The hotel looks like something from one of those creepy murder movies â€“ 10 rooms, one story, all in a row.
Ken is retired and most likely fought in at least one war. He reminds me a little bit of my grandfather.
Ken comes out of the office, slowly but easily, and makes his way behind the desk. Heâ€™s friendly and he enjoys being friendly. He speaks slowly as his hands shake a little bit all the while writing down my name and other required information from my driverâ€™s license.
He asks how I heard about Four Oaks Lodging. I told him my story and mention the billboard I happened to catch as my car stalled for the umpteenth time, coasting up the exit ramp from I 95 in the drying drizzle.
He asks where Iâ€™m from and I tell him as he punches in a series of numbers and swipes my credit card…and then he asks again where Iâ€™m from. I tell him Iâ€™m driving up from Miami and this time more clearly specify the gasps and stutters my car made as I picked my way up 95 at 60 miles per hour.
Ken says â€œSounds like ya got some water in your gas tank!â€
And I smile as thatâ€™s exactly what my dad surmised it would be.
Ken then tells me a story about driving a truck for â€œthe plantâ€ in New Hampshire. Every Monday morning heâ€™d go to work and get the truck to turn over and his boss never figured out how, but was amazed â€“ because the fuel lines always froze on him. Itâ€™s probably not Kenâ€™s best or most interesting story, but I would bet its one of his favorites to tell.
Ken then explains to me when to check out and that there will be a continental breakfast served from just before 5 until 10am. He takes my cash deposit for the TV remote, as my credit card slip prints. I sign it.
Ken doesnâ€™t care that I drive a 1988 BMW 535is. Ken doesnâ€™t notice my Underarmour shorts which are specially designed to wick moisture from the body and cost more than theyâ€™re worth. It wouldnâ€™t matter to Ken if I told him I had several Le Tigre shirts in my car, and 3 pairs of designer jeans that I can cinch with a 125$ cole haan belt.
It doesnâ€™t matter to Ken that I have a bass, a guitar, amps for both, and a digital music studio in my trunk.
Ken doesnâ€™t use Instant Messenger and isnâ€™t on Friendster. He doesnâ€™t have a laptop, an iPod, a cell phone, a Bluetooth headset, a fast computer, or hundreds of CDâ€™s. I would guess he doesnâ€™t have an email address. In fact, I bet heâ€™s written an actual letter within the last week to one of his old friends.
Ken doesnâ€™t have or want 600 channels beamed in super-high definition from a satellite in space. Ken watches only the news, and even that is a rare instance.
Ken is completely uninterested I went to graduate school. Ken probably didnâ€™t go to college, and is probably one of the best people Iâ€™ve met and the best business man around.
Ken probably saw comrades die in combat, played kick the can as a kid, remembers the first time he sat and listened to radio, and still doesnâ€™t approve of those long haired Beatles. I imagine Ken never watched much TV. Ken has worked very hard his entire life. I think about all the things heâ€™s done and seen, and how much longer heâ€™ll continue to work at Four Oaks Lodging.
Ken doesnâ€™t think about any of that stuff. Ken only wanted to know how I heard about Four Oaks Lodging. Ken knows that if you treat someone with respect, a smile, and a story that they will not only come back to Four Oaks, but they will probably offer him the same respect and casual friendship in kind.
I began running and walking my dog in the large grass area in front of the hotel. I think all these things about Ken and how simple and perfect his life is as mine seems to be crashing down on me every day. For all my stuff and for all my education and despite the fact I give incredible thought to the world around me and how I should live my life as a person, I still don’t have the answers.
Its nice to see that some people have their answers. Its very positive to understand that it can and will be done given some time.
I walk into the office in Four Oaks Lodging, wet from the pouring rain I’ve just spent the last three states in, and hoping there is a room.
An old man comes from the back of the office.
“How are you?” I ask.
“I can’t complain.”