The question is not delivered with the haughty snobbery of your usual concierge and the man asking is dressed in jeans and a checked shirt instead of a starched uniform. And that is exactly why it is so refreshing.
I am in Mountainair, New Mexico, tucked away inside the Cibola National Forest in a town with only a flashing yellow light where the two main highways intersect right by the railroad tracks. The little community, originally established in 1903 as a stop along the AT&SF Railway is almost preserved from time with a main street filled with facade storefronts reminiscent of the good ole’ days. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture a few cowpokes riding in from the range for a drink at the local saloon (which still bears the simple name SALOON). The town thrived in the early 1900’s and soon earned the title “Pinto Bean Capital of the World”. But after the Dust Bowl and the subsequent years of drought lasting into the fifties, the farming community dried up to leave only a few townfolk and ranchers.
There isn’t a lot to do in Mountainair proper – a few restaurants, a bed and breakfast, an historic hotel. There isn’t a movie theater or even a Wal-Mart. But there is a tight-knit community of warm, friendly folk who will treat a city slicker with the same consideration as they would one of their own. Visitors mostly come to view the surrounding ruins of three Indian pueblos and a 17th Century Spanish Franciscan church. It is also a magnet for artists, writers, photographers and poets who draw inspiration from the wide-open scenery and majestic mountain ranges. And just this past spring the usually quiet town was overrun with fire fighters battling a raging blaze in the nearby mountains which destroyed several homes.
So when I find myself standing in the lobby of the Turner Inn and RV Park wishing that I’d brought some half and half for the coffeemaker in our room and realizing my schedule will prevent me from picking something up before the town rolls up the carpet for the night, I am treated to a dose of small town hospitality.
We arrive late at night to find an extra towel draped over a chair and a pint of half and half in our refrigerator. No bell boy is waiting with his hand extended for an expected tip. No room service bill with a hefty gratuity. Just a quiet act of consideration – something often lacking in those high priced luxury hotels in urban America.