No Vacancies

‘Table seven wants two lamb cutlets, a prawn salad and a chicken tikka; table nineteen’s complaining about dirty cutlery; the couple on table three have changed their minds again and now want the melon starters; and table twenty six have ordered a bottle of Burgundy!’

The waiter was calling across the general noise of the kitchen, where the six chefs were working hard, trying to supply all the food orders that had been taken in the last few minutes. They were sweating and frantically running about with scalding pots of gravy, custard, clear soup, cooking oil, frying pans, bottles of cooking sherry and trays of roasted vegetables.

I can tell you, it’s a busy life working in a hotel. It’s like that novelty act where the bloke keeps plates spinning on sticks. Add it up for yourself: the chefs; the waiters serving food; reception staff checking people in; bar staff serving drinks; chambermaids changing bedclothes and preparing rooms. Then there’s the staff preparing the banqueting suite and the ballroom for the jollifications later tonight; the bellboys and lift attendants. The reservations manager is not a popular man tonight due to slight overbooking; and the conference manager is overstretched as well.

Can’t complain, you know. It’s great for business that ECA has called for this census and that the place is suddenly flooded with people wanting to book rooms. You’d be surprised how few make reservations: they just seem to think that turning up on the off-chance is good enough. We’ve had to turn away quite a few people.

There was a party of six members of the Jericho Tentmakers Association, a dozen or more from the Capernaum Carpet Cleaning Company and a family who’d traveled all the way from Tyre. They were exhausted!

Had to suggest they go elsewhere. Fully booked - over-booked in fact. That’s the hotel business for you. One week you’ve got ten guests rattling round the place, and the next you’re heaving and having to send people up the road to the Jolly Rabbi or over the bridge to Goliath’s Head or out by the river at The Red Lion of Judah. I don’t feel right about sending anyone to the Pig & Whistle - at least, not Jewish folks.

Take that family that turned up unannounced at about 9 o’clock. The man begged me for a place to stay since his wife (or so her called her) was about to give birth. I took pity on him in the end and sorted out a Z-bed for them in the garage. I knew they would be okay in the Assistant Manager’s parking bay, because he’s had to go to Kadesh-Barnea to register for the census himself.

I looked in on the couple a few minutes ago, and she was right in the middle of giving birth! I quickly phoned for a midwife, and left them to it. I couldn’t get involved, you know, because it would have taken too much time, and that’s something of which I’ve got not a lot.

So I went back to the kitchen and helped the junior chefs get the veg into the right serving bowls. It took the best part of half an hour, because some of the waiters were distracted when there was some sort of a light in the sky - I bet it was a weather balloon or a low-flying aircraft, and not a UFO, as they claimed. No sooner had I got back to reception, than a party of yokels arrived from the hill region, some carrying lambs and hymn-sheets.

I told them there was no room for them, but they insisted they were there to visit one of the guests. I checked the names they gave me (J Davidson-Carpenter, Marie de Nazareth, and JCS O’God, but none of those names were on our computer. They started going on about a star, but the only celebrities in the place were the Magdalen sisters, who had been hired to do a kissogram act later in the evening.

It finally occurred to me that they might be looking for the people in the garage, and when I showed them in, I was right.

I didn’t go in myself: it didn’t seem right to bother the girl after she’d just given birth in a garage and had to lay the baby in a tool box, because there was no room for them in my inn.

© 2002 Children's Ministry