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Metta’s Guest House Checks In

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Welcome, dear readers, to where metta meditation meets the Rumi poem “The Guest House” in which:

This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival

And where better to practice this than at the reception desk of an actual guesthouse in Liverpool?

Since last month’s article, Mettas Guest House Opens Its Doors, we opened our actual doors to paying guests, completely underestimating being booked solid for weeks primarily with hen and stag dos (the British equivalent of bachelorette and bachelor parties, a bride or groom’s last night out as an unmarried person) as a result of umpteen postponed weddings over this past year and a half.

As our newly formed front-of-house team was still short a night person, we all took turns to cover the 7:30pm–7am shift. The guesthouse itself starts on the 13th floor of a high-rise building near the Albert Docks in Liverpool, where seagulls easily outnumber the guests. At dusk, reception transforms into a cross between sounding like a ship’s crow’s nest and looking like a lighthouse . . .

Now the term concierge is thought to be a contraction of the French term comte des cièrges (count of candles), a servant responsible for maintaining the lighting and cleanliness of medieval palaces.

The Count from Sesame Street. From musicvideo.fandom.com
The Count from Sesame Street. From musicvideo.fandom.com

Little did I realize until I started covering nights how apt the term still was, but with a metta reboot.

The hens and stags normally head out en masse in fancy dress and high spirits to enjoy Liverpool’s nightlife. Some parties wear ladylike bridal veils and tiaras, others might dress as bananas. The funniest to date was a group of stags dressed in cheerleader outfits complete with pompoms. I lost count of how many times I overheard someone whoop: “This is our first night out since 2020, let’s make up for lost time!” while they waited for the lift to take them down to ground level to paint the town red. It was so heartening to see people enjoying themselves and really letting loose again for the first time in months.

Part of the night shift duties are floor walks, where you walk the property every few hours to ensure that fire extinguishers are intact, doors are properly closed, hallways are clear of litter, no one is smoking inside, and that noise is kept to a minimum after midnight. Think librarian-meets-bouncer, depending on what approach specific circumstances or guests require.

Sadly, I’d literally stumble upon those same high-spirited stags from earlier after they’d gone too far and collapsed in various parts of the building, unable to remember who they were or where they were staying. And so the librarian-meets-bouncer would help them to their feet, remember their name and apartment number, and see them safely to their beds.

En route I’d casually ask them how their night had been, and sometimes a year’s worth of pent up—what I can only describe as everything poured out, usually followed by a declaration of undying love and a marriage proposal! The first few were comic, but I soon realized more than too much drink was behind what I was witnessing . . . too much of everything was my guess, and at their most confused and vulnerable they were seeking the ultimate connection after a year and a half of separation on so many levels. Far from being annoyed by or nervous of these staggering stags, I genuinely thanked them for asking, silently blessed them, and wished them sweet dreams and even sweeter lives.

The hens proved less free-ranging.

When one bride-to-be staggered back into reception wearing her actual wedding dress, only a couple of hours after she had left with her entourage, I jokingly declared hers possibly the quickest hen do in history. Rather than laugh, she collapsed into one of the reception chairs and confessed that her hens had all come home to roost—already passed out in their apartment after drinking too much too soon. Over a cup of tea, I listened as she poured out pent-up, well, everything. When she’d voiced it all, she smiled, stood up, smoothed her dress down, and offered to make me her honorary matron of honor. I thanked her for asking, silently blessed her, and wished her sweet dreams and an even sweeter marriage.

Even less free-range than the hens were the stay-at-home staycation mums who would occasionally ring reception with maintenance issues. One pair needed help adjusting their hot water boiler—an easy fix. When I popped out of the utility cupboard again, I asked what their plans were for the evening. They laughed and said that they actually lived locally, and were enjoying their first night without their kids in more than a year, just playing cards and drinking sex-on-the-beach cocktails! When they invited me to join them, I thanked them, silently blessed them, and wished them good luck for the night and even more for the future.

On Friday and Saturday nights, a security guard would join the shift as backup. The agency sent the unlikeliest candidate, a young Muslim man who had recently immigrated from Pakistan and who took a similar gentler approach with guests to me rather than the standard security posturing. At one point during the evening, he cheerfully excused himself to pray in the luggage room and then joined me on a floor walk as Mettamorphsis-meets-Mohammed peacefully patrolled the corridors as possibly the only two sober souls on premises.

Back at reception, he was the first of my coworkers to notice and recognize the copy of Rumi’s “The Guest House” poem I’d laminated for the desk as a reminder to myself:

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Sensing that he too might need to let off some “everything” steam, the following night I brought in my secret weapon for helping shyer people to open up . . . my glass teapot and flowering tea. After dropping a tea pearl into the hot water, we watched together in silent wonder as the dried amaranth flower unfurled and blossomed. As we sipped the resulting green tea, he confided that his wife was still in Pakistan due to travel restrictions and two months earlier had given birth alone to their first child, a beautiful daughter named Marjan (Pearl). I couldn’t begin to imagine that kind of separation and marveled at the equanimity his faith in Allah gave him.

Flowering tea. From numitea.com

And on quieter nights, I waited until the coast was clear to transform the lighthouse into a temple by clearing the air in reception in every sense by burning incense and blessing everyone in the building. Inevitably, a guest would walk in halfway through my ceremony of sorts, no matter how discreet I tried to be. The funniest instance was a staggering stag in search of sofa-bed bedding blurting out: “It smells f*cking amazing in here! Whatever you’re smoking, can I have some too?”

And so, dear readers, please join me in shining as mettas lighthouses for whatever inner or outer rocky shore you may find yourselves washed up on. Let’s welcome and entertain “everything” as we all walk each other home.

Related features from Buddhistdoor Global

Metta Delivers
Social Relations and COVID-19
Money Makes the COVID World Go Round
Buddhistdoor View: Cultivating Non-Attachment in the Midst of Pressured Living
Learning to Receive

And so, dear readers, please join me in shining as mettas lighthouses for whatever inner or outer rocky shore you may find yourselves washed up on. Let’s welcome and entertain “everything” as we all walk each other home.

Related features from Buddhistdoor Global

Metta Delivers
Social Relations and COVID-19
Money Makes the COVID World Go Round
Buddhistdoor View: Cultivating Non-Attachment in the Midst of Pressured Living
Learning to Receive

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