, my job, and the TV issue. Food came up, and I mentioned a little mexican joint down the street that made some good stuff. I hadn’t even fixed their TV issue yet, and they offered to get me some food and bring it back to the hotel. It was somewhere around 1900. The last meal I ate was breakfast. I started work at 1100 and had been going nonstop since. Food had ceased to be a priority; taking a lunch break meant that I would be that much more behind on calls when I returned.
“Wow,” I began. “You’d really bring me some food? You have no idea how amazing that would be!”
“Of course!” The woman in the room replied. “You’re fixing our TV for us, and this is the least we can do for payback. But we prolly won’t be back for another hour or so… Is that all right?”
“Absolutely! I have no hope of making food anytime soon anyways!”
“How can we get it to you when we get back?”
“Just call the front desk and make up some silly maintenance call. Tell them that you can’t figure out how to get your fan to turn on or something.”
“Hahaha really? Okay!”
After they took off, I worked double time. I wanted to finish as many calls as possible before they returned. Around 2030, I got a call on the radio to go to their room for fan and lamp problems. I had surprisingly caught myself up on all the calls for that night. When I got to their room, they were sitting down at the dinner table. From our earlier interaction, I felt that they were an extremely easygoing group. Maybe I could eat with them.
“You guys said I was family. Does that mean I get to sit at the table and eat with you?”
Without hesitation, I was greeted with a resounding “yes!” I sat down for dinner with Donna, Ulysses, Justice, and Soraya. We spent the next thirty minutes or so talking over some great mexican food and sodas. They even brought one for me! They asked numerous questions about my journey, and we talked about various deeper things since we were given time to delve into the topics. The conversation and hospitality that they shared with me gave me the most wonderful feeling when we parted, reminding me yet again why I keep trying to do my best every night when I show up for this job.
The issues that this job presents, much like my trip out to California at the beginning of this year, are not what I expected them to be. I was fully prepared to tackle hostility of guests. But if I could do that and nothing else was challenging, then this job would grow stale. The challenges keep presenting themselves in ways that I will never be able to predict, and as long as I keep trying my best, the experience will be sprinkled with the most beautiful white snow of reward that life has the power to manifest.
I’m excited for this coming week. The crowds from the holidays will dissipate and a heavy storm moves in tonight. Monday and Tuesday are going to be covered in snowy fluff, and Wednesday will be a day that many seek to achieve yet rarely conquer: a vacant mountain resort with a ridiculous amount of untouched powder.