Checking Out

When we check out of the hotel in Houston, we wait quite a long time for the elevator. The family that shares the fifteenth floor elevator lobby with us features a semi-voluptuous teenage daughter with thick, dark hair and small but well-appointed breasts. She is carrying a glass bowl with water and flowers in it and the water is sloshing around. It is not a tight, lush bouquet as from a florist, but a somewhat sparse collection of stems that look like they might have been picked from the planters in the mall where the hotel is, if such things grew in malls. They probably came from home, wherever that is, probably quite a distance given they are staying at the hotel. At one point the girl hands the bowl to her grandmother and throws herself onto the carpeted floor, slumps against the wall between the elevators, and blows her nose. The grandmother hands the bowl back to her, saying “It’s too heavy.” The girl takes it back cheerfully and finishes wiping her nose. Meanwhile the mother is repeatedly pushing the elevator button. These are those Marriott-style elevators where you punch in your floor before getting on and the system assigns you a car. She presses “2”, and the screen responds “NO RESPONSE TRY AGAIN LATER,” so she enters it again. And again. There is a fourth woman in their group, a little older than the mother. She could be a friend but there is a family resemblance so she may be an aunt. She doesn’t say or do much except stand there. I notice there isn’t a man in the picture but five minutes later he walks up and says “oh, you’re still waiting” and presses the elevator button. Finally the”B” car opens and we crowd in. Some of them are going to 3 and some of them to 2 where the lobby is so they can take the flowers to Amanda who is presumably in the hospital or somewhere. When the door opens on 3 at least six firemen with axes leaning on their shoulders are standing there staring at us. Someone says someone is trapped in Car “A”. Presumably the firemen are going to chop down the steel door of Car “A?” The mother declares that they are all getting out on 3 and they all get out on 3, leaving us alone in the car with our bags which we are going to load in our car in the Blue Lot on the first floor. Except first we have to negotiate about 14 steps up from the elevator lobby to the garage, something I have seen at several hotels which they do so you will be forced to use the valet parking one level up and tip all the hotel staff. So rather than tip all the hotel staff we hustle our bags up 14 steps and roll them down a couple of rows and load them in the trunk. Then we have to go back to get the rest of our bags but someone on the hotel staff tells us that none of the elevators are working and we have to climb about 28 steps to the lobby where we can catch the service elevator. We pass the front desk and there are six firemen standing there yelling at the desk clerk, who is smiling uncertainly as she was probably taught in hospitality school except for the uncertain part. “Is this an official emergency call?!” demands the fire captain, backed up by five fire axes. “You haven’t followed proper procedure!” Meanwhile people are still trapped in car “A” and all the elevators are shut down and there are according to reports in the hallways 300 checkouts due to take place in the next hour. A young bellman shows us the way to the service elevator. “I already have two stories to tell from today,” he says. “This morning there was this person I just thought was happy, but turned out he was drunk. Now it’s the elevators and the firemen. And it’s not even 9 o’clock!” He leads us back through the bowels of the hotel to the service elevator and we get on with a short Hispanic housekeeper who is trying to be invisible. Two other guests get on, two women in gray sweats who are staying on the 8th and 9th floors and who laughingly let it be known that they can do stairs for one floor but not for eight or nine. Then an older man maybe sixty, with a mustache, gets on. He speaks with a vaguely eastern European  accent  and informs us he was one of those trapped in the “A” car. “There was a woman on there, she went . . . ” and he waves his index finger in an upward spiral and rolls his eyes. He gets off at 7, the laughing women in sweats get off on 8 and the maid rides all the way to 15 with us but doesn’t get off. She hits the “Down” button and disappears. We get our bags, leave the keys and a tip for housekeeping, and catch a regular elevator because they are working again, walk up the 14 steps, load the bags and drive to the airport. The thing is, we probably won’t be seeing any of these people again, the people who added their color to this day. The grandmother will no doubt die soon, and eventually the father, and maybe the aunt, if things go in age order, which they probably won’t. The teenage daughter with the thick hair and shapely boobs may be consumed by a fiery car wreck on prom night before she graduates high school, which would be a shame but it could happen. And the Eastern European with the mustache will probably die before he finishes that dark novel, which no one will ever read because the manuscript will be thrown away in an old trunk. And the bellboy, and the desk clerk with the uncertain smile, and the firemen all brandishing their axes.  And my mother- and father-in-law will die, and my wife, and I will die, and my children, and their children. I could go on but I can tell I am boring you.


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