Sarah R. Callender


In General on August 22, 2010 at 8:38 am

Whenever I write a blog post about chronic depression, I always like to follow it up with a post that’s a tad cheerier. A little more summery and care-free . . . the bloggish equivalent of a Beach Read. So here we go, ladies and gents.  A post about the Complimentary Hotel Breakfast.

First things first: I love free anything, Costco snacks or samples of eye cream or the five minute massage I got at the Wednesday night concert in Sunriver. Which felt a little weird, getting massaged on a golf course with a Steely Dan-ish band playing in the background. But I had neck kinks. And I was on Day Five of a Family Vacation. And it was free.

On our way to Sunriver, however, we spent the night in Portland at a charming little hotel with a cozy, French-ish feel, one that allowed dogs and sold cartons of Ben and Jerry’s at all hours and was just a few shimmy-hops away from the Willamette. Our room also had a separate sleeping area for the children (lovely for many reasons, not the least of which is that Sweetie snores like a drunken frat boy), AND I will add, this quaint little place was paid for with all the hotel points el husbandio accumulates from his travels to Reston and Atlanta and Tel Aviv, often for only a two-hour meeting. In other words, except for the parking and the Ben and Jerry’s, it was FREE!

So yes, this charming semi-Parisian hotel was a winner. And it got even better when I noticed the sign announcing Complimentary Breakfast, 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

“C’est magnifique!” I said, doing a little fist-pump/tap dance to express my happiness at a free meal, one that would certainly have Sugar Cereal (which would make Buddy and Sweetie happy) and English muffins with fake butter (which, yes, would make me happy).

But. Then. I. Remembered. Last. Summer.

Coeur d’ Alene, ID, the Shiloh Inn. It was our first stop on our way to a family reunion in Colorado, and needless to say, that particular caravansary was the exact opposite of Parisian. In fact, perhaps the entire city of Coeur d’ Alene is the exact opposite of Paris. Gay Paris’ doppleganger. After all, there’s no Louvre in Idaho, the food is, well, heavily potatoed yet somehow never pom frited, and as far as I know, Idahoans aren’t scared to put in a full day’s work, five full days a week, fifty weeks a year.

But I digress!

It was during this Shiloh Inn pass-through that I experienced my first Complimentary Breakfast, and while the celophane-wrapped Danish may have been free, the study in human nature was priceless.

Part of what is fascinating about the Complimentary Breakfast should not surprise me at all because I know this: if you tell a class of twenty kindergartners that there are only nineteen cupcakes and they can just mosey on up to the cupcake table to select a cupcake, THEY WILL ABSOLUTELY NOT MOSEY.

That was, in fact, what happened at the Shiloh Inn: the management had miscalculated the Danish to Patron ratio. Plus, the hot chocolate machine was on the fritz, and the 1980-era microwave was no match for the frozen sausage muffins. It was only 8:20 a.m. and suddenly the promise of a Complementary Breakfast seemed wholly uncertain.

When patrons got wind of the food shortage, they started grabbing at whatever they could grab, even if it was just a single-serving tub of orange marmalade or a green banana.

I, too, felt a little desperate; I had been sent ahead of el husbandio and the kids to get their plates ready. And now? Well, how would Lewis have felt if he had told Clark, “Hey buddy. I’d like to sleep in tomorrow. Can you go on ahead and set up breakfast?” but then, when Lewis arrived, all that lay on the table was a single-serving tub of marmalade? I think that would have made Lewis feel really sad. Like Clark had let him down.

But that was just the first stop of last summer’s 3,000 mile road trip. And, as far as Complimentary Breakfasts go, that was a low point. Other ones, the Hampton Inn for example, were quite lovely, filled with yogurt-fruit-granola parfait bars and omelet bars and waffle-making stations. And yes, fake butter.

Yet (and this is where the story gets sad again) each and every Complimentary Breakfast had something else in common: Patrons who think it is acceptable to come to the Complimentary Breakfast wearing their pajamas.

As if we are all friends, or perhaps relatives at a family reunion.

But these people are not my relatives! And I don’t like to have breakfast with people I don’t know who are in their pajamas. I just don’t. I think whoever invented pajamas did so because somewhere in our DNA, we are programmed to understand there is a difference between what one wears to bed and what one wears to a restaurant. Which should never be one’s pajamas.

Plus, I would like to throw out my theory that it’s even worse seeing strangers in their jammies because breakfast (in addition to being the most important meal of the day) is already the most intimate meal of the day.

Think about it. Breakfast is a ritual for many of us, with details and preferences that are far more embedded and private and personal than our preferences for lunch or dinner.

