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WHEN THE TELEPHONE RINGS AT 2 AM, EXPECT TROUBLE

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The telephone rings…I open one eye. It’s 2:10am. This can NOT be good. Maybe someone is ill. But, maybe it’s a wrong number.

“Hello, Judy here”, I say in my usual cheerful voice. “This is the Dining Room calling.” “The DINING room?” ( It’s 2am, who’s hungry now?)
They proceed to tell me that I forgot to sign the dinner check. What dinner check? Perhaps it’s the one they forgot to present me with. “Do you want me to get dressed and come down to sign it NOW? Can’t I sign it when I sign for our breakfast tomorrow?” “Oh”, I hear on the other end….then a flood of Chinese chatter and the young female voice is cut off without any further instructions to me. Personally, I thought tomorrow was an excellent suggestion anyway.

Now, I lie there in bed, wide awake by this time, having already had almost my quota of sleep for the night . I read for awhile, and then decided to get some fresh air. The windows don’t open. I call the front desk and follow their explicit English instructions. I fiddle with the dials until I’m finally able to detect the whirring sound of a fan…no heat, no cold air….and I couldn’t even feel any air movement.

Next morning I learned that, although the instructions I had received were correct, I had not been told that the a/c had been turned off for the winter and that no amount of fiddling with the dials would produce anything but heat or no heat. Well, nothing more I could do but attempt to get back to sleep for whatever was left of the night.

Again the phone rings. It seems the social life in my dreams is very busy. This time it is my National Guide….again I worry about an illness of one of my passengers, or my Guide. He’s fine. He’s very apologetic. He explains that he just received a phone call from the Front Desk telling him that the luggage for tomorrow morning’s flight to Shanghai must be brought down NOW, if we want it on the same plane with us in the morning. I glance at the clock. It’s 10 minutes to 3. “ NOW, I ask? “Why NOW?”.

“Because it’s going to the military airport and the government issues the orders and now is the time they want it.” Not daring to argue with the Chinese Government (the Tiennenman Square incident still indelibly etched in my brain), I said to Jimmy, “That means we have to wake up all our passengers and tell them to put their luggage outside their doors now.” “Right”, he said. “But, not we, YOU; they might not understand my English”. (Jimmy was a very hard working Guide and had been taking care of his end of the responsibilities flawlessly, his accent was a bit difficult to understand and, we had agreed to share the duties, with his conversation limited to answering their questions and socializing, and mine to cover precise instructions.

“What if they get angry with ME”, I asked. “I’ll share it with you., was his answer. “Okay”, I said….knowing that I suffer from Luggage Separation Syndrome and will have to oversee the entire operation anyway. (I’m still spastic from the Canada caper a short while ago when , on a motorcoach tour I just happened to spot a familiar suitcase being loaded onto an airport shuttle and, I went over to investigate. I discovered that all 48 pieces of our tagged luggage were already on the shuttle and in another 2 minutes they would have been on their way to the Montreal Airport instead of safely inside the bays of our motorcoach which was heading for Ct.)

With this realization, I decided to beat the luggage boys to the job and was thankful that I had laid my clothing out the night before, making it about the fastest job of dressing that I had ever done. I heard a commotion in the hallway and raced out the door… remembering to flip the lock so I wouldn’t lock myself out of the room…as I had done in the past. Sure enough it was the bellboys….6 of them….with their carts. WHERE WERE THEY ALL WHEN I HAD NEEDED THEM FOR A SPEEDY CHECK-IN UPON ARRIVAL.


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