Thursday, April 2, 2009

One Night in Albany

Albany's Econo Lodge & Suites Downtown offers clean rooms with spacious beds, free wireless internet, a good-natured front desk clerk to cater to your every need, and a bizarre mind game to spice up an otherwise run-of-the-mill motel experience.

Since there are 5 of us, we got three rooms, a "Publisher's Room" for Jeff Mann, a "Boys Room" for Aaron Short, and a "Girls Room" for Adriane Quinlan, Juliet Linderman and me. The "Girls Room" only had 2 beds, and since there clearly were 3 girls, I asked the portly front desk clerk for a rollaway cot when Adriane and I got back from the Gazette Albany bar crawl early. His face lit up with an eager smile. I could almost see him rubbing his palms together under the desk. He asked for $11 and said he'll bring the cot to our room in about 5 minutes. 

We went to our suite and began to unpack. Five minutes went by, then ten, then I stopped counting. Suddenly, the phone rang, "Aha, the cot!" we thought. Adriane picked up the phone, but instead of the expected "I'm on my way," she heard nothing. "Hello? hello?" said Adriane, but the only response was a menacing silence. She hung up. As soon as she did, the phone rang again. "Hello?" Silence. "Hello?" Nothing. She hung up again. We stood there looking at the phone. The clock ticked as the seconds went by. It did not ring. 

Adriane, jaded by her frequent travels, didn't seem affected by the creepy phone calls. She gathered her toiletries and went in the shower. I told myself that a foreign correspondent should not be scared by such a trivial occurrence. I put on a brave smile, opened my laptop and tried to access the free wireless. 

The phone rang again. I slowly moved toward the night table as the phone kept ringing. "Hello" Nothing. "Hello?" I slammed down the phone and frantically looked around. The room was in a two story building all the way at the end of the lot, edged by a shrubbery and what looked like deep woods. It was midnight. Adriane was in the shower and the rest of the Gazetteers at a bar about 20 minutes from the motel. I began to bite my nails. 

The internet wouldn't work, so, glad to have an excuse to call the front desk, I dialed the number on my cell phone. The clerk picked up. He gave me the network name and the password again. "Ok, goodbye, have a...," he began to say. 

"And are you going to come by with the cot any time soon?" I asked.

"Ah, yes of course, the cot!" said the clerk. "I'll bring the cot in a minute." 

Adriane came out of the shower and got into one of the beds. I busied myself with checking emails. She was long asleep by the time I heard knocking on the door. It was the clerk, breathing hard and cotless. He pushed his way into the room and walked toward the tiny couch by the window that I've been sitting on the whole time. 

"The couch actually unfolds, and there is linen in the bottom drawer," said the clerk. 

He began to unfold the couch, except he wasn't having much luck since the folding bed, warped by frequent use, wouldn't fold out straight. Sweat began to pour down his meaty face. He breathed even harder, grunting and cursing at his fruitless efforts. 

"It's fine, I'll just sleep on one of the beds," I said. He didn't seem to hear me. "Ok, please just stop," I said louder. 

"No, no I can do it," he said as he grunted. "Just hold on a moment."

"No, seriously. STOP." 

He finally heard me. He folded the couch back, put the pillows on it, smiled sheepishly, apologized. 

"Oh, by the way there were some problems with your phone," he said. 

He walked over to the bedside table and began putzing around with the wires. Fixing the phone turned out much like unfolding the couch, and before he would start sweating and and grunting, I told him he can take care of it later and it's time for me to sleep. 

"We'll refund you the $11 tomorrow morning when you check out," were his parting words. 

"Thank you, have a good night," I said to the closing door as I corrected a verb tense in a police blotter entry where a man clubbed a random woman with his walking stick on a Brooklyn street. 

Adriane slept soundly through the incident, only waking up in the morning.


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