An Early Morning Comedy Of Errors

18 Sep

It’s nearly 1:00am and I’m standing in the marble-floored and mirror-walled elevator of my hotel just next door to LAX. I’m laughing uncontrollably. It’s a state that is induced by exhaustion, frustration and resignation to the events of the last two hours or so.

We drove into the hotel’s grand circular drive at 11:00pm, after a late night comfort food feast of fried chicken and waffles (with a side of greens of course) at Rosco’s in Hollywood. We took a short walk down Sunset Boulevard in the cool Southern Californian summer night air to let our dinners settle and then got into our rented black Hyundai Sonata to make the short trek to the LAX hotel row. We’re flying home at 6:00 tomorrow morning after two full days of shooting music videos in Pasadena. Needless to say, a comfortable bed will be welcomed with open arms, even if just for a few hours.

I checked our party into the hotel, made sure they were tucked in for the night and opened the door to my own fourth floor haven to drop off my luggage before heading back to the hotel turnabout to return the rental car. As I entered my room I looked out the floor to ceiling windows in front of me to catch Jodie Foster (dreamy sigh) peering at me from her billboard across the street. I waved to her before I closed the door behind me to leave. “I’ll be back soon, Jodie,” I reassured her.

About ten minutes later I pulled into the rental car return area but couldn’t see an attendant anywhere in sight. I waited for a couple of minutes and then decided to walk to the customer service desk to turn in my keys and ask for a courtesy shuttle to whisk me back to my hotel. Jodie would begin to worry if I was gone too long. Just as I closed the car door, an attendant seemingly materialized out of the darkness, checked the mileage and the fuel level, gave me my receipt and directed me to the customer service desk to request my shuttle.

I entered the relatively empty building and cross the vacant floor to the counter.

“Good evening,” I said, greeting the two women behind the counter. Their ill-fitting yet cheery yellow and black uniforms made me thankful that we don’t have a strict dress code at work. I decided a long time ago that wherever one worked where uniforms were required could always gain some comfort knowing that at least they don’t have to wear Hot Dog On A Stick uniforms. Except, I suppose, for the Hot Dog On A Stick employees. I suppose their consolation would be that the future looked brighter than their multi-colored outfits and three foot tall hats. After all, there was nowhere to go but up.

“Good evening, sir. How may we help you this evening?” the older of the two women asked.

“I’d like a courtesy shuttle to take me back to my hotel, please,” I responded in a friendly tone.

“Well, they are both out driving other customers to their hotels. You should take the airport bus to the first stop and take the hotel shuttle from there.”

“Oh. Will the shuttles not be back this evening?” I asked, a bit confused.

“No, no. They’ll be back. I just don’t know when,” she replied in a matter of fact tone.

Here we go, I thought. I’m going to have to convince yet another person that customer service really is a part of their job. Ironic, especially when they work behind a customer service counter. Time for the ol’ “I’m just not quite understanding what you’re saying to me” routine. For some reason this little act, when employed in the right situation, subconsciously forces people to walk me through a situation slowly, in textbook fashion, as if I’m disabled or from another country.

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand. You’re saying it will be easier and faster for me to take the airport bus out to the airport and catch my hotel’s shuttle there?”

“Yep. It’s pretty much your only other option.”

“What’s the first option?” I asked with a suggestion of cluelessness lingering in the air.

“To wait here for the shuttle,” she said with a hint of pity.

“Really? Well I wonder how long I’d have to wait here…” I countered, the perfect balance of rhetorical and literal hanging over the beige Formica counter.

“I’m not sure but I could try to page them,” the woman offered.

Like a charm. “Really? You can do that? Thank you so much! That would really help me make up my mind.”

“Or I could just page someone else to take you to your hotel.”

Yes. Jackpot.

“Even better! Thanks!”

My own personal shuttle driver dropped me off at my hotel just a few minutes before midnight. I needed to print out our boarding passes for our morning flight so I went to the front desk to ask for directions to the business center. The young woman on duty offered to print them for me but then realized that all of the printers located in the check-in area were off line. A problem with the network, she explained, but perhaps Travis could help. Travis was working at the guest services counter across the lobby. I asked Travis for his assistance and he obliged without hesitation. I’ll be in bed in 10 minutes, I thought. That will give me a good four hours of sleep.

I was wrong.

Travis could not log into his computer so he tried to use the computers at the front desk. The ones that couldn’t print because of the hotel’s network crash. After about fifteen minutes of, “I think we’ve got it this time!” from eager Travis, he went into the back office to “try one more thing.”

“Hey, now THAT is a GREAT bag,” a woman’s voice exclaimed behind me, in reference to my loyal, well-worn brown leather shoulder bag.

“Thanks,” I replied. As I turned to respond, it was clear that my satchel’s admirer had consumed a dozen or so too many Manhattans in the open air hotel lobby bar. Her glazed eyes half-stared back at me, fuzzy yet piercing in a way. She gave me the uncomfortable feeling I get when somebody invades my personal space when talking to me.

