Not too long ago I was summoned by a potential client to visit him in his city so he could tell me face to face why I am exactly the wrong person to write anything for him and that if I cared about the human race I would take effective steps to remove myself from the gene pool. The client-not-to-be put me up in a hotel near his office, the "Chateau De Snob," I think it was called.
I look for two things in overnight lodging: "Bargain" and "Rates." I used to stay at Motel 6 when it was only Motel 3 And a Half, and I am accustomed to having to ring a buzzer for at least a minute before Norman Bates comes out of a back room to rent me a bed for the night. It was therefore with a bit of trepidation that I pulled my rental car in front of the Chateau De Snob's lobby and watched as an army of men dressed like the guards of Munchkin Land stormed out and opened my door. One of them roared off in my vehicle, and I was handed a plastic chip in payment. "Well, thanks for the UFO money," I told the senior ranking officer, "but the car is not mine to sell."
Up in my room the Munchkin soldier carrying my bag made a great show of opening the curtains. He pointed out the phone, the bathroom, and the television--apparently he felt I would otherwise be unable to identify these things. Then he approached me and held out his hand, so I shook it vigorously. Frowning, he hung up my bag, demonstrated how to work the TV remote, and came back for another handshake. He looked even more irritated, though I was doing my best to be nice. He fussed with the thermostat and made sure there were no monsters in the closet. This time as he returned, his palm held upward, I realized he wanted more than just friendship. I dug in my pocket and his expression brightened, but his face fell when I gave him the white plastic chip. He pitched it on the bed and left in disgust.
At dinner with my client I did my best to select from a menu printed in French, though what I ordered apparently translated to "Small Bits of Tasteless Stuff on a Plate of Grass, Covered in Watery Mayonnaise." The waiter ignored my desperate attempt to obtain a "la burger o'cheese with fries o'francais," despite the fact that I held my nose so it would sound like I was speaking French. My client talked on his cell phone the whole time, breaking away from his conversation occasionally in order to advise me that I was "essentially worthless" to his company.
When I got back to my room, I was horrified to discover that someone had broken in! However, I apparently must have scared them off before they could take anything--indeed, the only sign of disturbance was that they had thrown back the covers on the bed to take a nap. My fumbling with the plastic card the hotel called a "key" must have given them time to escape out the window. In their haste, they left a small piece of chocolate, which probably dropped out of a pocket. I ate it in good humor, appreciating the irony.
Best part of the trip: the hotel was kind enough to place a well stocked refrigerator in the room, which I made use of not only for liquid refreshment but for the peanuts and canned oysters. Every time I pulled out another can of beer a digital readout ticked upward another 500 points, which I figured was a meter on the number of calories I was consuming. What the heck, it made up for dinner, in my opinion.
Worst part of the trip: my not-a-client has been leaving messages for me since I got back, telling me he won't pay for the "outrageous bar bill" I charged to the room. I ask you, why would I go to the bar when I had a refrigerator full of free goodies in my room?
Sometimes people are so out of touch it scares me.
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1998
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