I am finishing up my second of three months at a hotel in Orange County, CA and at this point I am well past that ‘in a routine’ mode to be ‘that’s just what I do’. Part of what I am in the habit of doing is heading down for breakfast Saturday and Sunday mornings (when I am not getting drunk in wine country that is). It used to be that it was a way to fill my tiny tumtum for a couple hours. Then it used to be something to do to kill time on a weekend morning. Now, it’s a part of my ‘people watching’ curiosity. The whole of the dynamics in the hotel breakfast area has reached a point where it’s more the reason I go down there on the weekends. In fact, its enough that, I have to say, makes it blog worthy on this quiet morning (or blog worthy enough as an excuse to avoid studying for a professional exam I am taking next week).
Before I jump in too far into this ‘dynamic’, a little framework on the hotel itself – because it’s not your typical situation. I am staying at a Marriott Residence Inn in Placentia, CA. This chain is created specifically as a comfort for long-term stays. The rooms are more suites than ‘rooms’; though mine is more of a studio. There is a King bed, a pull-out couch, separate bathroom and vanity areas, a desk, Large closets (plural, cause there are four), and a nearly full kitchen (stove, oven, microwave, full fridge, dishware, etc) that is bigger than I had in some apartments in my younger days. Other rooms in the hotel come with a loft acting as a second bedroom. While the set-up is comfortable for long-term working stayers like me, and like people who are transitioning between permanent homes (like those with a new job in a new area); the set-up is conducive to families too. With the ‘loft’ suites capable of sleeping up to six or seven people with the pull-outs; it becomes a cheaper choice for those who maybe in the area for that kind of activities (activities like … I don’t know … maybe … Disneyland). Last year I stayed at this same hotel, and at the time it was a bit more depressing – there were many more people who were staying at this location because it was convenient to a major cancer treatment center – so a good number of people there were in the midst of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For some reason, and it maybe because ATT is doing a major upgrade here so half the ‘long termers’ wear the blue, there isn’t the obvious presence of people here for medical reasons.
So what does this mean for breakfast. Well, if you ever stayed in a hotel that serves free breakfast, chances are you had the free breakfast. Granted, it’s not an outstanding one, but it’s not bad (and did I mention free? ). It’s not big either, seating for about 30, but there is a steady rotation all morning long. I don’t stay down there during the week, just grab some yogurt and hit the traffic, besides during the week it’s pretty business traveler heavy. During the couple of hours over the breakfast service on the weekend, nearly every person staying here comes down for breakfast. Most, like me, aren’t ready to start their day – just ready to have a waffle. It’s a pajama heavy, or yesterday’s clothes, or comfy clothes, environment. Only those with somewhere to be before 10AM are dressed ready for the day.
What’s always funny to me in this place is the prevalence of Disney wear. Kids are wearing ears or princess dresses. Adults are wearing shirts and sweaters from Mickey Land. As many times I have heard people who don’t like sports making fun of the rest of us wearing sports jerseys as if we played on the team – I just need to point out that nearly everyone who has been to Disney seems to need to wear the costumes and logos of the place.
Ironically, that is only half the families in the breakfast area in the Disney stuff. Because, simply put, some haven’t been there yet; its still morning. That’s a pretty obvious separation in this place. The kids that were at Disney yesterday are happy, covered in gear, and for the most part quiet — or to be more blunt, worn out from the happiest place on earth. Those who are going today, are tipping up the scales of excitement. Shoveling bowls of cereal and waffle syrup down their tummies just makes it more so. The parents are the ones to watch though, because they make a wild transition as well — from the day before doing everything they can to wrangle in sugar loaded excited kiddies; to the relaxed, satisfied, ‘greatest parents in the world for taking me here’ parents that only have to pour the kids in the mini-van for the drive home. They go through a lot to get there, of course. I am marvel of the patience of the breakfast staff, who spend half the morning filling up the hit plates of food, and the other half cleaning up the random spills of milk, orange juice, and ‘everything’ left by an unsuspecting ankle biter. You can see the strain on the parents as they try to play ‘zone defense’ on their multiple multiple age-levels running around the place. And then you get the random eye-rollers, like the time a few weeks ago when a cute little girl in a nice summer dress was singing a song, causing everyone to look at her and go ‘awww’ – and as they did the girl asked “Mommy? Where’s my pants?” and up shot her dress to show nothing underneath sending the parents in an crushingly embarrassed run to cover her up, and left us with the understanding humor.
There’s a lot of isolated stories there too – from the families getting ready for a wedding, the older couples having a nice quiet time together, to the Japanese tourists that see ‘buffet styled’ breakfasts as a dare, to the guys like me – here because of a job, plugging away to get through it, and just happy when you can make a waffle and not have to worry about things for a little bit.
There’s a month left at least to this run, and I won’t lie to you – I’m not going to miss Hotel Breakfast Dynamics. But at least it is something to look forward to in this life.