True Crime: A Stabbing in Tourist Town

This week’s blog is a chapter I’ve cut from the book I’m working on. So, yeah, my blog is a kind of recycling bin because it’s important to recycle.

This is a story about the early days of email and that one time my co-worker was stabbed which occurred while we both worked in tourist hell (otherwise known as the Wisconsin Dells).

I had been forced to get an email account when I was in college, and I absolutely resented it. Around my junior year of college (1999/2000), my university made student email accounts mandatory for every student.

Yes, I am from the past.

Growing up with an Apple IIc and learning the hard truths of life from The Oregon Trail,

all the life lessons you needed to learn were found in Oregon Trail

I didn’t quite understand my aversion to getting an email account but I guess it was just one more thing I resentfully felt obligated to check. My IT friends told me to also get a Yahoo email account.


And a GoogleMail account.


I didn’t have a computer and smart phones weren’t in existence so I then had three email accounts I didn’t want which I also couldn’t really access but also felt compelled to periodically check.

Therefore, I remember irritably paying whatever it cost to check my email accounts at the “email arcade machine” at the Kalahari Hotel and Resort, which is where I worked my senior college summer when the resort first opened in the Dells.

Most of us kids from Baraboo worked in the tourist hell known as Wisconsin Dells during the summer.

I still laugh when thinking of my high school best friend’s face as I went to meet her at work in the Dells one day. That summer she had worked as a lifeguard at a hotel which sat directly across the street from Noah’s Ark (known as “The World’s Largest Waterpark!””).

I looked through the chain link fence which then surrounded the hotel pool and saw her:

We all hated working in the Dells. In any case, when I first started working at Kalahari with its email arcade machine it had just opened and, in its first few weeks, it didn’t have many patrons.

That’s funny because it seems like every Chicago family now goes to Kalahari for vacation.

a quiet day at the Kalahari

So, while I was hired to be head hostess + room service manager at Kalahari, I, for a period of time, also joined the housekeeping troupe because no one was ordering room service from the hotel’s restaurant.

But, occasionally, the restaurant would have guests and, occasionally, the entire restaurant waitstaff didn’t show up. And sometimes these two events would occur simultaneously.

Therefore, when no one showed up, the owner of Kalahari would cook and I would fill all the other restaurant roles.

But the hotel and restaurant eventually started to heat up over the course of its first summer and the waitstaff showed up more regularly.

Eventually, I even had someone to manage in room service: a nice high school girl.

She listened to my directions and carefully placed the little salt shaker and pepper crusher in their appropriate places on the cart and smiled a lot and was a genuine pleasure to work with.

And then one night the kitchen dishwasher boy stabbed my nice room service girl in the stomach.

That was unexpected. By that point, having someone to manage in room service was unexpected. Guests in the hotel were unexpected. And now true crime in the kitchen was unexpected.

My room service co-worker was thankfully alive but there she sat on the kitchen floor, blood pooling, and all us restaurant staff members stood there and stared and gaped and then the panic amongst us quietly climaxed.

Naturally, the dining room was full that night.

And therefore it was essential our patrons did not know that the dishwasher had attempted to murder the room service girl in the kitchen, mere yards from where our patrons all sat, laughing and drinking wine.

People have a tendency to react.

The emergency personnel arrived and quickly addressed both the attempted murderer and my poor, stabbed co-worker.

With the priorities addressed, it was suddenly all hands on deck as the regular servers were kind of frozen with trauma.

Therefore, I was rerouted from the hostess station to be a server because I had developed a knack for serving during my time as the only server when no one else showed up and I vividly remember gently stepping over the blood on the floor and my victimized co-worker who was also on the floor and squeezing through the emergency workers and police who were now all packed into the kitchen and also stepping around the dishwasher who was handcuffed and also sitting on the floor and…

then pushing open the swinging kitchen door and…

ENTERING THE BUSTLING DINING ROOM FULL OF LAUGHTER AND VACATIONERS WITH A FLOURISH AND SMILE and reciting my lines:Hello! Hello! Hello! Huzzah, what a wonderful evening this is! Is this your Poulet Penne? A fine choice! Is there anything else I can help you with tonight?”

And, once again, but this time with a packed dining room and kitchen full of restaurant staff, I was the restaurant’s only server.

One of my tables seemed a bit bemused by me.

It wasn’t difficult to see the stream of emergency workers flowing in and out of the restaurant, yet most people in the dining room hadn’t noticed the crime scene activity because they were safe in their bubbles.

However, this particular table had caught on. They looked up with concern and asked if anything was wrong in the kitchen.

I smiled hugely and reassured them: “What kitchen? Everything is under control.”

Meanwhile, at least two of the regular servers were nauseous and too horrified to function and the remaining waitstaff were shakily comforting them.

I, on the other hand, had come alive!

“Make room for the EMTs!” (Server vomits) “Watch out for that! Yes, officers, right through here!… HERE IS YOUR MERLOT, AN EXCELLENT SELECTION!”

It was clear my teenage years and all my years of watching Murder She Wrote had made me incredibly at ease in emergency situations.

It was around that time I realized that perhaps I should have been a crisis worker.

By profession and not happenstance.

In any case, the room service assistant survived but she never came back to work and the dishwasher went to jail and… well, just another summer in the Dells.


Yet, that was my last summer working in the Dells.

The next summer I worked at a corporate law firm and it felt largely the same.

Bloodshed, denial and paychecks.

And we just keep rolling down the river, hoping that our choice to ford was the right decision…

while enjoying the view, whatever it is, because, on the Oregon Trail, no one dies of old age.

So ford that river and turn it up. 🖤

5 thoughts on “True Crime: A Stabbing in Tourist Town

  1. Haha, I remember when Oregon Trail and Macs filled the computer lab at the school where I taught (you are not old, I am old). FYI somebody finally made a Canadian equivalent called Cross Country Canada. I love the story of all the teenage and college jobs, which my daughter called “bleak”. I still tell her she can come home and go back to her bleak job anytime she wants, which is why she is never going to live at home again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahah aw… yes! The computer labs! All the computer games! I remember signing up to play Frogger as our town’s library had it on PC. 😂 Signing up to play Frogger at the library.

      Old. 😂

      Hahaha oh the bleakness! Yes indeed. I think of the jobs I had in college and… wooooosh! 😂


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