A completely true story. And this time it has nothing to do with broadcasting.
It was the summer of 2003, and I had just flown into Las Vegas for the first time. Wide-eyed, but mainly jet-lagged, I took the complimentary shuttle bus from the airport to the Plaza Hotel and started the whole “trying to check into my room” process. It should be noted that, at this point in the story, I was meeting with very limited success, and by very limited, I mean “none.”
The room that I had pre-booked was apparently not available, so my temporary HQ was “in the lobby with my luggage.” I was in town for Classic Gaming Expo, so I knew a few folks, but had never met them in person before, having only been online acquaintances with all involved, so… yeah. I cooled my heels in the lobby. After I’d been schlepping around with my bags for about an hour and change, someone finally came over to me and admitted that the hotel had a concierge service that could stow my luggage away for me. That was a plus, at least. Now someone else had my bags and I still had no room!
After going to peek in the doors to watch the setup for the show, I went back to the front desk. “Great timing, Mr. Green! Your room is ready!” “Great timing!” I replied. “My ass is dog tired!”
What threw me was the guy who carried my bags up to my room for me. The hell? I mean, yeah, it’s the hospitality industry and all, but I have always been – for longer than most people have – a do-it-for-yourself kind of guy, simply because a lot of my upbringing didn’t provide me with an abundance of folks to step in and do stuff for me. Better to be a loner than a moaner. He handed me my key card and then went on about his business. Fair ’nuff.
I slipped the key card into the slot on the door lock and it opened in a flash. Just as quickly, someone on the other side of the door slammed that door in my face after saying “Whoa!”
Yeah. Whoa. I could at least agree with that.
I knocked on the door. The guy on the other side said “Hang on!”
This being Vegas and all, I thought maybe I’d better soft-pedal my introduction here. Maybe he didn’t have pants on. Maybe the whole room was filled with a veritable plethora of people who had become one after achieving an advanced state of pantslessness. Maybe there were some things my eyes were not meant to witness. All things being equal, I just wanted to lay down and close them for a bit.
But I did kinda sorta need my own room in order to make that happen.
The door opened slowly and the guy peeked out, as if I was the sort of ruffian who was likely to burst through the door and kick his ass. At this point, I must admit, that thought had begun considering the possibility of occurring to me. “Is your name Earl?” he asked.
“Um… yeah,” I said. I’d just gotten to Vegas. I don’t owe anyone any money. Yet.
“Are you from Arkansas?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I admitted, even more tentatively this time. I was beginning to have, as the saying goes, a very bad feeling about this.
“Your wife’s on the phone,” he said.
“Oh, great,” I said, trying to be casual. “Can I talk to her?”
“Nope!” he said, and closed the door again.
The f#$%? I knocked on the door a little more insistently this time. “Sir, I think you’re in my room,” I said, now dead sure that something was really wrong. I started looking for another concierge guy, or maybe someone from housecleaning, to flag down.
He peeked out the door again. “Just hang on, they’re coming to get me,” he said. No doubt, I thought. Just have to find a straitjacket in the right size.
A concierge guy showed up. Great. I tried to get his attention and found myself backing up, because apparently I was in his way. “Hey, I’ve got a –”
“Excuse me sir,” he said, parking his valet cart right where I’d been standing before my hasty retreat. He knocked on the door. The occupant of my room staggered out, bags in hand, and plopped his luggage onto the cart. For a second I thought he was going to drape himself gracefully on top of his bags. In this town, surely it’s happened. It has to have happened at some point.
And off he went, but not before calling to me from down the hall, “Hey! Your wife’s still on the phone!”
I took my bags into my damn room and found a total disaster area waiting for me. If the previous occupant had worked any harder at removing all of the sheets and blankets from the bed, I would have expected him to try scaling down the outside wall of the Plaza. And the phone was, indeed, off the hook. I picked it up.
“You there?” I asked.
My wife was laughing. “Yes, are you?” What, was this a setup?
No, she knew the other half of the story. The gentleman who had just left my room had been comped an extra night at the Plaza, but since the room was booked by me, they had to wait – as, apparently, did I – until they could find another room to move him to. (Why he or someone else couldn’t have just told me this, I have no idea.)
I told her I needed to get off the phone and call housekeeping, because it looked like an Arkansas tornado had followed me to my room in Nevada. I put my bags down, and pulled my handheld PC out of my carry-on bag so I could check my e-mail.
That quite a story there, Earl, I hear you saying… but I haven’t even gotten to the good part yet.
After getting to the airport for my complimentary groping and probing well before business hours, and being on one plane or another all day long, and now having been at the hotel for something like three hours without actually having a room, a problem made itself known to me. I really, really needed to take a crap.
I got up, walked over to the almost-closed bathroom door, and opened it.
There, in the precise center of the bathroom, taking up nearly all available maneuvering space between myself and the toilet, was an incredibly elaborate ziggurat built out of empty beer cans. Well, mostly empty. The smell of beer was heavy in the air. The incense of this guy’s holy temple. There had to have been dozens of cans there. And yet clearly the guy couldn’t have been too wasted: this was an architectural masterpiece. It was actually impressive. Parts of it simply defied gravity – I can only assume that the laws of physics had shown up, given some thought to intruding, and opted to have a drink instead.
This, of course, was when housekeeping showed up. Two ladies entered the room, neither one of them speaking English, and started working on the living space. I leaned out the door and motioned that I’d be in the bathroom for a few minutes. I closed the door, locked it, turned on the fan, and – much to my relief – left my sacrifice in the great bowl-shaped structure near the holy temple of the gods of alcohol. I cleaned up, flushed, opened the door and stepped out.
Of course, housekeeping was waiting for me, and they saw me emerge from the bathroom with the ziggurat of beer cans behind me. I smiled, shrugged, grabbed my Mobilepro and key card, and hurried out of the room to go grab something to eat.
Amazingly, the whole thing was gone when I got back to my room with an impossibly expensive sammich from the Subway restaurant downstairs. I hope they at least photographically documented it.