I made some friends this week. Additionally, I’m thinking that I might have also made the “Watch” list of other people or been noted as suspicious, or ‘needing medication.’ From a couple of the hotel desk clerks in Hot Springs to our waiter Allister at the Brick House, there were some interesting people fluttering about. Other than having to look at one specific person’s horrific haircut, I was surrounded by both wit and interesting people. I’m appreciative of the opportunity to have been in Hot Springs and learn so much and don’t want my total lack of decorum in story-telling to cause anyone to think otherwise. (Except for the guy with that haircut. I was going to post a picture of his hair to prove it, except he is very vain about his hair – even though he murdered it with whatever happened at his hair stylist to have caused Hairicane Katrina to be on his head.) (I am still laughing about the name “Hairicane Katrina,” by the way.)
During the conference this week, I stayed at a hotel I will call the Frampton Inn to protect their integrity. Evidently, they are in the middle of a massive renovation project – or a badly-executed game of large scale Jenga in which everyone is playing by a different set of rules. In the past, this hotel has been excellent and well maintained. They are redoing the facade of the building, as well as the hallways and rooms. But they are telling no one when reservations are made that it looks like a refugee camp. It’s like a Christmas surprise, except in this case, we are crying and throwing our yuletide gifts out the window. The hotel feels like it is being used to re-enact a war scene from Lebanon. And not the good war scenes either, where the hero is climbing across rubble to save someone. In this movie, everyone is lying dehydrated on the ground, dirty, begging for someone to shoot them and take them away from the misery. (In other words, it is exactly like Parent-Teacher conferences.)
When my wife and I checked in, I noticed some aberrations from the normal. Chiefly among them, there was a gap running the entire handle side of the room door, wider than a quarter. I could sit on the bed and see the door across the hallway – with the door shut. The couch looked like a roving band of angry Scotsmen had used it for knife training. When I opened the curtain, a startled Hispanic male almost fell off the scaffolding, as he was crouched away from the sun, using his cellphone. This hotel has always been nice, in my opinion, both with great staff and maintained like a modern motel. I’m guessing that the renovation prompted management to do nothing pending the other work being done, sort of like we do at work after a meeting. Luckily, the front desk clerk allowed us to move to the top floor. The only catch was that she told us they would be working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the roof and that it might be loud. Might be loud? Had the International Jackhammer and Cymbal Symphony been practicing up there, it could not have possibly been louder. And I think they had their watches synchronized to 3 times zones away, as their interpretation of the hours of work seemed to have been determined by randomly throwing a dart at a calendar from 2002 – and then doing shots.
Even though you think I might be exaggerating, the hotel staff had TAPED the room numbers on our doors. I think they used a computer to print the numbers and then just gave up, ripping the numbers into squares and using scotch tape to place them on the doors. I have pictures to prove it, as I realize that this sounds nuts. Additionally, the contractors used pencils and markers to make notes on the hallway walls and door jambs. As you all know, I routinely travel with pens, pencils and markers. This fact presented me with a moral dilemma: should I switch the room numbers or add additional notes to confuse the workers? It seemed appropriate to not limit myself and instead do a little of each and observe the consequences, if any.
The first morning, I listened as the Indian manager had a conversation with the Latina housekeeping supervisor. Both were struggling to speak another language and get their points across. After the manager had walked away, I surprised the housekeeping supervisor by speaking to her. In Spanish, I told her to remember to go to the 5th floor and retrieve the extra linen from the tents where the guests without assigned rooms had stayed the night before. I added some details to add legitimacy to my directions. Behind me, one of the Hispanic contractors was on stilts, working on the ceiling. He listened to me as I talked to the housekeeping supervisor. I think he was ‘on to me,’ given the facial expressions he exhibited. I added, “And tell that guy behind me if he feels so short to find a better way to compensate, because stilts are dangerous.” I forgot to mention – there is no 5th floor on this building, so I can only assume that the housekeeper imagined that tents had been erected on the roof of the hotel overnight and guests had been staying up there. The fact that she didn’t immediately object tells me that this crazy idea of mine in some way probably sounded like something management would have come up with. In case you are wondering, after I got another cup of delicious coffee from the lobby, I told her I was just joking and introduced myself. She laughed and laughed. The guy on stilts was named Jorge and he told me that management at the hotel had no sense of humor whatsoever. Although I’m not sure he got the joke, I told him, “You are always looking down on people, though, Jorge.”
As for tomfoolery, I put an exit sign directly on the 4th floor window facing Temperance Hill Road. I kept hoping to hear a thunderous crash of glass as someone ran through the hallway and dived out the new “exit window,” instead of the stairs to the left. I couldn’t bring myself to switch any of the room numbers, despite the ensuing guaranteed shenanigans as strangers tried to enter the wrong rooms, or started complaining that their keys wouldn’t work. I did write “Needs Jacuzzi installed” in English and Spanish next to the door of a room which was being totally renovated. I’m wondering if the contractors will check, or will actually install a new Jacuzzi in that room. “You’re welcome,” I say to all the future guests who will benefiting from a possibly free Jacuzzi upgrade to their room. Even though one of the contractors saw me, I also wrote “Extremely Slow Escalator” on the 2nd floor sign next to the stairs.
(The general method to the contractors system could best be described by the words “pandemonium,” or “mixed martial arts involving hammers.”)
I didn’t want to go too far, being a guest of people who expect the utmost professionalism at all times – despite them having inexplicably and foolishly invited me to come and stay. I amused myself by making a list of things I should have done. It’s bad when you find yourself laughing at your own stupid ideas. I’m convinced I added a lot of fun and levity to several of the people’s work, other than that one guy who probably is still stuck upside down on the scaffolding. (As for him, he now understands that it is the LAW of gravity, rather than a suggestion, in a way he previously hadn’t considered.)
Dawn will tell you that I joked with all the hotel staff, even getting them to participate in the goofiness, especially the rumor that a roving band of barking dogs was bothering the guests. It seemed possible. If Hot Springs is the City of Dreams, then surely someone might have brought their own pack of roving dogs to experience it.
As an anecdote, one of the other guests we knew said that when she checked into the hotel, she noticed that the soap had been used, then put back into the box, still slightly frothy from use. It sounds gross – and it is, but it turned out that it wasn’t hotel staff who were guilty of being involved. Another guest, one who decided not to stay at that hotel, had done like he always did and used the box for storage while staying there. The staff just assumed that the room was still pristine and hadn’t checked the boxes. Why would they? And by the way, as weird as I am, it would never occur to me to store the soap back inside the box, surrounded by all that water. I loved this story, though, as two people who knew each other were comparing hotel stories, only to find out that one had actually caused the other guest’s crazy story. Had they not known each other and talked about it, all of us would have believed that the hotel was recycling soap to save money.
The hotel wasn’t much to look at during this visit, but it did provide a verbal playground and that’s hard to put a price tag on. I’m thinking about writing the corporate office and telling them that I didn’t appreciate having to stay on the 5th floor in a tent, or to listen to roving dogs bark all night, or being ridiculed by people on stilts calling me ‘short,’ just to see how they respond. As I think about it, though, I wouldn’t want corporate to step in an deny anyone the right to experience the Frampton Inn in the same way I did. You will need earplugs and a wish to find fun in normally uncomfortable situations if you stay there. But it is there, waiting, if you seek it.
And bring some magic markers with you! Love, X
(The picture in the is at least some proof that I didn’t make all this craziness up.)