Soon after I moved to Nanaimo from Toronto, in 2011, I got a fantastic new job as a Continental breakfast hostess at a quaint little independently owned hotel. The manager was impressed with my 20+ years of experience in hospitality services, and loved my warm, friendly disposition and “can-do” attitude.
I took to the job like an old pro, learned quickly, and became fast friends with the front desk and housekeeping staff. I was having a great time – and it showed! I greeted every person who entered the café like they were guests in my own home. I was engaging and enthusiastic, talked to everyone I had a chance to while keeping the coffee hot, the milk cold and the muffins fresh.
Every day, the feedback I got from hotel guests was nothing but positive. Men gave me their business cards, telling me they looked forward to their next visit to Nanaimo, so they could see me again. Women approached me with warm hugs, saying I was the best breakfast hostess they’d ever seen. A perfect fit for the job – and it was evident in the tips I was getting. The usual take from the other café girls was about $3 to $8 per shift, while I was finding $20 bills in my little TIP BOX, wrapped in notes saying: “Wow, you’re awesome. Thanks for starting my vacation off on the right foot!”
So, four weeks into this wonderful new job, the manager called me to a meeting. I thought perhaps it was to discuss a raise or promotion to a supervisory or front desk position, as I told him during my interview that I intended to work at the hotel for many years and eventually work my way up to a management position. But, sadly, that was not to be. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
In his office, the manager looked across the desk at me, a frown on his face. “I’ve been getting some...strange feedback from guests about you,” he said.
I paused, bewildered. “Strange how?”
The manager fidgeted uncomfortably in his chair. “Just...people have been making some weird comments about you and I, uh...I just don’t think you’re a good fit here.”
My heart sank.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” I said quietly. “I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from hotel guests. I’m warm and friendly to everyone. I love my job and I do it very, very well, so I’m really confused, here. Can you please explain to me what you mean by ‘weird’ and ‘strange’ because that makes absolutely no sense to me?”
“I’m not going to get into any details or name names,” he said, nervously. “You’re just not a good fit as a café attendant.”
I stood there in stunned silence for a moment. “So...you’re firing me?” I managed.
He lowered his gaze, nodded.
Tears began to well up in my eyes. Again I tried to pry some more information out of him about why I was being fired and, again, he was evasive and dismissive. I stormed out of his office, furious and in tears.
About an hour later, as I sat down on my sofa at home with a huge bowl of ice cream to pacify myself, I went over and over in my mind every possible reason why I was just fired from a job I was so obviously perfect for...and there was nothing.
I turned on the TV, started watching Brad Meltzer's Decoded. This episode was about the Statue of Liberty’s possible connection to the Illuminati, a secret society of powerbrokers who seek to rule the world in a New Order of government. And that got me thinking about other secret societies and their connection to pagan religions —
“Holy shit! Is that it?! Is that why I was fired?” I said, as I jumped off the couch.
You see, about a week earlier, as I was putting out a fresh batch of cinnamon buns at the café, a middle aged black man and his sister came in, my very first guests of the day. The woman sat down at a table, the man approached and asked for my name. After I told him, he said, “Kelly, have you accepted the Lord as your true God and Saviour?”
I cringed a little but it’s my job to be polite and engaging to everyone who walks through my doors, so I said, “Yes, the Lord is with me.”
“And do you talk to God every day?” he went on.
I smiled. “If by ‘talk’ you mean have a face-to-face conversation with God, then, no. But I do feel her presence, guiding me through life.”
The man cocked his head, visibly confused. “Her presence? God is male not female. What religion are you?”
I looked around at the empty café, hoping that someone would walk in and interrupt our conversation. But, alas, it was just the three of us. So, I took a deep breath, said, “While I do have an academic interest in all religions, my beliefs tend to lean more toward Buddhism and Wicca.”
“What does ‘Wicca’ mean?” his sister asked from across the room.
“It means I’m a witch,” I said matter-of-factly.
The man’s face went ashen. “You are an agent of Lucifer, the Dark Angel. A minion of Satan!”
Oh, Jesus, here we go, I said to myself. And then I thought, this is a perfect opportunity to dispel a few myths about Wicca, and engage the man in a rational, intelligent theosophical discussion about the existence of God (Yeah, I know. Naïve. But that’s me.).
