Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Let Me In

In my first job after college I traveled all over the United States. I had to do these site surveys, and one of my big clients was McDonald's. I'd fly into a centrally located town, and drive to all the nearby McDonald's locations completing site surveys. I'd be out for a week or two and then fly home. Then after a few days at home, I'd fly out again.
I stayed in so many different hotels in so many different cities that they all blurred together. However, there is one that stands out.
 I was in Springfield, Mass, which is a shitty town. If you live there, I'm sorry. If you don't live there, don't visit. So, I'm doing my job, hitting my locations, and it's getting late. I decide to call it a day.
I get in my rental car, fire up my GPS and ask it to find me the nearest hotel.  The GPS takes me to this run down place that looks like it's either being renovated or torn down. My employer sets a $100 a night budget for hotels, and as I looked at this place, I was sure I'd come I          n under budget.
The hotel had probably around a few hundred rooms, but there are only a handful of cars in the parking lot. I wasn't actually sure that the hotel was open. However, it was late, and I was tired, and didn't feel like driving anywhere else, so I decided to hell with it.
I parked and entered the lobby and find that the hotel is, in fact, open for business. I talk to the neck-tattooed desk clerk and learn that not only am I not going to blow my one hundred dollar a night budget, but it's actually alarmingly inexpensive for a night's stay. Like thirty-five dollars. I continued the to hell with it attitude, paid up, took my room key and wandered the labyrinthine halls until I found my room.
My room was on the first floor, and it had a sliding glass door that lead out onto a bare concrete slab that I guess could be considered, in some sort of post-apocalyptic reality, a patio.
I washed up and went out to get dinner. When I left my room, I realized that there was an exit about ten feet away. Instead of hauling my luggage through the maze-like corridors, I could have parked my car right by that door, walked ten feet and been in my room. I marked the door's location in my mind, got in my car and asked the all-knowing GPS to find me a good place to eat, hoping it did a better job at that than it did finding me a hotel.
I arrived back to my hotel after night had fallen. The restaurant was okay, but the drive out to it gave me a chance to see Springfield, a shit hole of a town during the day, at night. Somehow, it was even worse.
I was always leery about crime while working because I had been mugged once before while on the job, in Winston Salem, NC. On a crime scale of one to ten, I would have given Springfield a solid seven. I would have given Winston Salem a six.
I scoped out the parking lot, saw nothing amiss and proceeded to enter the hotel. In my room, I changed into my sleep attire, a t-shirt and shorts, and turned on the television.  I kept looking over at the sliding glass door. Couldn't help myself. I had the curtain pulled, and I doubt anyone could see me, but I still hated that it was there. It's would be easy to break into. I considered asking for a different room, but it was too late.
I decided to read for a few minutes before going to sleep. It was quiet and I was beginning to nod off when I heard a hollow knock on the sliding glass door. I sat up and waited for a moment to see if I heard the knocking again, thinking maybe it was just my imagination, one of those moments where you’re in between sleep and wakefulness and dreams seem so real. A moment passed and then there was another knock.
I walked over to the door, slid the curtain to the side and saw a man standing on the post-apocalyptic patio looking in at me. He said. "Hey, can you let me in?" To which I replied an emphatic, "Hell, no!"
His brow wrinkled for a moment and then he kind of laughed and smiled and said, "No, I mean in that door." and he pointed in the direction of the exit/entrance just a few feet away. He went on to explain, "I forgot my key."
I wondered for a moment whether I was being paranoid or not, or if this really was a sketchy situation. I made up my mind, "Sure. I can let you in." I watched him walk in the direction of the entrance and I left my room to go let him in.
After I opened the door for him, he thanked me. I then realized that it might be better if he didn't know which room I was in, so I stopped to tie my shoes (which I had put on in case I had to run, but in my haste had neglected to tie.) The lame ruse gave me enough time to see the guy wander down the same hallway that I had come down and stop outside my room. I remember thinking to myself, of course this happens.
Right as I was about to panic, the man turned to the door opposite mine and knocked. A moment later the door opened and the man says, "Forgot my damn key" to whomever else was in the room.
Not long later, I got stabbed in Indianapolis while on the job. I quit that job no long after.

By D.K. (Alone at Night)

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