At the head of this column of three, me – very tall, very handsome, very brave and very dumb. Following behind, two members of the “Greatest Generation” – very married, very retired and very great. Ahead of us, somewhere in this cavernous old inn, is Room 11.

Gregory Greenleaf learned that what divides the good from the Greatest is the cheer with which the latter will follow a novice bellhop around their lodgings in search of their room. Courtesy of Gregory Greenleaf

It is my first weekend as a bellhop.  And 15 minutes earlier, Mr. and Mrs. Great and dumb me are standing at the front desk.

“Please take these nice people to Room 11,” the owner said, handing me the key to their room.

“Certainly,” I said. “May I help you with your bags, Mr. and Mrs. Great?”

“Yes, that would be helpful,” Mr. Great said. “We have three suitcases.”

Mr. Great offered to carry the lighter of the three, and I did not refuse his offer. I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid.


Our first objective on our plotted course was to go from the parking lot, up the porch stairs and enter through the main entrance. We pulled that off remarkably well. From there, taking a deep breath to supply extra oxygen to our lungs, we marched up a staircase to the hallway where the teen-numbered rooms were located.

To my surprise, when we reached the area where Room 11 was supposed to be, it wasn’t there.  What came after 10 was Room 12.

“Well, this is odd,” I said, looking at the Room 11 key. “Must be on the other side of the house,” dumb me deduced.

“Must be,” Mrs. Great said cheerily.

With the uncertainty and hesitancy of an Olympic weightlifter whose two previous attempts to do the clean and jerk had failed, I took a deep breath, squatted as much as my dress pants would allow without ripping and lifted each heavy suitcase a few inches off the ground.

“Off we go,” I grunted.


And so began our longest journey together.

Room 11 wasn’t on the other side of the house, either.

By unanimous consent we trudged back downstairs. Not knowing which way to go, dumb me decided to just look everywhere. Mr. and Mrs. Great got a tour of the inn, and even saw some of the places guests didn’t typically see.

“That’s the staff bathroom,” I nodded to my left.

“Nice,” Mrs. Great said cheerily.

Eventually, dumb me ran into the owner.


“Anything I can help you with?” the owner asked.

“Room 11,” I said, trying to catch my breath, “where?”

The owner pointed down the hallway and to a small staircase I’d forgotten about.

“That’s the room on the third floor.”

“Oh, right,” I said. “Thanks!”

Like a well-behaved pair of ducklings, Mr. and Mrs. Great followed me to the foot of the staircase and up the stairs.

Happily, I can say we reached the summit to Room 11. And before I left them, Mr. Great pulled out his wallet and gave me a bill with a Lincoln on it.

“Thanks for your help,” he said.

There’s a reason why they are called “the Greatest Generation.”

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