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Rush Hour Shower

February 1994

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 morning."

"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 phone.

"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?"

"At 7:30."

"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 days."

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 Inns."

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