The bus drops me off on Victors Way twice a week around 9 p.m., just as the skies slowly peel from the bright blue of day to reveal soft shades of lavender, pink, and silver. I love this time of night and enjoy walking slowly down the row of hotels to the one where I work as night auditor.

I can judge by the number of cars in the circular lot if the night will be busy or slow. A few weeks ago several suites were booked for parties: two bachelors’, one birthday, and one post-prom. That was one very lively night, and I got to know what it felt like to parent the property, even evicting the rowdiest guests when they refused to quiet down past two a.m. It was not my favorite night. Who wants to be the bad guy to celebrating kids?

This weekend, we’re seeing parents who’ve come to check out the U-M before their fledgling freshmen pour into the dorms to start their college lives. Some have already checked in; others are expected as late as three a.m. after long drives or flights. The parents will share the property with long-term guests whose stays are being paid for by companies across the country.

My coworker is on the phone with one guest while checking in another. I walk past and take a seat slightly out of sight to the left of the coffee station. I switch the television (one of three in this small lobby) from a news channel to a Law and Order SVU rerun and start to unpack my night’s provisions. This will be my home for the next eight hours.

It’s still forty-five minutes before my shift starts, but scanning the area I can see that the tables need to be wiped down, the carpets swept, and the coffee station replenished. When she has a moment, my coworker fills me in on the doings of the day. A dog belonging to one of the guests escaped and was a task to catch. Five guests are due to arrive late, and two rooms are down due to a problem with air conditioning.

The phone rings softly as guests call in requesting pillows, sheets, or wake-up calls, for a taxi in the morning, or for the names of restaurants that deliver after ten p.m. Other calls come from as far away as California, asking about room rates and availability; once I start my shift I direct those calls to the company’s reservation line, since I never have a clue what is available past this particular night.

Just before eleven p.m., I step outside for one last glimpse of the night sky, inhaling the scents of trees, shrubs, and flowers. I walk back inside, pick up my belongings, and go into the office to punch in. My shift has begun.

When my coworker leaves for the night I lock up; late arrivals will have to buzz to be let in. That happens throughout the night, not only with late arrivals but with guests who have the munchies, need to print something on the computers, or are just bored. A few linger to watch TV, drink beer, or play cards.

I enjoy nights like this, when everyone is just a little bit restless. It gives me a chance to play hostess–“Would you like some ice? I have extra cups, plates …”–and to get to know some of the guests. I’ve met visitors from Texas, New York, Florida, England, and Australia, and students who plan to major in engineering, medicine, law, and chemistry.

It takes me back to the days when my family lived in hotels where my mother worked. By the close of her shift, Mom would be upstairs with the guests, playing gin rummy. It’s no wonder that I have a fondness for my work or that my sister, too, once took a job in a hotel.

When all of the guests have been checked in or have returned to their rooms, I am left alone to enjoy the silence. Toward dawn I may venture outside, just past the canopy, so that I can stare up at the moon, count stars, and deeply inhale a cool silky breeze. I’m not tired no matter the hour and smile as the birds start to wake and I hear a rustle in the bushes nearby of a squirrel or a bunny. There is a distant sound of traffic from I-94, and up the street I can see the glow of the Burger King sign.

I go back in to assist in preparing the breakfast buffet. By six a.m. I’m welcoming my guests one at a time. I welcome the newcomers with a smile and hope they see how nice a place Ann Arbor is.

The taxis start to arrive around 6:30 to take the departing guests back to DTW. It’s time for the goodbye ritual. Thanks for visiting Ann Arbor. I hope you enjoyed your stay.