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Imelda left Satchel Smith as the lone employee at a Homewood Suites in Texas. He smiled and went to work  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

A phone call to the Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas, is answered by a jovial voice. 

It's surprising, considering the demands that have been placed on the owner of that voice over the last 24-plus hours. 

Satchel Smith has been working for more than a day. Mostly by himself. The 21-year-old member of Lamar University's track team is the only hotel employee on the clock in the wake of Tropical Depression Imelda, which has flooded roads throughout eastern Texas. 

The front-desk worker has taken on the task with a smile.

"Ever since I was younger, I was always smiling," Smith said in a phone interview with USA TODAY. "If I'm smiling, I feel like other people will smile, too." 

He's received rave reviews from the hotel's guests. A viral Facebook post from Angela K. Chandler shows a smiling Smith — who was still at the hotel late Thursday after he said he arrived at roughly 3 p.m. the day before.

"The access road is underwater and I-10 is shut down due to flooding," Chandler wrote in her post. "We can't get in or out. The hotel a mile from us is under water. Satchel has been here all night. His coworkers couldn't make it to work, so he stayed.

"He has manned the phones, answered each of our questions, ensured that we have  had a hot cup of coffee or tea, and helped serve us a hot breakfast."

Chandler's post has been shared more than 5,000 times. 

"He has handled this situation with grace, kindness, and a beautiful smile on his face," Chandler wrote. 

Alanna Hall, operations manager for the hotel and acting general manager, said she was nervous when she first learned that Smith was the only employee at the hotel. He is a part-time employee.

In a phone interview with USA TODAY, Hall recalled the advice she gave Smith. 

"Just hang in there," she said. "Somebody’s trying to get there. Just do the best you can."

On Thursday evening, Hall said "relief" in the form of more employees was expected to arrive soon. She added that hotel guests were helping to cook meals. 

"I wasn’t sure how he would take a crisis," Hall said. "But he has done a wonderful job. He’s the only hotel employee there, period. We are an extended-stay hotel; there’s usually no one there from 8 p.m until 7 a.m., there’s just the front desk person." 

Accuweather reported that the "worst of the flooding" took place near Beaumont. 

Smith's school was closed Thursday and will be closed again Friday due to the storm. He said people staying in the hotel "couldn't get in or out" and estimated that between 80 to 90 people were staying at the Homewood Suites. 

"I always believe treat others how you would like to be treated," he said. "It’s like a motto of mine."

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