Clearly the bearded young man at the front of the check-in line had been there for a while by the time Dave and I arrived. With his feet planted a full stride apart, shoulders hunched, and elbows on the desk, he looked discouraged. It didn’t appear he was going anywhere anytime soon. Equally discouraging was the cloud of annoyance emanating from the next person in line, a woman whose frizzy blond hair seemed a physical manifestation of her frazzled state. These two, in turn, were discouraging for the rest of us who had hoped for a speedy room assignment.
After a lengthy interval during which the line hitched and swayed as we all shifted weight from one foot to another, the receptionist at the desk dismissed the bearded patron with a thin smile and, “Have a nice day.” The frazzled blond strode forward, angrily asked a question I could not hear, pointed out the glass windows flanking the entrance with a finger that quivered with indignation, and said, “Not good.”
Eventually the line dispersed and Dave and I wheeled our bags to the desk and gave our names to the receptionist, grateful we had confirmed reservations, confident we would soon be sipping wine in the hotel restaurant.
The hostess tapped on keys, scrolled down, and scanned the screen. Two deep furrows creased the skin between her brows as she continued to stare at the monitor. “What is your name again? How do you spell it?”
Ack. Never a good sign when excessive scrolling and staring occurs.
“Might you have registered under a different name?” No, but we gave mine anyway hoping “Eleanor” might serve where “David” failed. It did not. Nor did the printed confirmation my husband had had the forethought to bring.
Dave assumed the feet-planted-wide stance I’d witnessed on those first two frustrated patrons. He was wearing sunglasses, but I had the feeling his eyes were closed, the better to draw deep on his reservoir of patience. His response was clipped when another receptionist joined the woman staring at the computer screen and asked again, “Might you have registered under a different name?”
Ultimately, we booked the room anew and had greater success rectifying whatever glitch there was from our room, by phone, with the help of a young woman in Singapore. Honest to God.
But, no worries! We had a bed and we’d be on our way to Portland, Oregon the next morning after a night at the airport hotel. Time for a drink and dinner before turning in early.
We took the elevator down and were pleased to be the only ones in line at the restaurant hostess station. We had just been seated when a pale, wraith-thin young man flew through the hotel entrance frantically waving an ink-blue arm. He grabbed a small bucket of soapy water from the bar and sprinted to the door. He called over his shoulder, “If any of you are doctors, there’s a kid outside in bad shape.”
Oh no. Two women at the table next to us rose, told the server they’d return, and followed the young man. Dave and I drifted to the door for a peek through the floor- to-ceiling glass windows - What’s going on? How can we help? In this, we could not, but the police arrived with an ambulance soon after. Once we returned to our seats, word filtered back to the restaurant that the kid had overdosed and it didn’t look good.
Our table offered a view of the bar and its wall-sized TV. Outlandish costumes, vivid colors, and bizarre settings filled the screen as the Cheshire cat grinned at the Mad Hatter, Johnny Depp, in pancake make-up and flaming red hair. Alice in Wonderland. Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser.
Our meals were delicious. I’d ordered a Szechuan wok with tofu and vegetables, and Dave, pasta with marinara sauce. The mood in the restaurant was companionable but sober over our shared concern about the crisis unfolding outside, and I fear I was poor company given my mesmerizing view of the escapades of Alice.
Suddenly Dave said, “It’s really hot in here and I’m super tired.” Actually, it wasn’t hot in there, and Dave felt funny. Maybe I’m too suggestible, but I began to feel funny too. Odd given our tasty and uncomplicated meals. We paid up, thanked our server, and beat a hasty retreat to our room.
Luckily, the bathroom was clean and well stocked with all necessary provisions.
So, first night on our way west: mixed reviews.