“Actually, Wicca has absolutely nothing to do with Lucifer or Devil worship,” I said, with a gentle tone in my voice. “It’s a nature-based religion with a female deity at the head, sometimes called Gaia or Diana. We’re all about love, charity, compassion and acceptance, respect for nature and the protection of animals. We don’t fly around on broomsticks or dance naked around bonfires, sacrificing newborn babies to the Devil. We rescue abandoned kittens, pay the vet bill for stray dogs that have been hit by a car. We organize bake sales to raise money for kids’ sports uniforms. We reduce, recycle and reuse. Basically,” I said, laughing, “we’re all just a bunch of tree-hugging granola-crunchers trying to do good in the world.” (BTW, I know there’s a lot more to Wicca than what I just said here, but I didn’t want to spend an hour trying to explain all of THIS to him.)
The man frowned, shook his head. “Lies. It’s all lies,” he said. “Lucifer is trying to trick you into thinking you’re doing good when in fact, it’s all just a ploy to seduce you. Diana is really Lucifer in disguise and he’s tricking you because he wants your soul.”
“That’s not true,” I said as gently and politely as I could. “I’m a good person, with a loving heart and compassionate soul. I’m not being tricked by anyone.”
He grasped my hands. “You must believe in God, Kelly. You must pray for forgiveness for your sins. Otherwise, on Judgment Day, your soul will be damned to eternal hellfire if you continue on this path to wickedness.”
I was starting to get a little nervous, now. I’d had religious debates with Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists – even a few Scientologists – many times in the past, and they were all perfectly sane and enlightening discussions. But here I was, stuck in a room with a religious fanatic who, I started to suspect, was playing with one card short of a deck.
“Do you believe in Jesus?” he pressed on. “Do you believe that he died on the cross for your sins?”
“I do know for a fact that Jesus, the son of Mary and a carpenter named Joseph, existed 2,000 years ago, yes,” I said, nodding. “I’ve seen the documentaries on the History Channel — ”
“Then, you must repent or your soul will be lost to Satan.”
I was getting really uncomfortable by this point, so, in an attempt to end the discussion and get back to work, I said, “Sorry, but my soul doesn’t really need saving. But thank you, though.”
I took a step toward the kitchen, he grasped my hands again, tried to pull me to him. “Kelly, what can I say? What can I do?” he asked, an almost desperate tone in his voice. “I have to find some way to save you. Judgment Day is coming. You don’t really want to spend eternity in Hell, do you? Pray with me now. Deny your allegiance to Lucifer and pray to God for forgiveness.”
“That would be a complete waste of my time,” I said, perhaps a little too curtly.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because, I don’t believe that there’s a supernatural creator of the universe, pulling the strings of fate and deciding who lives and who dies. God is just a myth. A fairy tale.”
Thankfully, another hotel guest entered the café and I excused myself to tend to his needs. Moments later, as the brother and sister got up to leave, he approached me one last time.
“God bless you, Kelly,” he said.
“And may Diana bless you, protect you and surround you with love,” I responded as sweetly as I possibly could.
The man winced, as though I’d just insulted him, then left the café with his sister. Never, for a moment, did I suspect that he would go to the manager with a complaint about me.
So, why, exactly, did I get fired from a job that I loved and did exceptionally well? Was it because I refused to be converted to Christianity by a mentally unbalanced evangelist? Was it because I expressed my interest in pagan religions with a hotel guest who, by the way, had no right to prod me for information about my personal beliefs? Or was it because I said I didn’t believe in God?
To this day, the manager of the hotel refuses to tell me.
ADDENDUM: For those of you who might be a little confused because I said, earlier in my blog post, that I feel the presence of God guiding me through life and, yet, later deny the existence of God altogether, please allow me to clarify.
I believe that every living, sentient creature on this planet has a soul (an energy source, if you will) and these souls are all interconnected, yet independently functioning parts of a greater force in the universe, which is completely neutral. It has no thoughts, no feelings. It does not make decisions or manipulate the fate of anyone. I absolutely do not believe that there is an all-knowing, all-powerful God floating around in the sky, deciding whether or not a terrorist bomb will kill 30 people or 300, cursing a man with cancer for being a homosexual, or manipulating it so a six year-old girl from Alabama wins a beauty pageant because her momma prayed real hard.
In that same vein, I also do not believe there is an equally powerful opposing deity (Satan, Lucifer, the Prince of Demons) who spends his time seducing members of the Human Race into doing his evil bidding, with the promise of great wealth and power in return for their servitude.
This might seem like a lot of far out, New Age bullshit to some of you. But, hey, it works for me!