Friday, February 26, 2010

Sweet(water) Basil

We are in the stunningly beautiful northeast corner of Tasmania. So why is there a picture of John Cleese as Basil Fawlty here instead of the postcard-perfect shot of the Bay of Fires?

Welcome to the Sweetwater Villas.

About a decade ago, Cleese did a series of training videos aimed at making people better managers. Unfortunately the guy who runs this place must have rented Fawlty Towers by mistake and not realized that Basil Fawlty was the epitome of everything a manager could do wrong.

Let me give you an example. When we checked in yesterday, our greeting was a look. Not a hello, not a g'day. Nope, Basil jr left it up to us to say hello and welcome ourselves to his establishment.

When we completed the registration form, Basil jr pointed to a question I had missed. "Are you a smoker? Yes or No". Well, I told him I am not a smoker but there is a smoker in or party. "Well they can't smoke in the room," he snapped. "They'll have to go out on the balcony."

Which makes this place exactly like every other place we have been in, only none of them pissed us off when they asked that smokers sit outside. Basil jr also managed to fit in a few other Don't Do This and That's before we left to go to the room.

Inside, the spirit of Basil lived as well. Perhaps there is no friendlier room in a self-contained unit than the kitchen. So Basil jr used it to leave little notes for us. "Washing Up is not housekeeping's responsibility. It is yours!" was the friendly message above the sink.

And in the container with sachets of instant coffee, tea and sugar. Here Basil managed to start out nicely. "Tea, coffee and sugar are complimentary" his note began. But he quickly returned to form by adding, "If you run out, you supply your own or purchase from the office at 50 cents per sachet."

Actually, since I am mocking him, I have to tell you that the note actually said 50 cents per satchel, but we all know how rude it is to make fun of vocabulary mistakes. The poor man probably has a small dictionary.

LK wanted to check out the laundry room this morning as we headed out to do some sightseeing. She was checking to see how much the machines cost (of course, this is the first place this entire trip that is not providing them for free!) and there was Basil jr, doing the hotel laundry.

He pointed to the sign that said the laundry was closed to guests from 8am to 1pm. "The laundry is closed to guests until 1pm," he said to LK. She showed unusually strong willpower - for her - to only snarl at him that she could see that but was only checking to see how much it cost. She didn't even bother to ask him why a hotel would set rules that meant the staff had priority over the guests. But that was probably because she already knew the answer.

When we came back from a walk along the beach today, Robert and Jaki showed how much Basil had gotten under their skin by reminding us that we were forbidden to go into the rooms with sand on our feet. Damn, I had noticed the rule about fishermen having to clean their catch at water's edge and completely ignored the sandy foot edict.

I feel a fair share of guilt about this. When LK booked places, we ended up in charming cottages with lovely views and hands-off owners. When I booked, I got us into Sweetwater Villas, which are on muddy, not sweet, water and give villa a new definition - namely, square cinder-block rooms. And Basil jr.

I think after this, LK will be happy to be the one who arranges our accommodation in the future. She might even offer to do the same for Basil jr. Out front of the units is a sign saying Sweetwater Villas is for sale because the managers want to retire. Won't he be surprised when he has leisure time and discovers not every hotel is run like Fawlty Towers.


PS Lots to say and show about this fantastic place, but need hours to upload the pics so Bay of Fires in the next post.

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