Justin Cardwell looked forward to enjoying the free stopover in a hotel before he caught the flight home next day to join his wife and daughter already on vacation in their homeland. He’d been unwilling to take those extra days to orient his replacement, but Helen was already enjoying thinking of herself reconnecting with her parents after a five-year absence and he hadn’t the heart to reschedule her flight as the office had requested him to do so the orientation could take place. The flight had been a tiresome one and he was anxious to settle in for the evening and then head for the food plazas to enjoy an Asian meal. He’d plan to have an early night so he could do quick shopping next day to find gifts for all relatives when he finally arrived home. He’d left lots of room in his large suitcase to include his purchases. Being an accountant by trade he must have a forward plan for everything.
Immigration and customs whisked one through quickly in this city and he was amazed at the contrast with his own country where everything from food to an array of other items were discarded or examined minutely lest some strange bug became an illegal immigrant and ruin the local flora and fauna. He waited in line at the taxi rank after finding the hotel courtesy bus did not arrive as scheduled but he was happy to be in a country so cleanly maintained you could almost feel guilty to walk the streets and possibly leave dust in your wake.
On arrival at the hotel, he felt appreciation for the travel agent who’d somehow managed a free hotel stopover in such an upmarket hotel at airline expense. And considering he was travelling on discounted tickets that was an accomplishment indeed. The hotel staff were apologetic about the bus which had broken down on the way to the airport. They’d had to do some quick phone calls to pick up those stranded passengers and get them to the airline before their flight departed. But they were unable to arrange a substitute bus to pick up arrivals from the airport and bring them to the hotel.
That was not a big deal for Justin. The trip from the airport had not been difficult to arrange by taxi and it had been pleasant to ride with the driver who played the accelerator pedal like a piano pedal resulting in a relaxing rocking motion all the way into the city. He found out on subsequent visits this is a common practice with taxi drivers in that city.
The hotel counter staff relieved because this traveler had not made an issue of the bus not turning up gratefully turned to the register and found his name and assigned room number. They then turned to the key bank to retrieve the key and stood transfixed as they studied the empty slot. There was an animated conversation between them, and registers were carefully re-examined and quick phone calls made to several rooms while others examined the counter and its drawers. Finally, they came to a conclusion. The previous occupant must have departed with the key on booking out. Loud recriminations were shared between them, and Justin watched it all with interest not understanding what was transpiring in their language.
The one in charge returned to Justin apologizing profusely in English. Their master key would get him in, and the door could be locked behind him by pressing a button when he settled down for the night but whenever he left the room, he’d not be able to get back in without a key so someone from the desk would have to make a trip up to let him in and out it seemed. There were no other rooms available.
Justin began to feel irritated at the situation. The inconvenience of it all would force him to modify his plans. He crossed out the planned trip to the Asian food courts in favour of ordering his evening meal in and watching TV. He left the door unlocked while waiting for his evening meal to be delivered and when a knock came to the door. he called to them to enter. A woman in uniform entered but without the expected meal. Jason looked at her inquiringly.
She spoke. “Our administration is very sorry for the mix up with your key sir and have asked me to inquire if you’d like some complementary company for the night?”
Justin went into shock but quickly recovered. “Thank you very much Miss but you can tell your boss I’m quite happy and prefer to be alone tonight as I have many things to get done tomorrow.”
The woman lingered and looked confused but studying Jason’s face she turned and headed for the door. As the door opened Justin observed the waiter had his ear glued to the door as he held the tray out of the way while he could listen in. The woman shouted at him, and he quickly entered the room and placed food on the table then departed informing Justin the tray should be left outside the door when he’d finished his meal. He’d pick it up to return to the kitchen later.
Justin watched TV then showered and got ready for bed. It was a big room with luxurious fittings. The bed was big enough for three people to occupy without too much discomfort, so he tried one side then another. It was so comfortable. He set the alarm and began to drift into a satisfied sleep. He heard a key turning in the lock and was instantly awake quickly turning on the light. Jumping out of bed he watched as the safety device slid open and the door inched open.
“Who’s there?” Shouted Jason angrily.
A man in uniform stepped in followed by a smartly dressed woman. “So sorry to disturb you sir but we heard you thought our previous offer was unacceptable and are anxious to please you, so you won’t avoid our hotel next time you’re passing through. I think you’ll find this lady very acceptable perhaps?”
Justin was about to lose it when he realized this was probably a common practice and the intent was to make him happy after embarrassing events for the hotel on his arrival. He wondered how many travelers engaged in this kind of practice, but it was certainly not his way. He decided to refuse graciously to preserve everyone’s face.
“Sir you will have to excuse me for my lack of manners in not phoning to thank you for your previous offer. I complement you on your excellent choice and for the charm of the women you have offered me for company this evening. You will have to excuse me because I’m celebrating a religious festival in which I must devote myself entirely to religious rituals without interruption. I would like to thank you for the excellent services of this hotel and the friendly efficiency of all your staff.”
The man beamed with pleasure and motioned for the woman to leave. “Thank you for your kind words, sir and if there is anything at all you need you can call me on this number.” He passed the card holding it with two hands and Justin received it in the same manner each bowing as they did so. The man retreated walking backwards and gently closed the door.
Justin was glad he hadn’t reacted in anger. However just in case management sat and thought another visit was necessary to show their contrition in messing up his collection on arrival at the airport and then loss of key he decided more action was needed now he knew the safety catch would open when key was inserted on the outside.
Grunting he pushed every article of furniture he could manage to move up against the door on the inside then spent the rest of the night in fitful sleep just in case the key inserted would move more than the safety bolt.
Next morning a bit worse for wear after a restless night he headed to the front desk to tell them he’d be shopping for a while. He was met by a group of happy attendants.
“Thank you for giving a good report on our services to top management sir. Let us know if there’s anything we can do for you during the day.”
Justin nodded pleasantly and took his leave. After shopping on this return to the hotel the door attendants rushed to help him carry his packages inside and waited while he checked in at the desk to see if there were any messages for him.
The one in charge handed him a key to his room. “Sir the one who took the key with him by mistake realized his mistake at the airport and left it there with instructions to deliver to our driver when he went for the daily pickup. They phoned us to tell they were holding the key. So, we are pleased to let you have it today.”
Justin received it with courtesy and headed for his room with two attendants following with his parcels.
Next time he passed through this city it would be with his wife and daughter. His wife was perfectly capable of dealing with any untoward events should they occur on the return journey, and he’d be able to sleep peacefully. He chuckled as he imagined what would have happened had they offered him complimentary company for the night in Helen’s presence. Perhaps the refusal wouldn’t have been so graciously given?
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