Recollections, regrets and recommendations

Cautiously I let myself into the Broadbeach apartment and then nervously peered around the bedroom door.

Though I was forewarned, it was still a shock to discover the tenant’s dead body. This was the first time and, hopefully it will remain the last time, I would come across a dead person.

Having worked as a relief manager for eight years, I have many stories to share, some of them quite awful or scary, others just plain funny.

Once, when I was working at a Byron Bay property, I heard a huge scream from three girls who had just checked into their room. I raced to their room to find the three of them huddled in a corner of the lounge room. They pointed to the bathroom where a huge python had entwined itself around the plumbing!

Probably every manager has had to deal with escorts using apartments as their business premises. One in particular stands out in my memory. She had attached her dance pole to the ceiling in centre of the lounge, surrounded it by coloured lights and rearranged all the furniture around the edge of the room. She even disconnected the smoke detector so her smoke machine could puff away uninterrupted. This very enterprising young woman had to be moved off the property, not for her activities, but for the damage to common property and interfering with the fire control system.

Equipment failure is often the cause of grief. Nothing is more unwelcome than the two lifts of a 10-storey tower in Ballina coming to a halt late in the afternoon at the start of a long weekend. On these occasions, it is no use saying, “I am only relieving here”. A family had booked the two top levels especially for the weekend, for a family reunion, and more than half of these guests left as they could not manage the ten flights of stairs.

My most creative group of schoolies left their Surfers Paradise unit with every piece of furniture and equipment turned upside-down. Then there was the Noosa group who had a party on the rooftop garden and when they finished about 3.00am decided to clean it all down with a fire hose. The standby diesel pump kicked in due to the reduced water pressure and then automatically called the fire services! I didn’t need that kind of excitement.

I received a call from Rosie who manages 200 luxury apartments on the harbour at Balmain in Sydney. She wanted me to work for most of December finishing on New Years Day while her family went skiing in the USA. Naturally I had to bounce a booking like that off my better half but Rosie was very accommodating saying that my family could stay in her apartment as well.

I knew that in order to work in NSW one has to be the holder of a full real estate licence (unlike Queensland where we can work for 30 days without any licence). So I applied for a NSW real estate licence but was informed that I had to be a permanent resident of that state in order to apply. More research and I found that if I obtained a Queensland licence then Fair Trading in NSW may grant me “mutual recognition” to work in that state. Problem solved except that I had weeks of study ahead and about $5000 in fees before I had my licences. But I was very glad I accepted the booking as it was a joy checking out the lovely restaurants in the Balmain area and brushing up on my knowledge of that historic part of Sydney.

When I was working at a holiday resort near Rockhampton, all the fire alarms went berserk at 5.00am. I raced down the eight flights of stairs to the fire panel to locate the offending sensor. At the same time, a tour group of 40 elderly ladies made their way downstairs in the lifts, ignoring the sign “do not to use lifts in case of fire”. There they were, all in their nighties, clutching their precious handbags and making their way past the firefighters while excitedly chatting. The culprit who burnt his toast was spoken to and gradually the morning got back to normal.

In Port Douglas as a sideline the manager hired out motor bikes and scooters of all sizes. I found it rather amusing that here I was giving instructions to all the people hiring them and I had never even ridden a bike.

But my toughest gig was many years ago when I was very new to the job. After driving all day I arrived at the motel in remote Queensland. It was an upmarket, very busy, 20-room motel with licensed restaurant, catering mainly to business travellers on expense accounts. That evening after having a briefing of a couple of hours, I got a rather rude awakening when I realised I would be cooking and serving breakfast at 6.00am and not finishing until after the restaurant closed around 11.00pm, every day, for two weeks! As well as delivering breakfast to the rooms, I was also cooking and serving for the restaurant customers and checking out guests. The first morning, the alarm sounded in the dark. I had 10 to 15 breakfasts to deliver between 6.00am and 7.30am. These were not just fried eggs on toast – no, the menu offered eggs cooked any way, sausages, steak and kidney, bacon, tomatoes, choice of cereals (hot or cold) and a wide range of hot and cold drinks.

The rest of the day was punctuated by deliveries for the bar and restaurant, phone calls, early arrivals, pool maintenance, common area cleaning and washing of towels. The bar opened at 5.00pm for happy hour, which I looked after together with the chef who was doing her prep from about four. I was usually very busy on the reception counter from late afternoon to mid evening while at the same time taking orders and serving guests in the restaurant. After clean up and breakfast prep, I collapsed into bed about 11pm and reluctantly set the alarm to ring in six hours. Such was one of my first relief manager experiences and almost cured me of my desire to continue offering my services. I haven’t accepted any motel bookings since!

My own award for the office/reception area with the best view has to go to Pacific Plaza in Surfers where Jaqui spends her day gazing out across the sand to the Coral Sea.

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