By Catherine Kitcho
I had become a regular patron of that Holiday Inn. I stayed there
twice a month for a year, staying at least three nights at a time.
It felt like home, familiar as my old soft bathrobe. My last stay
was to be my longest; a whole week.
I gave the registration clerk a confident glance as I requested
their best non-smoking room. I was a member of their frequent lodger
club and I expected special treatment. They gave me a corner room
close to the elevator on the sixth floor. I had been in the corner
rooms before. These rooms had an angular layout, with a foyer, then
a quasi-suite arrangement. The king-sized bed was against the back
wall, far enough from the elevator to be insulated from noise. Cozy,
yet functional. Definitely spacious. I settled in on a Sunday night,
preparing for a hectic final week at the research lab.
I turned off my annoying little alarm clock that always gave me
a heart attack in the middle of my last dream. Time to hit that
shower. I turned on the water and let it run while I dug out my
shampoo and creme rinse and all the other miniature goo bottles
that frequent travelers collect. I stepped in the shower. It was
warm, but not my perfect temperature. It had to be the perfect temperature
to hit the top of my head. I started shampooing anyway, thinking
that it would warm up before the creme rinse went on. The temperature
of the water rose one degree. I finished all the other stuff and
then the water started getting colder. I turned it toward "H". I
stepped under the spray again. Colder yet. I turned the knob all
the way to "H", then to "C" (you can't trust plumbers). It was ice.
I rinsed off the creme rinse, shrieking. I turned off the water
and dried off, shivering.
I finished dressing and putting on makeup, then I let the water
run again, to see if the system had recovered. No luck. It was still
33 degrees. I called the front desk. The desk clerk, in a clipped,
rapid, Pakistani accent, answered, "Front desk. This is Pakir."
I said, "This is Cathy Kitcho in Room 603. I don't have any hot
water. It ran out in the middle of my shower."
"Did you let it run for a little while?"
"About 10 minutes. It just got colder. I think something's broken."
"Well, you see," he said, " a lot of people take showers in the
"Mr. Pakir. This is a 700-room hotel. I would think that the plumbing
would be designed to handle more than two showers at the same time.
I think there's something wrong with the water in my room. Can you
get it fixed?"
"Well, we can try. I think that they were doing some work on the
boiler yesterday. Maybe they can look into it."
"That would be good. I'm staying here all week, so I want to make
sure it's working."
I got back to my room pretty late that night, and tumbled into bed.
I didn't think to check the water before I went to bed. Big mistake.
I woke up at 6:00 and turned on the water in the shower and let
it run. Ice again. I sputtered in to the bedroom and picked up the
"Front desk. This is Pakir."
"Mr. Pakir. This is Cathy Kitcho again in 603. They never fixed
my water yesterday; it's still ice!" I shrieked into the phone.
"Hold on one moment. I will check the repair requests." He put me
on hold. I started fuming. He came back on the line. "The request
is on the log", he said proudly.
"What do you mean, it's on the log?"
"That means they will take a look."
"But you told me they would do that yesterday!" "I think that they
still were working on the boiler yesterday."
"May I speak to the manager?"
"He's not here yet."
"When does he come in?"
"Good. I will call him at 7:30. Now. I want you to find me a room
- on this floor - where I can take a shower this morning!"
"Hold one moment, please." He put me on hold again. I was reaching
my limit of patience, having precious little to begin with. He came
back on the line. "Room 605, on the other side of the elevator,
is unoccupied. Do you want to come down and pick up the key?"
"No", I replied evenly. "I would like you to send someone up here
with it immediately!"
"Yes, ma'am. We will be there momentarily."
About 10 minutes later, I heard a timid tap on the door. In my skimpy
travel robe, I answered the door. A teenage-looking bellman stood
there, a key in hand. He said, "Mr. Pakir said to bring you this
key. Please accept our apologies, ma'am." I swiped the key from
him, mumbled a thanks. I grabbed my toiletries, a couple of towels,
and cautiously opened the door. No one at the elevator; the coast
was clear. I ran past the elevator and into room 605, barefoot.
The water was deliciously warm. I wanted to take longer, but I was
already running half an hour late. I wrapped my head in a towel,
put my robe back on, and then checked outside. No one at the elevator.
I started scurrying past the elevator to my room, when from around
the corner came four men in business suits. They gave me a suspicious
look that branded me a loose woman....what was I doing running back
to my room from someone else's?
I opened my door, and slammed it behind me, leaning against it and
catching my breath. Embarrassed and infuriated, I called the manager
and gave him a piece of my mind. He apologized profusely, he asked
if I wanted to change rooms. "Yes, except it will have to wait until
I come back tonight. I'm late for work."
I got back to the hotel that night, stopped in front of the door
to my room, and sighed. I was not prepared to deal with packing
up and moving everything. I walked in to the foyer; on the coffee
table was an immense basket of fruit wrapped in red cellophane.
I read the note. "Please accept our apologies for your inconvenience.
Hotel Manager." There were at least a dozen pieces of fruit in there;
there was no way I could consume it all in three days. Becky, the
secretary at the lab, would probably love it. I left the cellophane
on it and decided to take it to her the next morning. I checked
the water tap in the bathroom one last time. There was hot water!
At last they had fixed it. I phoned the hotel manager, thanked him
for the fruit. He said the repairmen had been there. I said, "Well,
I guess I'll stay in this room then. There seems to be hot water."
The next morning, I yawned and stretched when the alarm rang. Finally
I could indulge in a long hot shower. I let it run, stepped in.
It was glorious. I reached over for my shampoo, then stood back
upright. The water turned to ice. I frantically toyed with the faucets
again; no luck. I trudged out of the shower, swearing a blue streak.
I sat on the edge of the bed ready to pick up the phone and give
Mr. Pakir a piece of my mind. Next to the telephone was a little
pamphlet entitled, "The No Excuses Room Guarantee", stating that
if everything in my room wasn't perfect, I would stay free. It listed
an 800 number. I was intrigued. A pleasant female voice answered.
I went into my tirade. In the middle of it, I asked, "Where are
you located? " She replied, "Kansas City". I said, "So there's a
two hour time difference. The manager here - I know him well by
now - comes in at 7:30. Could you call him in about an hour and
see what you can do? I haven't had a functional shower in three
She suggested I call the front desk to borrow a shower again. I
phoned the front desk, expecting Mr. Pakir. "Front desk. This is
Sarah." I felt like asking, "Is your father home?" She sounded like
she was 10 years old. Probably a trainee. I sighed and explained
my request for the key to Room 605 again. She brought it up to my
room herself, with a pleasant smile on her face.
That night I got back to my hotel room, expecting to move rooms
once again. I opened the door. On the coffee table was a huge fruit
basket covered in gold cellophane. This time the card said, "We
have no excuses. Please accept our apologies. Mrs. Salisbury, Kansas
City Headquarters." Back to the bathroom to check the water again.
It was hot. I called the front desk. Yes, they had a repair record
for my room from that day. Yes, there was a boiler problem that
they fixed, too. Was I interested in changing rooms? Against my
better judgment I said, "No. I only have two more nights here. I
don't want to pack and unpack everything."
The next morning, I got up half an hour earlier. I got in the shower
again. Hot water. I shampooed. Water was still hot. I rinsed. Water
was still hot. I lingered under the spray, turned the shower head
to "massage". I was in there half an hour. Success. I got to work
early. Becky was already there. I presented her with the other basket.
"Where are you getting all this fruit?" she asked. "Becky, it's
a very long story. So, just enjoy. And, by the way, avoid Holiday
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