W. Bruce Cameron: Recently I was the keynote speaker at a convention of NOPUFAKS (the National Organization of People Unable To Find Another Keynote Speaker). They put me up in a very nice hotel, the kind where the room key is a piece of plastic like a credit card. It fit very nicely in my wallet, but when I left my room to find the health club so I’d know what area of the hotel to avoid, I accidentally left my wallet inside and was locked out.
The man at the front desk had a name tag that said “Daniel.” I always call people by their names when they have such a tag – it establishes rapport.
“Hi there, Daniel,” I greeted him.
He blinked at me through his glasses. “Do I know you, sir?”
“Uh, no. I was just establishing rapport.”
Daniel merely stared at me.
“So look, I locked myself out of Room 812 and need a new key.”
“Very good, sir. I just need to see some ID.”
“Oh. Well. This is the hilarious part. I left my wallet in the room.”
Daniel seemed to be having trouble seeing the hilarity. “Sorry, I can’t give you a key without some identification.”
“OK, how about this? You let me into my room and I’ll show you my wallet when we get there.”
“No, sir, I couldn’t let you into a room without identification.”
“Fine. You go to the room, look at my wallet, see that it’s me and give me a new key.”
“Oh, I could never enter a guest’s room without his permission.”
“But I’m the guest! I’m giving you permission!”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“Look. Let’s be reasonable here, Daniel,” I said, oozing rapport. “What am I supposed to do? I’m locked out, and all my stuff is in my room.”
Daniel was unperturbed. “Upon checkout, any belongings left in the room would be routed to Lost and Found. You could claim them there.”
I processed this. “So what you’re saying is, if I checked out now, you would send someone to clean the room, and then my stuff would be in Lost and Found, and I could go there and get my wallet, and then I could check back in?”
“Yes, sir. You could claim your belongings from Lost and Found between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.”
“Provided you have some sort of identification.”
“This is crazy! What’s lost is my identification!”
“Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?”
” ‘Else’? You haven’t done anything at all. There is no ‘else’!”
“Very good, sir.”
Fuming, I left the lobby. Half an hour later, I had an idea. I called room service and ordered a club sandwich, telling them to just enter the room and put the food on the table. Then I went up and waited.
Obviously, I could have been an undercover spy or something, because of how clever this was.
My heart sank half an hour later when I saw who was coming at me with the food cart: Daniel.
He trundled up to the door of 812 and knocked on it. “Room service,” he called out.
We stood there for a moment, listening. “This is crazy, Daniel. You’re not going to hear anything in there, because I’m out here.”
“This is your room, sir?”
“Would you please open the door for me, then?”
“Have you not been paying attention? I can’t open the door. I don’t have the key!”
Daniel wordlessly opened the door with a master key. Blocking my way with his body, he slipped inside the room.”It’s a club sandwich!” I shouted through the door. “How do I know that, huh? Am I some sort of sandwich psychic?”
When Daniel opened the door, I dove past him. He grabbed at me as I scrambled across the floor, and we wrestled, panting. Lunging, I snagged my wallet off the bed and thrust it at him, my ID very clearly in view.
Daniel compared the photograph with my face and nodded. “Very good, sir. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Write to Bruce at [email protected]