Chaos. Pure utter chaos. Eggs falling to the floor. People deciding they're allergic to what's being cooked. Bags of laundry rolling down the stairs. Trying to clean rooms by three pm with the doorbell and phone ringing. People asking constant questions. Up at six, bed by midnight. Such is the life of an innkeeper.

I was an innkeeper on and off for three years. The Captain Swift Inn was my home during those times. The owners, Ellen and Francis, hailed from Virginia. A few years ago they packed everything up and moved to Maine to pursue their dream of owning a bed and breakfast.

Ellen—better known as my mother—runs the business. She takes care of almost everything concerning the inn including the bookkeeping, cooking, and cleaning. Francis is Mr. Fix It. When I am around I am a jack of all trades; I do anything that I am asked to.

A bed and breakfast is an interesting business. Many innkeepers live in the inn while doing much of the work needed to run it. Most hire chambermaids to clean the rooms but my mom chooses to do it on her own in order to save money; that or have me do it whenever I'm in Maine.

The daily routine of an innkeeper is as follows: wake up at 6am, cook and serve breakfast until 9am, clean rooms until 3pm, check people in until 6pm, bed by 10pm. This is rarely the case. Having a business that revolves around people is unreliable because people are unreliable. An innkeeper can make as many rules as they want, but those rules are almost never followed. A few guests in particular come to mind.

 The first summer I was there, a couple with a child was coming to check-in early. I had expected them, so I made sure to clean their room first so it would be ready in time for their arrival. They were the only people checking in that day, which allowed me to go to dinner with grandparents who were visiting. I finished my work for the day around four in the afternoon and was still waiting for the couple to show up. Five hours later I received a phone call from them saying that they would arrive in three hours. The time up until they arrived was spent with my head on the kitchen counter. Around midnight I saw headlights flash through the windows across from me. I stood up and put a smile on my face. After giving the couple, who offered no apologies for their lateness, a tour of the inn I took them to their room. The wife asked if I would make them some tea to help them relax after a long say of travel. My eyes become as wide as a black hole. Make them tea? After midnight? I politely said I would set out hot water and cups so they could make their own tea. I walked out of the room as the wife scoffed at my reply.

Not every guest was so openly rude about my lowly status as an innkeeper. Once, a little girl was asking who keeps the rooms in our inn clean. Her mother replied, "The maid does." The girl asked who the maid was and her mother pointed at me. "The maid picks up our trash," the mother told her. That was one of the most insulting remarks of my life. Not only was I not a maid, but the statement was completely ignorant. Maids don't get enough respect in the world although they deserve it. How many people would voluntarily clean a stranger's toilet?

It is a rare occasions that a person would talk down to me. Admittedly, I could look very shabby after cleaning eight rooms. There were those guests that were rude to just about everyone. Lisa, a maid from one of the resorts in Disney World, stayed at the inn for about four days. She was part of a wedding party. Her boyfriend and three children stayed in a 300 suite that had been paid for by the mother of the bride. Not only did the children run around like a pack of rabid wolves, but Lisa and her boyfriend looked down their slanted little noses at my family. The most disrespectful thing this family did was trash that suite. When I walked in after they had checked-out my heart stopped beating. All of the linens had stains and there was trash covering every inch of the floor. It took me and my step-dad three hours worth of cleaning hoping my mom wouldn't walk in and have a heart attack. I couldn't believe how someone who knows what it's like cleaning dirty rooms would leave their room in such disarray. After that moment I always made sure to clean up after myself. I could sympathize with those who wait on others.

For every one annoying guest there are at least five fantastic guests. One morning, while finishing with breakfast, an incredibly rowdy group of guests showed up five hours before check-in time. They were singing of their adventures on a schooner they had just gotten off of. The exact words of the song escape me but I can remember their tale. While on a week long sail these guests were shot at and had their schooner rammed by angry lobstermen. This journey, coupled with tremendous amounts of alcohol, caused them to believe themselves talented in the ways of singing. The tune reverberated off of the walls in the inn. A crowd of guests gathered around them begging to hear the story. Seeing all of these strangers get so equally excited was a unique event. My mom and I decided it was okay to let them check-in early.

One couple made the inn a pseudo-home for themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Baxter stayed with us for a week. When they first checked-in, I remember judging them rather harshly based on their clothing, and to my shame, their smell. Both were English professors and looked as if they rarely showered. Frizzy hair that was quite long and clothes that reminded me of hippies was the best way to describe them. Their smell was so overpowering; a bit like old books and rotten eggs. They requested that I not change their sheets during the duration of their stay. After they left, I remember it took a bottle of air freshener to get the room smelling somewhat clean. Despite all of that, I remember how kind they were towards my younger brother. He was only eight at the time and very lonely, having just moved to a new state. They spoke to him as if they were old friends. He told me, "Laura, I feel like a grown-up," after he talked to them. That smell was potent, but so was their kindness.

Of course, there were always the guests that returned to the inn and became members of the family. Terry and Martin are a prime example. A few times a year they came to visit the small coastal town from Los Angeles. One particular time they came to be with their daughter who was very ill in the hospital. She had been diagnosed with cancer and needed to go through surgery. They made the inn their home. During breakfast, they would take their place settings from the dining room and bring them into the kitchen. Many nights were also spent with them sharing our dinner. Mind you, the Inn was a bed and breakfast, but Terry and Martin had become family over the past few years. My mom helped them through a very tough time and I doubt they've ever forgotten it.

Staying at an inn is like staying in someone's home. I've been told over the years that people like inns because of the personal service. Not only is the owner someone who can tell you the best places to eat and shop, but they are warm and friendly. For those few days a guest is at the inn they become a part of the family. You learn their entire life story and they learn a bit about you as well.

For the most part, the guests that stay visit are friendly and polite. Some of them like you so much it's hard to get work done with all the talking they do. You get to meet people from all over the world in your own home. I've met people from all over North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. I've been able to put my seven years of learning French to good use and was also able to learn a few choice words in other languages. Being an innkeeper is one of the most interesting jobs in the world.

However, innkeeping is a tough job with little respect and no money. When I asked my mom why she decided to retire from nursing and become an innkeeper, she told me "I want to help people when they're happy, not when they're sick." Did people need help when they were already happy? Maybe not, but an innkeeper is there to make sure they don't have a chance to be unhappy. The guests are on vacation and it's an innkeeper's duty to make it a memorable one. Sometimes, it pays off when a friend is made.