Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Marquette, Michigan Has Small Town Nice Folks - Long May It Last

It was my first-ever trip to Marquette, home to just over 30,000 hearty souls who brave the frigid temps and deep snow of Upper Peninsula winters, surrounded by Great Lakes and hugging Lake Superior. Go, Yoopers! they say proudly and enthusiastically on billboards. It's the city from which the Edmund Fitzgerald sailed to its tragic end, made famous in the great Gordon Lightfoot song. It's a city of tough miners and sailors, where almost all are hunters, fishermen, or outdoorsmen who know instinctively what to do with skis and snowmobiles. The 17 miles from the airport to the port were lined with beautiful white birches, conifers, and hardwoods already resplendent in fall colors.

Small town friendliness and sincerity still pervade Marquette citizenry, much as with the good folks of Greensburg, Indiana I wrote about last week. I find this increasingly rare and wonderful. I was lucky to experience it up close and personal two weeks in a row.

Every employee at the Marquette Holiday Inn was friendly and genuinely concerned that I was having a good experience. They were not doing it because they had taken a company course in how to pretend to be concerned about guests, like Hyatt drills into their staff (often, in my Hyatt experience, with little beneficial effect, sadly).

No, they were concerned about me because they just felt that way naturally. As if I was their neighbor next door. A real human being not lost in the scurrying, impersonal throngs of our hectic big cities, but someone whose comfort and satisfaction with the services I had bought and paid for MATTERED. It was a very good feeling, and I reciprocated as naturally as they emoted. I relaxed; I was nice back to them, without any effort. As a result my overnight stay with them in their somewhat shopworn hotel was infinitely more pleasurable than at the fanciest properties in Hong Kong or Paris that have enjoyed my custom.

Same at the tiny and friendly Marquette Sawyer International Airport: The National Car Rental lady chatted me up about where I was from, teased me about my southern accent, and regaled me with stories about Yooper life in the dead of winter and how to drive to avoid moose. The Northwest Airlink lady yelled across that she "didn't know nothin' about moose" and laughed. The big guy in the little snack bar advised me to get the BBQ rib sandwich, saying as he winked that it was the best thing on the menu. When I'd ordered one and finished it, he came around with a big toothy smile and asked, "What'd you think, eh? Pretty darn good! Told ya so!"

How charmingly different small town life can be. I grew up in one in eastern North Carolina, so I ought to know. But long-ago memories are one thing; a sudden envelopment of genuine humanity is another. Especially when you didn't expect it. Really makes life on the road worth it. Long may it last!

2 Comments:

Blogger FatTriplet3 said...

Will,

Just found your blog through a link from Joe. Nice! I used to live in Atlanta and now live in the small town of Clemson SC. A treasure chest of gold dubloons couldn't lure me back.

We play UNC this weekend here. Are you a Tarheels fan?

Steve

9/22/2006 8:32 AM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

Hi, Steve. I studied at both NCSU and UNC long ago (State undergrad, UNC Law School), but am not really a football or basketball fan, so don't follow them. Living in Clemson (a great place, I agree!), aren't you a Tigers fan?

9/23/2006 10:40 PM  

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