the last part of 2007

An unnamed Boston hotel: a long and sleepless night. It begins with a late arrival; I know that I have to get up early but though it’s nearly midnight, I could use a few minutes of ESPN.

But the TV controls are smarter than me. That sort of thing happens sometimes but this time I have little patience. I hammer on buttons in the manner that people talk louder when they think someone doesn’t understand English. No response.

So I call downstairs. “How do I get the TV to work?” I ask. “Have you read the instruction booklet”, says the voice at the other end. “No,” I explain, “I don’t really think I need to read a book to turn on a TV.” I can tell that the voice at the other end is thinking about saying, “well, how’s that working for you?” He doesn’t. Instead, it’s a loooooonnng sigh. “Do you need me to come upstairs and show you how?” he says. “I wasn’t really looking for that,” I respond, “I just need to know how to turn on the TV.”

Another long sigh. “”Is the TV power light on?”

“Yes, that part I got done.”

“Did you turn on the receiver?”

That slows me a down a bit, but I look and yes, I’ve got the receiver on. His voice is getting edgy. “You have to turn the receiver on first, before you turn on the TV.”

“Oh, that’s interesting,” I note, “ but I did that”. I really did, after about three previous tries.

Sigh. “I’ll be up in a minute.”

About ten minutes later Steve shows up. He looks at the TV, the receiver and the three different remotes helpfully included with my tiny Boston hotel room.

After about two minutes, he turns to me and points to the third receiver, “I told you to turn on the satellite remote. You didn’t turn it on.”

“You told me to turn that on…really…uh…okay.” It’s not really time to pick a fight, since ESPN is now within reach. I turn the channels; Steve leaves.

I’m ready to hop in bed, but I’m still in my suit. Undress. Unpack. Toothbrush. As I pull it out of the side pouch, it catches a tux stud, which bounces down the sink. Of course, there’s no trap. Just a piece of soap wedged down about three inches prevents it from disappearing altogether.

Fifteen minutes later, after I’ve grabbed everything I can find to grasp the stud before it drops into the dark waste, it’s gone. Crap.

Back to ESPN, which is focused upon a game I don’t care about and Chris You-know-who is twisting names into ham-fisted puns with all the dexterity of Arnold Schwarznegger in a tutu. Yeech. I turn off the TV and try to sleep.

About five minutes goes by when the smoke alarm over my bed begins whooping. Whoop. Whoop. Whoop. It’s not loud enough to bring the cops, but it’s loud. It’s like a stab every thirty seconds or so. I chuckle. Steve hates me apparently. So I call him again and I say, “uh, my smoke alarm is making loud noises.”

Sigh. Loooonnng sigh. “I’ll be right there.”

Of course, it stops whooping before he gets to my room.

“Hi, Steve!” I’m now trying to have some fun with this, at least for a second. He says nothing. Comes into my room, looks up, stares at the smoke alarm. “so it stopped.”

“Yeah, it stopped a couple of seconds ago.”

“Okay.” He leaves. You know what happens next. I turn out the lights, tuck into bed, it starts whooping. I cover my head with the extra pillow. That’s not working.

I call Steve. He shows up about five minutes later and now, strangely, it’s only whooping about every forty-five seconds. He comes in and looks at it. Then he turns to me, accusatory, and says, “Did you change the thermostat?”

“What…the thermostat? Yes.”

“That’s why, “he explains.

Now my sarcasm drips out of my mouth and pools onto the floor where it begins swirling like a flushed toilet. “Ohhhh, the thermostat.”

“Yes,” he explicates, “if you change the thermostat, the alarm will go off.”

“Okay, okay, you’re bullshitting me now.”

He’s visibly angry. “No, this detector will go off if the temperature goes up by more than five degrees.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” [Full disclosure: apparently Steve was not completely informed but close to correct. This was indeed a heat detector and it was only slightly malfunctioning in its response to a changed thermostat. But I gotta say, this was weird.]

“Well,” I argue, “ I can’t sleep like this. Either you put me in another room or let’s take the batteries out this damn thing.”

“Sir! That is extremely illegal in Boston!”

“Apparently, sleeping in your hotel room is illegal too.”

It stops whooping. Steve gives me a fifth grade teacher look (I had trouble that grade) and leaves.

I go back to bed. About five minutes goes by when it starts whooping again. I call Steve and ask if he’s had any luck finding another room. They’re sold out. Then move me to another hotel, I demand. He mumbles something and hangs up.

It’s like my own Gitmo Boston. At that moment, I leap up on the bed and yank the sonofabitch right out of the ceiling (it was bolted there) and pull the batteries out of it. It’s quiet.

I laid it down and thought of all the horror movies in which it would lie glowering until, in the dark, just as I drifted into sleep, it would begin chirping, only louder and faster, louder and faster, louder and faster, screeeeeeeccch!!

It’s 2:45 am. It’s finally quiet in my room. All I need to do now is get up in a few hours. The phone rings. It’s Steve. He’s found me another hotel. “No, I’m good.”

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