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The Worries of an Innkeeper During COVID Christmas

As COVID numbers spike around the globe, ICUs fill up, death toll records are broken almost daily, countries and states implement shutdowns, the CDC issues warnings about not traveling and our government continues to fail to provide any kind of meaningful assistance for small businesses like ours, I have continued to slowly sink into an increasingly deeper state of depression than usual for this time of year.

The holidays are always a bit melancholy. We are accustomed to working on holidays, so it’s not that we feel like we are missing out on anything. But this year there’s an added pressure to what I’d label “normal” seasonal depression paired with anxiety and helplessness.

I was talking with my husband about it today and I said, “I feel like by remaining open right now, we are somehow being complicit in a crime.” We pride ourselves on being a lodging option for those who need to travel and want to stay somewhere that is taking this virus seriously. We clean, we sanitize, we wear masks, we distance, we stagger guests, we are doing everything humanly possible to minimize the possibility that someone staying with us will get sick, and yet it somehow feels like that’s not enough.

As I vocally advocate for my friends on social media to stay home and skip the festivities this year so that we can try to gain some control over this virus, I remain open, renting rooms to people who are in fact traveling to visit their families for the holidays. It feels hypocritical at best and morally reprehensible at worst. I try to justify it by saying we are providing them a safe Haven, like we are some kind of oasis of COVID free respite. That is partly true, but it doesn’t mean that in the process of visiting with their families our guests won’t inadvertently catch or spread the disease.

I try to console myself by recognizing that without any kind of long term financial aid we have no choice but to remain open, risking our own lives in the process to keep a roof over our heads, our bills paid and food on our table. We are complying with the guidelines, laws and regulations so we aren’t open illegally.

And yet…. still, there’s a nagging feeling that we can’t shake. It’s something that frustrates us both as we attempt to continue doing what we love, which is to take care of others, while very much feeling ambivalent at the same time that we have to do it. I don’t think those who aren’t in the service industry understand how absolutely devastating this year has been on people like us. Not just financially, but spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

Running a restaurant or bed and breakfast isn’t something you do because it’s lucrative. It’s something you do because you love people. You thrive on meeting them, making them happy and giving them the experience of feeling safe and cared for. Your coffers will never be full, but you persist because your heart is replenished. This pandemic has challenged all of that. After 15 years of success at doing this, we have spent the better part of this year wondering if we will ever be able to recover. Will we ever see enough occupancy that we can comfortably pay our bills? Will we ever get to spend the morning chatting with our guests over a cup of coffee instead of running away from them and hiding behind our masks like they are vessels of possible plague? Will we ever feel that sense of purpose and meaning that we grew to associate with our very identities?

While we all continue to struggle with the ongoing stress and mental health challenges of this pandemic, please remember your favorite restaurants, bed and breakfasts and other service businesses that you have frequented over the years. We need your support, understanding, commitment and compassion. Once this is all over, we promise to pay it forward, but until then do your part, wear your mask, tip generously, avoid large gatherings and call upon your lawmakers to do what’s right and come up with solutions that can keep us alive until this is all over.