Hurricane Irma! For Floridians, that’s all you need to say.
My family and I fled from Category 4 Irma. According to our Governor, this was “a deadly storm” the likes of which “our state has never seen.” We drove from Miami to what we thought would be a relatively safe spot – the city of Tampa. Hey-want to lose weight quickly and continue to have no appetite-just flee to a “safe” area (Tampa) that ends up becoming a hurricane’s bull’s-eye.
For all the anxiety, long gas lines, lack of electricity, lack of hot food, nonstop Weather Channel warnings, and crush of people on the road, I was impressed with so many employees with whom I interacted before, during, and after the hurricane. Almost all acted with grace and professionalism in the face of panicked and demanding customers.
Kudos to the food servers, managers, gas station attendants, police, housekeepers, stock clerks, cashiers, and store employees who were at their posts all along I-75 from Weston to Tampa both pre-and post-hurricane.
We stayed at one Tampa hotel that had its opening day the Friday before Irma’s Sunday night arrival. The hotel’s reservation system was not even up and running yet. But the employees hung together led by their new General Manager. Somehow the hotel was able to assign rooms to the crush of locals (and their pets) who were told to run to higher ground.
Relatives asked us to stay with them at another Tampa hotel-so we moved on Saturday night. As the storm approached Sunday evening, the hotel lost power. During and after the storm, even with no power, the staff at the second hotel did all they could to please us, including somehow serving three meals a day. The hotel’s HR Director told me that immediately after the hurricane more than 70% of her staff was on duty. That was remarkable.
The evening after the hurricane, just one restaurant down the street was open. It was packed. Only one cook and 4 servers took care of what had to be a record crowd. I went back Tuesday before noon and asked our server how she and the others made it through the night before. She just laughed, told me how tired she was and how it was “nothing” to show up for work. She told me one server had served over $3,500 in food and drinks the night before-that server was on duty again as well. My server told me she had done over $2,000. That’s a lot of burgers, fries and beer to serve in one evening.
I tip my hat to the Miccosukee gas station at mile marker 49 on I-75-it was open both pre- and post-hurricane. The lines were long but the truly friendly Miccosukee police kept cars in line and moving. The gas station manager was overwhelmed with customers for hours on end, especially after the gas pumps stopped taking credit cards. However, I saw her keep her cool in the face of rude (and a few crazy) customers. She spoke politely to all who complained or had questions.
The one bad apple the whole trip was a convenience store attendant in post-hurricane Ft. Myers. The area off the exit ramp looked like the zombie apocalypse. The entire area was without power and really battered. However, we stopped and asked if we could use the restroom. “Hell No-I am not cleaning up after anyone!” came the clerk’s reply. So quickly back in the car, we drove to the next exit. In the devastation, there was a Publix Supermarket open and running on backup power. The friendly employees were working as if it were just another work day-they had shown up for work on Tuesday less than two days after the area had almost been wiped off the map.
For all the lawsuits, charges of discrimination, and employee complaints I handle, it was something extraordinary to see so many employees doing their jobs superbly under such extreme circumstances. Florida employers-you should be proud of your employees!