A stranger watching me from over at the Breakfast Burrito Bar would be able to know this about me: Sarah R. Callender is not much of an Egg Person. She is an English Muffin with Butter and Honey Lady. With maybe a Little Thing of Yogurt. And some Black Tea. But No Juice. And Some Bites of Her Kids’ Leftover Waffle. And Perhaps Some Melon if It Doesn’t Have That Sour Taste That Buffet Melons Often Have.

Just by watching me select my meal, that guy waiting for the green light to appear on the waffle iron knows way too much about me. And I prefer to have my breakfast identity kept a little more private.

Vice versa, I prefer not to know about the sleepwear preferences of others. I don’t want to know that That Guy sleeps in a wife beater undershirt and thread-bare pajama bottoms. I’d prefer not to catch a whiff of people’s sleep funk. And yes, I’d really prefer to see that That Large Lady Over There perhaps don a brassiere.

Some things are meant to be private.

However. I realize some might say that my decision to share details of my personal life with anyone who clicks on a blog titled Inside-out Underpants is just like being a public pajama-wearer. That my decision to discuss my depression is no different than wearing threadbare, rumpled flannel granny nightie to a fine restaurant.

And maybe it is no different. Comment intéressant!

Maybe That Guy wishes I would jot my thoughts not in a blog, but in one of those old fashioned diaries, the ones with the combination lock on the cover. Maybe he thinks Facebookers share way too much. That no one needs to know JANE DOE just drank too many margaritas and puked in Mary’s shoe.

Maybe, in an attempt to find community or share our writing or feel at home, we’ve lost all sense of decorum, which of course, means we are ALL Public Pajama-Wearers.

I don’t mind sharing parts of my life with both friends and strangers, which means I shouldn’t care what sleepwear people share with me at the Complimentary Breakfast. I just need to try to look away when, for example, That Fellow is making a yogurt parfait in his icky terrycloth bathrobe.

We live in a very unprivate world, my friends, and I suppose I have to embrace all aspects of that fact.

As for the Complimentary Breakfast in Parisian-Portland? Only four pajama-wearers (two of them little kids; which is somehow OK with me).

There was another kid, however, who kept driving his scooter around the buffet area, nearly careening into me and the other patrons, while his clothes-wearing mother said, “Be careful with your scooter, Timmy.” And then Timmy would scooter off, barely avoiding that grandmother carrying a tray of juice drinks and prunes and oatmeal.

Be careful with your scooter, Timmy???

Gee whiz. Maybe instead of being uncomfortable with what people wear in public, I should focus on another issue: parents who let their kids ride their wheeled vehicles at the Complimentary Breakfast.

That suddenly seems a lot more dangerous than threadbare jammies.

  1. The difference between blog-writing and restaurant-pajama-wearing is that we all CHOOSE to read your blog. You aren’t forcing your holey boxer shorts and Van Halen t-shirt upon us.

  2. You are too funny Sarah! I completely agree with the public PJ’s. Little kids, cute adults definitley not. Thanks for the morning chuckle.

  3. Love your post. Don’t love PJs and icky terrycloth bathrobes in public.

  4. Ha! Just came home from a hotel this weekend…yes, Complimentary Breakfast included. I would say it was in between your Parisian hotel and the Shiloh Inn experience. Something I look forward to as well and was a bit of a disappointment. However, didn’t and have never seen Public Pajama-Wearers…lucky me! I assume if they don’t bother to change into something decent to wear that they probably would wreak of body odor. That would bother me the most. I have a sensitive nose.

  5. Oh dear. Sarah, I am not only a TMI blogger, I’m *also* a Pyjama-At-Complimentary-Breakfast-Wearer. I might have been able to say it was an indiscretion of my youth, but in fact, just this May on a roadtrip with my sister, I may or may not have been found hoarding Froot Loops in a certain roadside motel in Ukiah, green polka-dotted pj-bottomed with accessorizing hoodie zipped up. But know this, if my own Timmy were tipping Grandma, he’d have his pyjama-bottomed self back in that I-earned-the-free-FrootLoops-dammit hotel room faster than you can say Bad Coffee.

  6. Sounds like you may have come across MY MOM at breakfast. She LOVES to wear her PJs to the complimentary breakfast. She also knows that when this happens, I pretend I don’t know her…
    She doesn’t care.

  7. Um. Yes. That was me wearing my PJs to Fred Meyer at 7am this morning to get the Tractor’s b-day cake before the dreadfully charming Mr. Right was off to work. In my defense, no one at FM *knew* my yoga pants and sweatshirt do double duty as bed clothes. Still. Guilty.

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