When I arrived for my interview she was steaming postage stamps from the envelopes in which reservation checks arrived.
Dirty-gray hair, lank. Plastic eyeglasses missing one screw, held together with a wrap of dirty masking tape. Thin, cheap-looking sweater, tatters, holes. She'd have been a bag lady if she hadn't inherited half of waterfront La Jolla.
"It's a dump. The place is a cheap, ugly, dump."
Well-to-do couple, retired, looking for a beachfront room for the week. Lanky front-desk boy isn't sure how to respond. It's his second night on the job, and it's the first time he's seen these particular rooms, and in truth he's forced to agree with her.
Smiling, the owner says, "I'm sorry you feel that way." Laughs quietly to herself after they're gone. She knows perfectly well the place is a cheap, ugly dump. That's the beauty of it. The rooms'll sell anyway.
When I took over the books I learned what the gross was. Six figures a month. Twenty years later I can hear her laughing quietly to herself, with her tattered sweater, as she steams postage stamps from the envelopes in which reservation checks arrived.