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Oops, Wrong Room!

Am I alone in my natural attraction to the wrong hotel room? Are there others who have this innate ability to invite calamity even in the best of places? On a recent Sunday evening I arrived in a western Kentucky city on business and checked into the motel provided for me. The clerk was very kind and informative, and made sure I had a room that opened right out to my own parking space, so I wouldn’t have to walk anywhere in the dark, a young woman alone. Tired and stiff from the drive, I wearily thanked her and drove around to my room. The key card worked perfectly, to my delight. As I swung the door open, I had a flashback to a recent unpleasant experience in Florida. That hotel was one of those fancy places with the curved staircase coming down into the lobby from a mezzanine, with guest rooms fanning out on both sides. Different hotel, same scene — lights on in the room, bathroom door open, suitcase on the chest with clothing spilling out, and surprised voice issuing from the bathroom, “Hello??”

I shut the door.

Thankful that the parking lot was dark I hopped back into my car and drove around to the office. The clerk was extremely surprised at my news, and couldn’t find any record of a person in that room. She typed and typed, then offered me an upgraded room in the same row. She recommended that I walk in and test the air, since it was a smoking room and I had requested nonsmoking. Armed with another key, I drove around again.

The key card slid in and out like a new credit card, and the green light flashed. I turned the handle and pushed. The door didn’t budge. I tried again, to no avail. With the memory of the occupied room still so fresh, I didn’t attempt to throw myself on the door, but instead, got in my car and drove around to the office.

We had a good laugh, and the clerk sent me back to wait for the maintenance man to help me into my room. I waited outside the door, hoping the lady in my original room didn’t come out for any reason whatsoever. Ten minutes later, I was back at the desk, wondering what had kept the maintenance man from finding me. I finally ended up in a room that was a short walk from the parking lot, but since nobody was in it and the door opened halfway before it stuck, I was happy.

A week later, I checked in to a newly renovated motel in northern Kentucky with my mother, my husband and our two children, both under three years old. I had made this reservation and was very impressed with the service I had received on the phone. The same young woman I had spoken with on the phone was at the desk, and she was equally helpful in person. We had adjoining rooms: a king with a microwave and refrigerator and a double-queen with standard amenities, on the ground floor. I slid the key card through the slot and opened the door. The king room was beautiful and spacious, although it smelled a little musty. My family brought a few things in from the car, including the children, as I opened the door to the adjoining room. My eyes first came to rest on the unmade beds, then the pizza boxes on the table, and then the trash bins with used diapers spilling out the top, and I braced myself for the surprised voice from the bathroom. Thankfully, the room was unoccupied, but it had not been cleaned. The smell in there was more than musty. Back to the front desk I went, and returned to the room accompanied by a maintenance man. Moments later the manager on duty appeared and the two men readied themselves for cleaning, urging us to go to the restaurant for a nice dinner while they cleaned our room. My mother mentioned that she had noticed a faint burning smell when she turned on the heating unit, and they promised to take a look at it.

While enjoying our lovely dinner, we heard sirens. “Somebody’s getting help,” my two-year-old said. We watched the flashing lights go past on the road, slow down, and come into the motel parking lot. The ambulance was followed by a police car and a fire truck. My mother said, “I’ll bet they’re going to our room,” and my husband slipped out to investigate. I thought they were being overly pessimistic. A few minutes later, he was back with news. The outlet the heater had been plugged into had burned and disintegrated, sending a blast of flame just past the manager’s head as he bent to look at the switches. The fire department was, at that very moment, using high-tech equipment to sense heat in the walls in case of a fire in the wiring. I began to empathize with Typhoid Mary when she realized that it could all be her fault. In the end, we stayed in two larger rooms on the second floor and had a fine time. The staff was altogether helpful, and we got to know the managers, owners and many of the other workers by first names. I just hope they don’t follow my career as a hotel virus!

We left there to check into another hotel, this time farther west. I wondered to myself if longitude has anything to do with luck.

Jennifer Rose Escobar is a performing artist and educational consultant based in Berea, Kentucky. She and her husband, artist Alfredo Escobar, are the parents of two young daughters and stay very busy being full-time parents and managing their Arts careers. Jennifer has released ten recordings and tours in the US and internationally to present concerts of traditional Appalachian music. She is also in high demand as a trainer/consultant for teachers and schools wishing to integrate the Arts into their curriculum.

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