One of the funniest stories I have of being in the hotel business was in our first little country inn in northern Ontario in the late 1970s. My young wife Elaine and I were managing our hearts out, taking advantage of an opportunity to run a little lodge, cooking three meals a day, checking people in, taking snowmobile safaris out, doing all the maintenance, and laundry, and the dishes, even chambermaiding, it was fun meeting all the guests first hand, and partying with them, and we were young with lots of energy.
Elaine, out of necessity, volunteered to be the lunch and dinner cook, and read every cookbook she could and became an overnight success, always trying to improve herself and impress the guests, so they may stay another night or return sometime.
Therefore I was the breakfast cook and waiter. In the kitchen we had a big roll-out wooden bin that we kept flour in. Its wooden lid had a hole in it for your finger to remove the lid.
The increasingly cold weather would drive the little rodents; squirrels, chipmunks, and mice indoors seeking warmth and food. One chilly autumn morning, when I opened up the lid to get some flour for the home-made pancakes that someone had just ordered, I noticed the flour moved and a little pink nose and a black pair of eyes were looking out at me from the flour. A field mouse had crawled through the hole in the lid and fell in, unable to escape.
So I got a big cooking spoon and lifted him with a spoonful of flour and dropped him into a plastic bowl. As I was lifting the bowl out of the bin, the mouse leaped out of the bowl, landed on the floor in a cloud of white powder, and ran straight into the dining room over the flat solid green carpet, racing like a little white ghost between the guests, and leaving a noticeable trail of flour everywhere he went.
Half the guests screamed, the other half were speechless. In my hysteria I grabbed a big soup pot, went into the dining room, ran past all the guests and found the little guy hiding in a corner on the far side of the room. To catch him, I placed the big pot up side down over him. But now what to do? There was still no way of grabbing the mouse, so in my perfect Three Stooges form, I decided to drag the pot on the carpet, through the wide eyed guests all the way across the dining room and back into the kitchen, leaving a white trail of flour that marked our route.
Finally back in the kitchen, I somehow scooped up the mouse and threw him outside. Too embarrassed to walk back into the dining room, I just listened through the open doorway. After about thirty seconds of complete unnerving silence in the dining room, one man laughed, then another, then the whole dining room exploded in laughter. Nothing mattered anymore, I went back out and bowed to the applause and laughter.
I guess I couldn’t blame people that day for not finishing their breakfast.