This post was created after reading Confession of a Serial Titflasher’s post Hotels and Hovels.
I worked in a very run-of-the-mill hotel in the Southeastern US for my second job at the age of 16. Titflasher is right about how people let their sex lives completely fly in the open in hotels. Trysts in hallways, “toys” left indiscriminately lying around the room and forced voyeurism to satisfy a guest’s need for exhibitionism… all not uncommon. Actually, it’s not just sexual. Many people take their time at hotels to be a chance to shed the skin of polite society and revert to their feral natures in myriad ways.
I have quite a few stories but we will stick with one for now. At the back corners of the hotel were 2 laundry chutes that ran from the 4th floor to the basement. On each floor there was a room with supplies where you could drop laundry in through a latched metal door set at a 45 degree angle. I liked to stick my head into the chute and look up at how the outside light filtered into the utter darkness through the large, slowly rotating blades of the exhaust fan at the top. It always reminded me of some backdrop from the movie Brazil.
As bored Southeastern 16-year-olds do, I was smoking a lot of pot back then. I spent my hours after school until about 11 PM at the hotel and it got terminally boring after 9 PM or so. One night I decided to alleviate my boredom by getting high. While thinking where I could get away with it, the large exhaust fan sprang to mind and I headed for the 4th floor supply room at the back corner of the hotel.
I wore these shoes called Sebagos (this was the 80’s). I have no idea if they are still around but they are slip-on shoes that have little to no traction on them. I should also mention that we waxed the floors of the supply room regularly and I should further mention that I leaned into the chute very far to ensure no smoke wafted back into the room. As I started to exhale the huge hit of low-grade marijuana that I’d sucked into my lungs, my feet slipped and I fell headlong into the chute. As I plummeted three stories to the pile of dirty sheets and blankets below, pipe and lighter grasped firmly as there was nothing else to grab, I heard the door slam and the heavy latch automatically lock in place. Merde!
So I’m high, three stories from where I was mere seconds ago, sitting on 15-20 feet of soiled laundry, locked in a chute and it’s night so, instead of light filtering in through the fan, there is nothing but darkness. I felt like an extremely stoned Jonah in the belly of the whale. I’m not sure how long I sat there. Time freezes in instances such as these. All I know is that the cob-webbed cogs in my head started grinding and I had a vision of the police being called out to search for me when I did not come home that night and the laundry people opening the chute in the morning to a sleeping me tumbling out on a wave of linen, pipe still clasped in hand. I had to do something.
What alternative was there, really? The chute was rather narrow so I put my hands and feet on either side and with all my might made slow progress up it’s sleek metal interior. There was just enough light showing around the door that I could tell I’d made it to the second floor supply room door. I pushed but it was latched securely. I held my weight with both and hands and one leg while the other leg lashed out furiously at the door. Just when I thought all hope was lost, it burst inward, releasing a torrent of light into my enclosure. I climbed out and tried to hide my nervousness the rest of the night.
The next night, my manager stayed later than usual and asked me to come to the second floor supply room with him. He was really perplexed as to how the laundry chute door could have bowed itself in from the chute-side to the point where it would no longer shut properly. In the US in the 1980’s, there was a program called Mr. Wizard’s World where this crotchety guy did weird science experiments and then explained them. Though this was my initial channeling of him, it is amazing how many times this character and my gift for bullshitting has gotten me out of trouble since. I went into a complex explanation of how gases could emit off the laundry and how it must have caused pressure to build up to such a point that something had to give and that something was the second floor supply room door. Nevermind that there is a fan with blades the size of a condor’s wings going at the top. He nodded and I breathed a sigh of relief at having pulled off such a marvelous charade. Now I know that he knew what was going on but you could not have told 16 year old me that it was anything else but my brilliance. I still keep this grace in mind when dealing with snotty teenagers.