When I first met Inge—not her real name—and heard her German-accented English, my immediate reaction was, “I’m in a Mel Brooks movie!” Fellow Mel fans know his movies often feature German and Yiddish accents, which sound ironically similar, considering their shared and tragic history.
I quickly realized Inge is more marvelous than a stereotype. She speaks two languages fluently, which immediately makes her more intelligent than I, which is saying a lot, because I’m a Tucker girl. Then, she’s retired from a career as a registered nurse, which makes her not only more intelligent, but less squeamish than I. I admire nurses greatly, especially after my hospital experience in November 2013, but I believe I dealt with enough bodily functions raising four sons to last several lifetimes.
In Inge’s new career, she serves as Breakfast Hostess at the hotel where I recently spent a week. But Breakfast Hostess is too narrow a title for what Inge does each day. I would re-title her Morning Sunshine.
I admit I would pretty much like anyone who has several varieties of coffee and a buffet prepared for me in my grogginess, but I’ve eaten from other hotel buffets and never made a personal connection.
Inge greets everyone who enters the common room. Hello, my dear. Good morning, love. She asks how your evening was, what are your plans for the day, and shares anecdotes. Everyone, Man, Woman, Child. She’s especially affectionate toward the red-haired brothers in their shark and bunny slippers and the dark-haired sisters who brought along their own box of General Mills Frozen cereal.
I don’t know where all Inge’s friendliness and joy come from. Maybe her early experiences as an immigrant married to an American led her to reach out to everyone. Maybe it’s her faith. She told me about finding a statue of Mary for her garden in a local secondhand shop, so I assume she’s Catholic. Speculation.
Maybe she exited the womb exuding sunshine, and the attending nurses dimmed the delivery room lights.
Many people aren’t happy at a low-paying, menial job. Apparently, this isn’t a problem for Inge, who must have earned several times minimum wage as an RN. Inge brings her happy with her to her early morning job and then goes home and takes a nap.
So I miss Inge. I miss her coffee, biscuits, bacon, eggs, sausages, bagels, muffins, cereal, cinnamon rolls, and yogurt, but mostly I miss her cheeriness. I fear I’ll never visit her again. Winter mornings will be colder and darker without her.
I can only think of one way around this loss: I’ll have to become Inge. I won’t attempt the accent, and everyone who knows me knows I don’t do early morning joy.
But I can try.