Ok, I admit it.
Hot on the heels of a weekend during which I traipsed across three Disney theme parks, consumed a teriyaki slider that all but changed my life, and test drove a Camaro that was barely available to the public, I had little to no expectations for my stay at the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista resort. All I really needed was a checkpoint for my family and I to recharge and regroup.
We spent a grand total of just over 12 hours on the premises – and a majority of that time I was unconscious. However, this proved more than enough time to be thoroughly impressed by the experience.
I was given a hint of what was to come the moment we pulled up the driveway. Although it was close to 11:00 P.M. on a Sunday, the valet was unusually cordial; not the least bit bothered by my request to self-park. He placed a pink note on my dashboard, advised me exactly how and where to leave the car, and called for a bell hop to unload the trunk.
I made it back to the lobby just as my wife was checking us in with the gentleman at the front desk. He politely directed us to our room (which was mercifully close), and we somehow dragged ourselves to it before collapsing onto the floor and beds in various states of exhaustion.
We’d spent the better part of 72 hours taking full advantage of everything Disney had to offer, and could now barely communicate in anything more than grunts and sighs. Considering the time of night, our collective state, and the fact that I have a tendency to project, I expected whoever dropped by with our bags to also be a depressed, tired, troll of a human being.
On cue, came a knock. A jovial voice floated through – not too loud, not too soft – clearly belonging to someone experienced with communicating through shut doors.
My wife turned the handle, and in came Shelton from the Wyndham Garden bell desk. I immediately knew exactly who he was and where he’d come from, as those were the first two things out of his mouth.
In an instant, his energy bounded into and filled the room. Completely unfazed by our communal Debbie Downer-ness, he all at once began unloading our luggage and asking us how our day had gone. He then wished us a pleasant stay, and cracked a couple jokes about he we could remember his name:
“Just think Big Bang Theory, or, like Blake!”
The man knew his audience.
He once again assured us he’d move heaven and earth to make our stay as comfortable as possible, and with nothing more than a “yeah,” “great,” and meek “thank you” from our party he was gone.
As was all that energy. The four of us fell into full-on hibernation shortly thereafter.
The following morning was a blur of packing, rest stop planning, and child-wrangling. We eventually made it out onto the catwalk and headed toward the lobby. I was in the middle of directing my youngest out of the way of a young man who was maneuvering a large bin of used towels down the walkway, when it happened.
The man casually moved off to one side for us to pass. As we did, I glanced up to see him make direct eye contact with Ethan, an offer a large smile and hearty wave.
Normally, this is my son’s kryptonite. He gets very self-conscious and shy when he unexpectedly becomes the center of attention. Without missing a beat however, he returned the smile and wave in kind. That’s when it became crystal clear to me:
The valet. The front desk. This man. Shelton. Everyone we’d come into contact with was genuinely NICE. They enjoyed – or at least very convincingly appeared to enjoy – interacting with and hosting their guests. Given such a popular location, there’s no doubt every staff member has every excuse to go through the motions and more or less ignore the hundreds of anonymous faces they encounter every day. But none of them seemed to give any less than their best.
And that’s what I’ll remember the most about the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista resort. Not the pool, or the bar, or the gym, or our room – but the people.
In only 12 hours, I gained an experience I’ll refer to as a measuring stick for years to come.
Disclosure: Consideration provided by brands mentioned in this post.