Don’t Even Ask Me about the Secret Handshake

Since I’ve paid my first mortgage, I guess I’m officially a small business owner.

I know I’ve said this before, but I never really thought of a bed and breakfast as a small business. I didn’t think of it as a business at all, just like I don’t think of people who sell vitamins or jewelry as small business owners. (Sorry to all of my friends who do that. It’s not that I belittle the work; in fact, I tend to think of you all as industrious people with a part-time job. I just don’t think of it as a small business).

But I’ve been told I’m wrong about that. We are all Small Businesses (in capital letters), and we comprise a vital part of the country’s economy.

You can imagine how excited I was when the media declared two weeks ago that Congress and the president wanted to help small businesses. I stayed up all night at the bed and breakfast with a toilet brush and a bottle of Greenworks. After all, if Congress really wanted to help me, Nancy Pelosi could swing by and clean one of the rooms. And Barbara Mikulski looks as if she could really scrub out the inside of a jetted tub; she’s small enough to get in there underneath the faucets.

Needless to say, Nancy and Babs never came.

Then I scoured the mail, assuming that help would come in the way of a nice check to help me “jumpstart the economy.”

Again, nothing.

I was starting to think that being a small business owner pretty much sucked.

Until, that is, I learned about “the cult”.

The cult of small business owners, that is. The secret society of people who have to pay their taxes every single month. The sleepless cell of business owners who answer their emails at midnight, shop only when things are on sale, and do their “books” in a corner of the tv room.

Now, being pretty slow, I didn’t “get” what was going on at first. I just thought people were being nice. Like the green trolley people, who sent over a nice plant welcoming us to town, along with an invitation to happy hour. And the ghost tour people, who invited us to a VIP tour, along with a cute bag full of homemade soaps.

“Southerners sure are nice,” I thought, as I pocketed the soap and put the plant in the Marin’s dining room.

But then, I went to Meehan’s on Matanzas, and something started to click with me. When the bill came, it didn’t include our drinks (being the big drinkers that we are, it was just a single iced tea, but still). So I pointed it out to our pleasant waitress, who said, “Oh, that isn’t a mistake” and she gestured towards John Meehan, the handsome owner of said restaurant. He smiled like Robert Redford, then gave me the ol’ finger slide down the side of the nose. I was suspicious that something was going on, but then I just assumed that he had nasal problems.

A few weeks later, I got a nice note from Stacie at the Green Trolley, who said that she’d be happy to drop off a Yellow Pass. It was free entry to almost every.single.venue in St. Augustine.

“That way,” she said, “you can talk first-hand about the different activities with all of your guests.” Activities like riding the Green Trolley through town (which I do highly recommend, incidentally, but more on that later).

So here’s the deal: it seems that being a small business owner is hard. Really hard. And we’re all pretty interdependent on each other (is that even a word?) So…I send someone to Raintree Restaurant, and recommend the seafood chowder; they send someone to the Bayfront Marin, and recommend having breakfast in bed. I suggest taking the Schooner for a sunset cruise; they recommend the sangria at our happy hour.

It’s all very mason-like, isn’t it? Without the confusing symbols, of course (although there are all of those quatrafoils around the town).

Of course, I’ll probably be thrown out of the club, or shunned socially, for mentioning this society to you. But I feel like I have an obligation to take you on this ride with me, and that means sharing everything.

So, to all of you non-small business owners…I feel sorry for you. As you sit back and enjoy your company-paid holidays and flu shots, I have a perk that you don’t have. I have peeps…comrades in arms…buds. I am a member of the *club*, baby. And I have a yellow pass, which is just as good as having keys to the city. (Better, actually, as my keyring is already overloaded with all the keys to the b and b).

I’m going to do as many of those free things as I can. (And maybe even a couple that I have to pay for–in the interest of being thorough). I’m going to visit as many restaurants as possible, too, and report back to you on what to do and don’t do in this beautiful old city of mine. I’ll try new drinks, dinner specials, and more historic tours than most people could stand.
It’s going to be hard, netties. But I’m willing to do it. Just for you. And the free drinks, of course.