"Don't be a slob in a place like this."
That's what my wife, Betty, told me after entering our room — the Presidential Suite — at Waterford Castle in southern Ireland, but not until she'd silently measured its dimensions by walking each room's length and breadth, and recording every vital statistic in a little black notebook.
And what did I do while Betty looked as if she were preparing to lay a little indoor-outdoor carpet on an unfinished basement floor?
I slipped into the complimentary robe sporting the Waterford Castle logo, and then reclined in a Louis XIV couch. As I rested my terry-cloth-slippered feet on an exquisitely-carved coffee table, I thought to myself, "This is the kind of pad Robert Wagner might like to hang out in."
If you're under 40, Robert Wagner is probably just another puffy, white-haired pitchman hawking reverse mortgages on cable television news networks. But I remember Robert Wagner in his prime, a handsome actor who specialized in playing the suave lady's man, especially on television.
In the late 1960s, he was Alexander Mundy, a Nehru-jacketed professional thief and pickpocket, sprung from the slammer to steal for the United States government. Many of the episodes were filmed in exotic European locales, and Waterford Castle could have been one of them.
The Presidential Suite was just the type of getaway old Al Mundy would use as bait to hook a crooked female foreign diplomat. While handing her a martini as he melted her with his charm, Mundy would snatch an incriminating document right from under her nose.
But I digress.
Before Betty started measuring for curtains and before I imagined landing my imaginary helicopter on the helped right outside the bedroom window, I got dressed and followed Betty to the front desk. We wanted to make sure our accommodation wasn't a mistake, that we wouldn't be greeted with an $800 bill in the morning.
But as the cheery desk clerk in the lobby explained, "Well, someone had to have an upgrade, and we chose you."
Back upstairs, I took a closer look at the bathroom, which was larger than my college dorm room, a veritable penthouse at the time. The his-and-her sinks with painted floral designs were a nice touch, as were the heated towel racks. I discovered the hard way that the toilet, with matching floral design and an old-fashioned pull chain, is best used while wearing a life preserver. The water pressure at the castle is even more impressive than its decor.
At one point, as we strolled the lush grounds, I wanted to run back inside for my tweed sports jacket, the one with the suede elbow patches, the one that smelled faintly of expensive tobacco smoke. It would have been just the uniform I needed to blast away at the clay pigeons down at the shooting range. But alas, I remembered my rifle was being cleaned. Such a pity.
Soon it was time for dinner, and a decision had to be made. Should we dine in what looked like the grand ballroom at about $90 a pop, or sit with the great unwashed in the unremarkable bar, and munch on cheeseburgers at half the price?
As it turned out, I'd misplaced my ascot and I couldn't find a dinner jacket to go with my faded green cargo shorts. We opted for the cheeseburgers, with Grey Poupon on the side.
After the meal, I gently dabbed the corner of my mouth with the slightly-starched cloth napkin, and secured the lid back on the Grey Poupon.
I couldn't be a slob in a place like this, don't you know.
• • •
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.