“Wow! I mean, your story is just all OVER it, you know?” She closed in with an outstretched hand to touch the well-lived leather surface.

“Uh, yeah. Thanks,” I replied again. I felt the weight of my body shifting ever so slightly backward in an effort to evade her swaggering reach.

“You know how you can just read a person’s story just by looking at their bag?” I wondered if this were some kind of new West Coast fad, an updated version of the more traditional palm or tealeaf reading. If she could read my story, could she also read the fact that I wanted nothing more than to climb into my nice soft hotel room bed for a quick few hours of sweet slumber?

Travis returned to the front desk, saving me from any further satchel molestation as the woman staggered back to the direction of the bar.

“Yeah, these printers don’t work. There seems to be some kind of network failure,” he offered proudly, as if he were giving me some new nugget of information.

If it weren’t for my state of near-complete exhaustion I would have bounded over the front desk like a lithe lion, mane licking the hot savannah air like flames as I descended upon my lame, four-eyed gazelle prey. Instead, I took a deep breath, inhaling the air still laced with remnants of my bag-reading drunken acquaintance.

“Where is the business center? I really just want to go to the business center.”

“You’ll have to pay up there, but if that’s what you want to do,” Travis said.

Trust me, I’ve paid, Travis. I’ve paid.

The business center was a slightly disheveled room at the top of the escalator from the main lobby. One of the fluorescent lights flickered in the ceiling, winking at me as if to say, “Hey there fella. Think you can give it a go here? Just try me.”

I jubilantly made my way to the first of three computer stations, feeling that my luck had finally turned a corner and within minutes I would be in my beautiful soft bed, sweet Jodie Foster watching over me as I soundly slept. I grabbed the mouse and wiggled it a bit on the dingy mouse pad to bring the monitor to life. Nothing. Another wiggle. Again, nothing. A more desperate wiggle this time. The monitor remained as black as the night outside.

Talking to myself in an effort to keep calm, I moved to the next workstation with the same result. The monitor remained blank and lifeless. The same occurred at the last of the three computers. Not far from tears, I desperately looked around the room for any sign of help or direction. On the wall opposite me, just inside the doors there was a small sign mounted, about the size of a postage stamp. Still seated, I wheeled the budget office chair across the room with my legs, too tired and defeated to stand. Sure enough, printed on a small piece of plastic material, not unlike the sayings and Bible verses that are printed on tiny grains of rice at the county fair, were directions for how to log on to the computers in the business center.

Ten minutes and $7.39 later I had our boarding passes in hand. We were guaranteed a place in the “A” line and would be queuing in about four hours. I made for the elevator with renewed energy and wogged down the long hallway on the fourth floor to my room at the far end. Sliding my magnetic key card into the lock in my door, I was greeted with a little red flashing light and a foul beeping sound. I inserted the key again. And again a little red flashing light and a beep. Somehow over the course of the evening, my key was demagnetized. This new turn of events meant yet ANOTHER trip down to the front desk for another key.

“Weren’t you just down here?” asked Travis who was still at the front desk.

“As a matter of fact, yes. I need a new key. Long story,” I dryly replied.

“Did you find the business center?” he asked.

“Yep. My key?” I grunted with every last ounce of restraint in my body.

“Oh sure. Here it is! It’s been my pleasure to assist you this evening,” Travis answered with a toothy grin, sliding the key card across the black marble counter top.

I made my way across the hotel lobby to the elevators. A group of teens were playing the ebony grand piano, singing old Whitney Houston songs, serious as a heart attack. An elevator was waiting for me, doors agape as if it were going to give me a good night hug. I entered and turned to push the button for the fourth floor. Every button for every other floor was there, gleaming, waiting for someone to press it to be whisked away to his own little, temporary Shangri La. Every button that is, except the one with the “4” on it. The “4” had been pried from the panel, leaving a gaping hole with no way to indicate to the elevator that the fourth floor was the only place I wanted to be on the entire planet at that moment. I pulled a pen out of my bag and began stabbing the hole in an effort to activate something within, to no avail. I went back into the lobby and pressed the up button to call another car. But, as we all know, if there is already an elevator on the floor you’re on, another will not come.

And so it’s nearly 1:00am and I’m standing in the marble-floored and mirror-walled elevator of my hotel just next door to LAX. I’m laughing uncontrollably. It’s a state that is induced by exhaustion, frustration and resignation to the events of the last two hours or so. I’m sinking down the side of the elevator still laughing out loud, tears now streaming down my face. And then I see it. ANOTHER bank of floor buttons on the OTHER side of the elevator doors. Could it be? YES! A button with the number “4” on it! And it works! In a matter of minutes I will be curled up in the fetal position under the fluffy duvet of my fluffy yet firm bed, teeth unbrushed, clothes still on, slipping away into a brief but glorious slumber…

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One Response to “An Early Morning Comedy Of Errors”

  1. Glamorous Jo September 19, 2005 at 8:46 am #

    That is awful….and awesome….

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