When my wife and I married we didn’t have a lot of money. The only real issue this caused is that we never had what most people consider a honeymoon. We did manage to get away for a couple of days, but had to make choices based on our lack of funds. One of those choices was that we didn’t spend an entire week away. We spent our first two nights together at a local hotel, waited two more days, then headed to Chattanooga for passed for our honeymoon. Our first hotel was moderately upscale and our second was . . . on the other end of the spectrum. Both managed to teach us valuable lessons about hospitality (or lack thereof).
After the wedding, we drove across town to the moderately upscale hotel where we had reservations. Or, more accurately, where I thought we had reservations. I left Chrisie in the car and entered the lobby.I was nervous for a variety of reasons and anxiously approached the front desk.
“I need to check in for Mr. and Mrs. Brown,” I said. I loved the way it sounded.
“Do you have a reservation?”
“What name?” Seriously?
She pecked at her keyboard for a few minutes. “Hmmm, I don’t seem to have a reservation for Brown.”
“You have to have a reservation for me. Please check again.”
“There’s no reservation under that name,” she said. I moved from nervous to worried.
“Could you please just look again? I just got married.” I gave my best puppy dog face. She sighed and looked. Again.
“I found it!” she said, “It’s for tomorrow night.”
“Awesome. Wait, what?”
“It’s for tomorrow and Monday night.”
“That’s can’t be right.”
“It’s right here. Two night stay beginning on August second.”
“But I got married on August first. Today.”
“I’m sorry, but your reservation is for tomorrow evening.”
I thought about Chrisie out in the car waiting. Worry gave way to panic.
“Look,” I said, “My wife of about three hours is out in the car waiting. I”m in here waiting. You need to get me a room. Now.” She looked up at me. “Please,” I begged.
Hey hands tapped at the keys some more. “Did you want the honeymoon package.”
“I want whatever was reserved for tomorrow night.”
“I don’t have a suite just like you have reserved tomorrow, but I do have a suite. It has a slightly different tub than you had reserved. Would you like it?”
“Does it have walls, a door, and a bed?”
“I’ll take it.”
The suite was nice enough and the rest of the evening went as smoothly as it could for a couple of newlyweds. When we got home, we barely unpacked since we knew we weren’t going to be home very long. Soon enough we completely repacked and headed for Chattanooga.
My sister-in-law’s brother worked in the corporate offices of a budget hotel chain and secured us his rate for one of our two nights in Chattanooga. We didn’t expect as luxurious a hotel as our first two nights, but neither did we expect what we got.
The hotel was just outside of town which served us well. We stopped by to check in before we saw Rock City.
I confidently entered the lobby and approached the front desk.
“I need to check in, please. I have a reservation for Mr. and Mrs. Brown.” I still liked the way it sounded.
The man behind the desk typed for a moment then asked, “What name did you say?”
“Brown. We’re staying for two nights and we should have a family discount for the first night.”
“I don’t have a reservation for Brown.” What was this? A conspiracy?
“You have to. Here’s my confirmation number.”
He checked some more, made a phone call, and finally discovered the room had been reserved under my brother’s wife’s brother’s name. He apologized for the error and handed us our keycards. I laughed it off as a simple mixup. I should have realized that it was actually an omen. A bad omen.
We opened our room and found it quite serviceable. It wasn’t lavish, but it was comfortable. I had another laugh at what I should have seen as the second bad omen. The room was non-smoking and even had a small plaque on the desk to make it abundantly clear. A small plaque right next to the ashtray. I took a picture, because, hey, that’s funny. That’s when I noticed the magazine full of helpful tips and coupons for great places to visit in Nashville. I found this odd since we were in, you know, Chattanooga. Again, I ignored what I should have taken as yet another bad omen.
Had I realized we had just been given three different (and obvious in retrospect) signs that we really shouldn’t stay at that particular hotel, I would have checked us out and found somewhere else. Instead, I was still smitten with being a newlywed and stupidly ignored failed to discern their import.
We visited Ruby Falls and Rock City, both of which are truly spectacular. Well, except for the gnome part of Rock City. That bit was just plain creepy and weird. We had a pleasant evening and even better night. The next day, we hit downtown and the aquarium. It was another wonderful day after which we went back to the hotel for what we thought would be another good night. We should have hurried back to Clarksville.
We went up to our room where Fate gave me one last chance to realize we really, really needed to get out of there. I stuck our card in the lock and nothing happened. I tried it again, but it still didn’t work. I finally went back down to the lobby.
“My card isn’t working,” I told the woman behind the desk.
“No problem. Could you give me your name and room number, please?” I provided both. “That’s odd, it doesn’t have you in that room.”
“Well, we paid for two nights yesterday.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve straightened it out.” No, no she hadn’t.
We made it back to the room and collapsed on the bed, exhausted from our day. Eventually, we drifted off to peaceful sleep until around 2:30 in the morning when we awoke to sounds of someone attempting to open our door.
I softly crept to the door and looked through the peephole and saw a bearded man repeatedly sticking a keycard in the door and trying the handle. I thought he was drunk and was about to go back to bed when I realized that his card appeared to unlock the door! Fortunately I had engaged the deadbolt style lock before we went to bed and he wasn’t able to actually open the door. My sleep addled brain tried to work through what I should do. I was spared the need to find a solution because he seemed to finally give up and left.
I went back to bed and explained what just happened to Chrisie.
“At least it’s over now,” I told her. If only.
A few minutes later I heard the keycard again. I tried to ignore it until I heard a different sound. It was the sound of a brass key inserting into a lock. The kind of lock attached to the deadbolt. The key turned and the deadbolt slipped out of the lock position. I leapt from bed in only my boxers and sprinted for the door. That’s the moment I learned how important, how vital, it is to utilize the extra chain or loop lock on hotel doors.
The door opened and I cried out. Good thing I’m paranoid and had used the lock because the door only opened a couple of inches. It wasn’t enough to allow entrance but it was enough for me to see the bearded man with who I assumed was the night desk person. They also saw me and looked quite surprised. I reached the door and slammed it shut.
“Go away!” I yelled. Their response was muffled by the door, but the knocked on it. Then they knocked some more and continued knocking for good measure. I banged back and kept up my two-word sentence. Then the knocking stopped. I dared a look through the peephole and saw them walk away. I thought about getting back in bed, but went over and sat by the phone. It rang soon.
“What?” I demanded. I did not use a friendly tone.
“Who is this?” came accented voice from the other end.
“Who are you?” I retaliated.
“The front desk. What are you doing in that room?”
“Well, I was trying to sleep, but you have ruined that.”
“That is not your room.”
“You must leave now.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Sir, it is not your room. It is rented to someone else.”
“No, it is rented to me. I paid for it the other night. They gave me a key. A key for this room, the one I’m in now that I paid for.”
“It is not your room.”
“It is my room.”
“Let me make this clear: we are in this room right now. You are not. We are not leaving before tomorrow. We are staying in the room we paid for.” I hung up before he could reply. The phone rang again. I answered by yelling, “We’re staying!” I slammed the phone back down, then picked the receiver back up and left it off the hook.
The next day we left early. I yelled at the manager for a bit.
“Sir, I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do for you.”
“Then what exactly do you manage?”
“Your name tag indicates you are the manager. I presume that is of this hotel. Manage me an explanation or a refund. At the very least just apologize.” He didn’t offer any of the three.
After several phone calls to the corporate office, I eventually received a very nice letter with a free night’s stay in the company’s new hotel chain. I t was the same hotel we stayed in with a changed name. For some reason, we chose not to take advantage of the offer. I never did get my apology.
At least I have a good story though, right? Right?