*** This is part 3. Please see my previous cards for pt. 1 & 2 ***
A not-so-gentle jab to my ribcage woke me up. I had fallen asleep at some point after that last bathroom break at a rather disgusting truck stop and Cassie had kindly allowed me to nap while she drove. Now we were making our way into the city. In blurry contrast to the dark of the evening, my just-opened eyes struggled to adjust to the bright lights everywhere and I wondered if that’s how it felt to walk out onto a stage in a darkened concert hall, light sticks in the distance and spotlights upon you all of a sudden.
“What do you want to eat?” Cassie asked. I shrugged. “I’m not that hungry. Maybe a salad? I’m too excited to eat.” Cassie rolled her eyes. “Nonsense. If you don’t eat you’ll feel awful. I’ll pick something. Why don’t I drop you at the hotel and you can check us in while I go pick up food?” I agreed to the plan.
We pulled up in front of the hotel and I unbuckled my seatbelt. As I stepped out of the car, Cassie looked concerned. A steady stream of people flowed in and out of the hotel. “Are you sure you’re okay checking in alone? I can go with and then run back out for food if you’d rather.” I lifted my suitcase from the trunk and walked back around to the front seat. “It will be fine! I think I can handle picking up a key card and taking an elevator,” I laughed. I appreciated how well Cassie knew my tendency to get so nervous over the stupidest things but I could do this on my own. Cassie waved as she pulled away.
I walked through the automatic doors and into the hotel lobby, pulling my suitcase along behind me. So, this was what a $250/night hotel’s lobby looked like. The ceiling was high, pale tan filigree sprawled across the cream-colored carpet, and the walls were clean, bright shades of pale taupe and ecru. There were clusters of solid-looking chairs upholstered in subtly patterned brown brocade. Whoever had decorated the place must have really liked gold trim, I thought, as I passed generic black-and-white photos of landscapes in gold frames and gold sculptures of trees atop various coffee tables.
I arrived at the front desk. Behind it sat a man in an incongruously cheap grey suit with a skinny tie and a nametag that read Maxwell. His eyebrows were plucked a bit too thin and he was eyeing me with mild distaste, seeming to be weighing whether a young woman in skinny jeans and a fleece jacket belonged in his lobby. I felt suddenly self-conscious, glancing at the rest of the people in the lobby. They were all dressed as if they were heading to a business meeting or maybe a nice dinner. The man behind the desk cleared his throat, drawing my attention back. Yup, he looked like a Maxwell alright. “I have a reservation,” I forced myself to say. “Last name, please.” “Cooper.” “Cooper,” he repeated as he typed it in. “Elizabeth?” “Yes, that’s me.” “Well, you do have a reservation then. You know,” he leaned forward and fake-whispered, “you were lucky to get this room. We’re booked to capacity! There are two trade expos this weekend and a congressman’s daughter’s wedding with who-knows-how-many out-of-town guests... oh, and some big concert.” I smiled, finding it funny that the concert was an afterthought to the concierge but it was the whole reason I was in the hotel.
Sitting back upright, Maxwell straightened his tie and resumed trying to look important. He handed me a plastic key card tucked into a snug envelope. “Room 304. Take the elevator to the third floor and turn left. We offer complimentary breakfast from 6AM to 10AM just down this hall in the Silver Room. The wifi password is on the back key card packet and so is the number where you can reach this desk if you need assistance. Is there anything else I can do for you?” “No, thank you.” “Enjoy your stay.”
I made my way to the elevator. There were so many people getting on that I thought I would have to wait for the next trip but somehow we all fit, me just inside the doors. It took some shuffling to let passengers off on the second floor. At the third floor, I was the only one who got off. The hotel was this busy and nobody else was headed to the third floor? Once the elevator doors closed behind me I noticed how quiet the third floor was. There was nobody talking, there were no footsteps, no click of rolling luggage. I was beginning to have reservations about my reservation. What was wrong with the third floor? Had it recently been the scene of some awful crime? Was that why I had been able to get the room at the last minute? I was engrossed in these thoughts as I walked forward and turned left, promptly colliding head-on with someone. The impact sent me backwards onto the floor as I dropped my purse and key card and they slid away from me. My suitcase remained upright just as I had left it.
The person with whom I’d collided had managed to stop himself from falling. He had the hood of his sweatshirt pulled tightly around his face and wore dark sunglasses, frowning as he stared down at me. Without a word he reached out for my hand, pulled me to my feet, and handed me my purse and room key. “S-sorry,” I stammered. “I wasn’t watching where I was going and I didn’t see you around the corner and I didn’t mean to crash into you,” I continued, speaking so fast my words almost merged into one long many-syllabled word. He said nothing, picked up the bright yellow apple that had rolled away from him, inspected it, neatly rubbed it on his sleeve, and turned to walk to the elevator, tossing the apple up in the air and catching it as he disappeared from view.
I stood in the same spot for a moment, feeling a bit shaken both by the fall and the stranger’s behavior. He didn’t apologize, not even one word. It was his fault too so he should have apologized as well. Rude! But then, he did help me up and pick up my things for me. Weird. Oh, no, was he on drugs? Maybe this floor was full of drug users. Who the hell wears sunglasses indoors? At night? No wonder he didn’t see me until it was too late. I decided to hurry and get into the room rather than stand around where I might bump into anyone else.
Upon reaching room 304 I pulled out one of the two key cards in the packet. It didn’t work. Maybe the magnetic strip was damaged. I tried the second key card. It didn’t work either. I tried them both again with no success before noticing the number printed on them: 314. I groaned. Oh no. These weren’t the right key cards. I left my suitcase in front of the door to 304 and started walking back to the elevator. Maxwell with the too-thin eyebrows must have given me the wrong packet. Just as I was about to push the “down” button, I had another thought. Mr. apple-juggling, non-apologizing, I-wear-sunglasses-indoors gave me the wrong key cards when he picked up my things. He must have dropped his too and handed them to me instead of mine by mistake. Ugh. Either I could go face Maxwell or try knocking on 314.