Some people find the idea of sitting down with a complete stranger with whom you have nothing in common and blathering about nothing at all for about a half hour enticing and attractive. I am not one of those people. Unfortunately, our Highly Intrusive Bed and Breakfast Owner this weekend was one of those types.
Normally, of course, I avoid B&B's like they're Top 40 radio for precisely this reason. I'd much rather have an efficient and impersonal check-in, followed by a session with the mini-bar and the cool anonymity of a standard room. But this time, The Wife and I were using a gift certificate we got as a gift, so we didn't really have a choice.
We got to the B&B, in Mendocino, after hitting about 5 wineries in the Anderson Valley on the way in, so we mostly just wanted to get the key to our cottage and unwind.
(Yes, I did have enough sense to pay extra for the private cottage. NO WAY am I staying in the main house and bumping into the Jolly Retirees in the hallway when I'm going to the bathroom at 7:30 a.m.)
The HIBBO - let's call her "Sue" - was having none of that. We knew something was up when we got there and she was just taking another couple out to their room and said she'd be "right back" and was gone for 20 minutes. Then she came back and we got started. Sue explained that she could have put everything in a notebook, but nobody would read it, so she proceeded to run down the Rules of the Inn in a half-hour session that lacked only PowerPoint slides and bad coffee to make it as excruciating as any Sales Conference you can imagine. There was a lengthy explanation of what local guidebooks were available and which could and could not be removed from the main house. Various aspects of the Grounds were discussed, including what animal and bird life was native to the area and likely to be spotted therein. We were warned to drive extremely slowly on the 100-foot trek from the parking area to the cabin, lest we inadvertently flatten some of said local fauna.
Since the Inn furnished a breakfast, as implied by "bed & breakfast," various dietary restrictions were explored. The Wife, who is a semi-practicing gluten-avoider, made the mistake of telling Sue that, and much time was then devoted to exploring other possible dietary quirks that faux-celiacs might embrace. Tea was a popular subject. When The Wife indicated her preference for tea over coffee, Sue asked what kind of tea she preferred.
"Oh, anything," The Wife foolishly replied.
"Well, we have various kinds. Do you like more herbal?"
"Anything is fine, really," The Wife said, starting to panic.
"There are a number of herbal options, or do you like berry flavors more?"
"Yes, berries!" The Wife said, suddenly realizing that this conversation had no good out.
By the point, I had picked up a magazine and begun lazily leafing through it, trying to send some kind of signal. But Sue was either immune to normal conversational cues or just didn't give a damn. She asked whether we planned to dine at any local restaurants. The Wife offered that yes, we had reservations the following night at a local dining establishment that looked good, based on an online review of the menu.
Sue's mood darkened. "Well, I've had a lot of people tell me they've had problems there. They don't do substitutions," she warned. "I had one guest who went there and asked for a different sauce for her chicken, and she got a naked chicken breast on her plate!!!!"
That's right. This restaurant's substitution policy is so baroque - and so secretive - that if you ask for a substitution of any kind, you are punished with a naked chicken breast, without warning. We assured her that we would not, in fact, be asking for any substitutions.
You get the idea. Eventually - finally - we got into the cottage and opened a bottle of wine and went on to have, I can say without reservations, a wonderful weekend, in which we saw Sue not at all. We did see a deer coming back one night. I was tempted to run it over, just to spite her, but I didn't.