05/30/2013 05:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sandy, Christy and Terri: Bradford, Pa., October 3, 2009


Christy, in the center, checks me in upon my arrival. "You're all set, Mr. Zuckerman," she says when we're through. "Thank you Christy," I say, seeing her name-tag. "You're welcome, Mr. Zuckerman," she says. "Please, call me Robert." But the next day, she continues to address me as "Mr. Zuckerman." I understand this protocol and company policy. "Before I leave here, you're going to call me Robert!" "OK" she smiles -- and keeps calling me "Mr. Zuckerman." Over the course of the few weeks we're there, I exchange friendly greetings and conversation with the young women who work at the front desk and clean the rooms. Some, like Sandy (on the left) do both. They are curious about and fascinated by this mostly Los Angeles-based film crew coming to their small town, and they hope to catch a glimpse of Denzel Washington in person. One bright day as I head out, I greet Sandy at the front desk. Our hello turns into a lengthy conversation about many things, but mostly family and life. A single Mom, she is raising her two children while working nearly full time at the hotel. She expresses sadness and frustration in the differences to her's and her sister's approach to raising their children. "My children say grace before meals. Once when my sister and her kids were over I asked my nephew to say grace and he didn't know what this was." Days later in the hallway when Sandy is in her room-cleaning uniform, Terri chides her "You went to the bar last night and you didn't call me!" Sandy tells me "I happened to stop there and had a beer with friends -- it's so rare that I get out!" The night before I check out I see Christy at the front desk. "Thank you for everything Christy. You've been so great." "You're welcome Robert," she says with a warm smile. In this moment, the hotel and her name tag fade away, and we are just two friends, equals, bidding each other farewell.