Read an Excerpt
Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters
Do Not Disturb
(I've Got That Covered)
Faced with a choice between two doors, behind one of which is a pack of ravenous tigers and Siegfried—and Roy (!)—and behind the other a pleasant stay in a hotel room for several days, Id have to say, "Bring on the big cats—just please keep those German guys away from me."
My illustration, which started out as a simple device to show my dislike of staying in hotel rooms but ballooned into a complicated and overpunctuated attack on Siegfried and Roy, should not distract from the fact that I don't like to stay in hotel rooms. Not by myself, anyway. And please don't take that to mean that I like spending time in hotel rooms with Siegfried and Roy, because nothing that you could conceive of, ever, could be further from the truth. All right, I could conceive of, I suppose, a room large enough, a suite, with locking doors between all the rooms, where I might be able to spend time with Siegfried and Roy—under duress, mind you! And without their opening act. That guy's the real troublemaker.
Back to my main point: without the privilege of having my wife and family with me, staying in pleasant hotel rooms is something akin to a sweat-soaked nightmare, a never-ending treadmill of horrors.
It starts the moment you arrive and the person brings your bags up into the room. The door closes behind you both with a vaguely obscene click.
"And sir, where may I put your bags?" he asks, applying pressure immediately. I don't know the layout of the room at all, having only been in it for three seconds, tops, so I gesture vaguely.
"Justput 'em over there, that'll be fine."
"Here, sir?" he asks.
"Yep, that's fine."
"Okay," he says, setting them in the bathtub. "And this small one in the sink, sir?"
"Yes, that's fine." Everything is just fine, as far as I'm concerned.
"Have you stayed with us before, sir?"
"Fine. I mean, yes; yes, I have," I say, though I have not.
"Then you know about our [something unintelligible]."
"Hmm? Oh, yes. Yes, fine," I say.
"Very good, sir. I've marked you down for a one-hour buttocks massage in the main lobby at noon."
"Fine," I say.
"The health club is on floor three, the mezzanine is in the main lobby, the pool is out on the deck, the first floor is accessed through the skyway, and of course you have to dial 38-928-3423 to get out of your room in case of a fire. Is there anything else I can help you with, sir?"
"Fine," I say, and, trying to get rid of him quickly, hand him forty-seven dollars, some loose change, my bike key, and the parking ticket for my car back in Minneapolis.
"Thank you, sir."
And mercifully, he is gone. Now I am free to nose about the room like a captured ape upon introduction to a new habitat. The first thing to check on is which side of the "golden barrier" your hotel is on. That is, does it have a minibar? I seldom take advantage of them myself, preferring to comparison-shop for my Mr. Salty Pretzels. Invariably, I can come up with a better price than $8.50 per ounce. But the presence of the mini-bar is a good sign, meaning that the staff is keeping an eye on your room, making periodical checks to see if they can gouge you for cranapple juice or Mrs. Dreisen's cheese straws. If there happened to be a skunk in your room, they'd probably catch it on one of those visits.
Since my tendency is to say yes to business offers to fly places and then immediately forget everything that was told me by the offerer, I am somewhat at the mercy of that person. They'll call me back at some later time to confirm travel arrangements.
"Mike, you've got just the one event on Tuesday evening, and it's a lot cheaper to get you in there on the previous Wednesday and then stay over through the Saturday a week and a half after that. How's that sound?" they'll ask.
"Fine," I say, not listening at all.
"And I've got you staying at the E Terminal Hotel, which is actually in the airport. You'll be staying at Gate 23A. How does that sound?"
"Great. And this is New Orleans?" I manage to ask.
"And I'm speaking to Elks?" I ask.
"Signing books for Cub Scouts."
"Okay, well, thanks, John," I offer warmly.
"We haven't met. I'm Tom," I say politely.
"Right. See you in Omaha," I say, and sign off.
So always, I have too much time in the destination city, which would not be a problem at all if I weren't by myself. Sightseeing, theatergoing, and dining out are not half as fun by oneself. Half as fun would make logical sense, but it turns out to be perhaps one one-hundredth as fun, so I end up taking a walk and nosing around hardware stores (they're never that crowded). I'll tell myself that there's no shame in eating alone and start looking for a good restaurant. Peering into a window, I see a crowd of happy-looking, nonjudgmental people, laughing, having a great time that is obviously not dependent upon their being with a partner, so I open the door and stride confidently in, knocking over a bus tub. Twenty-five minutes later, when the clattering has subsided and the bus tub juice has been sponged up, the hip-looking hostess pulls me aside and announces, "Sir, this is a private party. I'm going to have ask you to go back to your hotel room . . . Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters. Copyright © by Michael Nelson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.