Arrangements were made by my wife for one night’s lodging at a quaint Ohio downtown inn. It happened to be over the Memorial Day weekend and would afford us an uninterrupted Sunday night together in anticipation of the next day’s festivities. We opted for this local lodge in lieu of bunking on the couch at our son’s and daughter-in-law’s new under-renovation home which came complete with three energized, like the bunny, grandchildren.
Check in, we were instructed, was no earlier than 3 that afternoon so, right on schedule, we pulled up safely at 3:05 p.m. The main road through town was essentially dormant as this “thriving metropolis” had already “rolled up the carpet.” On the upside, we had our choice of curbside parking right spots in front of the main entrance.
With printout in hand, my bride ventured out to the building’s glass front door only to find that it was locked up tight-as-a-drum and not a soul in sight. Perplexed, she returned reporting that, having looked inside, the registration desk sat uninhabited. Ready to handle such a minor inconvenience, I probed, “You did make a reservation for tonight, didn’t you?” I could tell by her glance she didn’t take too kindly to my query.
Undaunted, I stated the obvious. “There must be a phone number you can call on that paper you have.” She dialed the number but only heard a recorded message. We were not to be denied, as my wife indicated she thought she had seen some phone numbers on a sign in the window. Bingo!
Finally having a real person on the phone, she was told that, given the holidays, no one would be at the main desk. She was then directed to look for a green wooden box attached to the building along the sidewalk. A man of his word, inside the easily accessible and unlocked “mailboxes” was an envelope with our name on it, a cover letter with our room number, and one swipe-able keyless entry card. Go figure!
In no particular hurry, I sat comfortably in our air-conditioned van as my wife passed the card by the front door. Without incident, we made our way into the tastefully decorated venue, walked past the vacant registration desk and headed up the staircase to the second floor where our room was located.
Progress was quickly halted, however when the card which opened up the front door of the inn failed to open the door to No. 112, our assigned room. Harnessed with enough luggage for a week’s vacation and not just one night, I watched as my beloved, multiple times, passed the key by the sensor, followed by an attempted turn of the door handle. To no avail, all we got in return was a flash of a green light followed by a red one.
“Give me that card for a moment,” I urged, believing it may be operator error. She knew differently and began to make her third phone call. Meanwhile, with card-in-hand and no fellow lodgers or staff to be found, I moseyed on down the hallway to see about any alternate rooming. After a couple tries, I hit the jackpot.
“Look, the key works for room No. 105,” I offered with glee as I glanced inside the dormant room.
“We can’t go in there,” my wife retorted, “What if somebody else is staying there?”
“Why not?” I retaliated, “There’s nobody in this building but us.”
By this time she’d once more reached the manager on the phone and informed him of our ongoing predicament.
“No worries,” he assured her, and then confidently directed her to return to the green wooden mailboxes outside. “There must have been a mix-up, so just grab the other envelope in there and try that one out.”
She hung up and obliged. I, meanwhile, put down the luggage, which was chaffing both my shoulders.
Moments later, she returned with another envelope and tore it open. In it was the key that sadly was unable to open room #112 but worked wonderfully well for #105, the one down the hall. Curses, foiled again!
On speed dial now, a fourth call was placed to the owner of our illusive room for the night. Resigned to take more drastic measures, he inquired over the phone, “Are you any good with computers?”
After 40 years of marriage, I knew unequivocally the answer to that question. Without hesitation, I was handed the phone and led me downstairs to the unoccupied registration desk computer station.
I will spare you most of the details, but after a quick tutorial and with a mouse in hand, he guided me into a desktop software application to cancel our room reservation, erase the keyless entry card, reregister for the correct room and finally reprogram the card. Voilà!
Utilizing great restraint, I refrained from asking to be added to the payroll or where the W-2 forms could be found given my temporary “employment” for services rendered.
After all that, who’d have imagined, we still managed to get a great night’s sleep! By morning, we found nobody in the room where the continental breakfast was to be served, but that was due to the fact that we overslept and missed it completely. Someone had, however, taken my seat at the registration desk, wishing us a nice day as we checked out.
Only in small-town America!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org