When you own a B&B, people will sometimes want special treatment. Not all the time, but sometimes. And usually, that's fine. B&B's are there to give that personal touch, to make exceptions, to treat everyone as special.
Sometimes, though, granting that request is just, well, it's just something you don't want to do.
You need a way to refuse without looking like an old crank.
That's where The Incontrovertible Third Party comes in so handy.
As in, "I would be OK with your son sleeping on the floor as a third person in a room designed for two, but if the Fire Department found out, they'd take away my licence."
Or, if you and your sweetie want a weekend away? Don't ever tell that to the person trying to book a room for that weekend. They'll tell you they'll be no problem. They'll tell you to leave a key and they'll look after themselves.
And you'll be left either looking like a misery, or giving up your one chance for some couple time in the entire year.
Instead, you are Fully Booked. They can't argue with that. No one wants to stay in a place that doesn't honour its bookings.
And how did I learn about this wonderful Third Party? Purely by accident, of course.
Way back, when Alan and I were fixing up his grandparents' house for our first B&B, we had a plumber. His name was Doug. We called him The Slug.
On any given day, at least once a day, The Slug would come into the kitchen, where I was directing operations, drop his tool belt on the counter and tell me why he couldn't go any further.
A problem had come up. He couldn't proceed until he knew what Alan wanted him to do. Alan. Who was working full-time in an office, while I acted as contractor on the project.
Alan who hadn't cracked a single decorating or design book in his life. Alan, who didn't have a single clue how any of it should proceed and who frankly didn't care, as long as eventually it all got done.
I knew what I wanted done and it was this...
All of this I would explain patiently to The Slug, while he stared over my left shoulder and whistled tunelessly to himself.
"OK, then," he'd say when I was done. "You ask him what he wants me to do and I'll see you tomorrow."
Work was barely moving forward. Because, of course, the carpentry couldn't move ahead until the plumbing was done. And the electricians needed the carpenters to finish and...
I had a choice, and it was a bitter blow to this mid-twenties feminist, let me tell you, but it had to be done. The next time the tool belt hit the counter, I was ready.
"That's amazing!" I said, when he had explained the problem. "Alan thought that would happen and he said he'd like you to..."
Every request from then on came from my Incontrovertible Third Party, who was still shuffling paperwork, blissfully unaware that such things as stack pipes and non-potable water even existed.