This story actually happened to Meredith and myself about three weeks ago. I couldn’t wait to tell you because I hope it will make you smile and that you will agree that you can’t make this stuff up.
My dear friend Reed Clark had called the week that I had writer’s block to ask what happened. We had a great chat and I promised him I did have something funny up my sleeve. The strangest thing happened this week, too, when he nicest young man with the most welcoming smile and twinkle in his eye stopped by to have something notarized. I never would have guessed he read our stories, but after the quick paperwork was done, he leaned in against my plexiglass with that smile that could change the coldest hearts and almost in a whisper said “keep writing.”
So here’s what happened:
You know how small our family is, a sprinkle here and a sprinkle there. Our godson William is getting married in October, but they live about six hours from here in New Jersey, John’s native state. His wife-to-be,Christina’s bridal shower was being held and we decided to leave after work.
Some of you might know that the traffic from here to New York City and beyond to New Jersey can be a nightmare. It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get — accidents, construction, or smooth sailing. The shower was Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and we didn’t want to take a chance and miss it so leaving Saturday morning wasn’t an option for us.
Well, low and behold smooth sailing! Meredith and I were both a little tired, but excited for our adventure together, and an adventure we did have.
The goal was to make it to a point that would get us close enough to the shower location when we got up the next morning. John booked us a hotel in Montvale, New Jersey. Remember that’s the place I told you about years ago, that used to be covered in apple orchards when John was a little boy. Now it’s high rises, lots of shopping and traffic, too. (That’s why John always says we have to be so careful and take our time with major decisions like these. Once these things are gone we can’t get them back.)
We arrived into our very nice hotel at about 11:30 p.m. We dragged our luggage into the lobby and were surprised to see just about an entire college football team having fun, wide awake, moving around. They were very pleasant, with bags of chips, water bottles, and other stuff.
The poor man behind the desk looked more exhausted than us. At this time of night, he had a line of questions, and he was trying to handle a complaint on the phone. When it was our turn, he tried not to slam the phone down. We knew he wanted to, but he hung it up shaking a little, put both hands on the sides of his head and slid them down his cheeks. He was a wreck! Overwhelmed and left alone to handle all this. I’m sure he thought this time of night on his shift things would be quiet.
As tired as we were, he looked much worse than us. Right away we told him what a great job he was doing and no rush with us. He seemed to take a deep sigh and smiled. I think we talked him down a little and he assigned us our room.
Meredith and I lugged our bags up two flights of stairs (way too much activity in the elevators) and started looking for our room. The halls were a little dimly light, but it was almost midnight. We found the room and Meredith reached in for the knob. Suddenly she shrieked and said something like, “Mommy, is that plastic protecting the door handle?” I took a closer look before touching it myself and it sure didn’t look like a protective coating. One of the football players was walking by us and I had to ask his opinion.
He said, “Ma’am, I don’t know what that is, but I wouldn’t touch it!”
Next he said, ”Look at the wall.”
It’s the last thing I wanted to do, but you might guess what it was, and you would be right. It was clear someone had gotten sick walking through the hall and felt a lot better after they walked past our door.
You can’t make this stuff up, right? Meredith was mortified but took it like a trooper. We grabbed our stuff, dragged it back to our guy at the front desk who looked shocked to see us. We told him what happened and, of course, I took a picture, too. He felt horrible and said he’d give us another room right away. Well, at that point we would have rather slept on the Jersey Shore where the bridal shower was. There was no way we were staying there. He understood and moved us to another lovely hotel right up the street. We parted friends and wished each other good luck.
We arrived at the new location, checked in and realized now it was 12:30 a.m. and we were wide awake. Who wouldn’t be? Meredith was still squirming about what had happened to her. Something much different in the New York metropolitan area is that restaurants and bars stay open much later than they do here. The hotel had a full-service bar that stayed open until 2 a.m. At that point, we were both hungry and looking for a glass of wine.
We headed downstairs and there were two seats open at the bar. Those seats had our names on them. We ordered, and still couldn’t get over what had just happened. There was a nice guy sitting next to us, ordering for himself and his wife. I had to tell him and the bartender our story.
What is this story’s slogan? You can’t make this stuff up? The man who listened intently until I finished my story said, “I work for that hotel!”
After a pretty good laugh, more storytelling, and the old adage of, “You never know who you are talking to or about to meet.”
Meredith and I headed to bed at about 2:30 am.
Sherry Farrell is Londonderry Town Clerk and a longtime resident of New Hampshire.