Day Two: The Bellhop
It was the same nightmare again. He tried to remember it before it faded into forgetfulness like so much of his past life had. If he kept on having the same nightmare, he was sure there was a reason for it. After all, had not God communicated with people in times past through their dreams. Joseph had been given the skill of interpreting dreams that had first led him into slavery after provoking the jealousy of his brothers and then led him into power when he was able to give shrewd advice to the Pharaoh. Another Joseph had been given information about the pregnancy of his fiance that kept him from making a terrible mistake in setting aside an innocent young woman and giving her a lifetime of shame and poverty to deal with. To be sure, he was by no means as important or noteworthy as these people were, but he still thought that God could be trying to communicate something to him but was having a hard time because he was such a hard person to reach. He knew that in his life that communication, issues of speech and silence and all that, had been areas of frequent concern and he figured that he had at least some share of the blame. If he was easy to communicate with, he would not have such difficulties with it, after all. He knew that the others he struggled to communicate with could not be entirely to blame.
At any rate, he returned his attention to his dream. The dream had been in black and white, and he had been standing at the bar, as if he was a defendant in some kind of English court room like the kind one read in Victorian novels. He hoped that if he had been a defendant in some kind of hearing that he would have a defense attorney to advocate on his behalf at least as skilled as Sydney Carton. “It is a far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. It is a far better rest that I go to than I have ever known,” he mused to himself, knowing that if the quote was not entirely accurate that at least that it was a close paraphrase. He was at least able to remember enough to know that he had been on trial in his head. Who was the judge, what was he tried for, and had there been a verdict? He had a lot of questions about his dreams, as he often did those few times when he remembered them–his dreams were nearly all bad, after all–and not very many answers. He wondered if the young ladies whose rooms were only a couple of minutes of walking from his room had the same problem in that they had many questions and there were few answers he could give them to what they truly wanted to know.
Ah, now his mind was focused on the problem at hand, but he knew there were things that he wanted to do before he devoted his full attention to that problem. He looked at the desk and saw his Bible, and picked it up to continue his daily reading regimen. In the day’s reading he saw the following passage and it gave him some pause, for it was about the same subject that he had been dreaming about: “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.” Indeed, he knew that there was a terror in judgment, in having oneself exposed to judgment, and to have little confidence in one’s ability to defend oneself against the accusations that others made. If one had a guilty conscience and an overactive imagination and a tendency to be too anxious, what hope was there in convincing others of one’s essential decency and goodness. If that was true when one was dealing with imperfect human beings of a similar nature to oneself, it was even more the case when one was dealing with the Eternal, whose power and goodness were absolute. He was less concerned about the evils he had committed in the body, being a person of considerable restraint, than he was about the sins of the mind and of the imagination, but the result was the same, he thought to himself.
He set aside his Bible once he finished his Bible reading and took a shower and got dressed for work today. Although he was in a reflective mood, he knew that he was no longer alone in his world, and the knowledge that he was not alone buoyed his steps as he walked up the stairs to the second floor and inspected each of the rooms. Like the previous day and every other day he had looked at the rooms on that floor there was no change form the previous time. There was no dust, no cobwebs, nothing out of place, and it remained for him to mentally follow the checklist as he went through each room one by one. He looked out of the window as he got to the end of the corridor and saw the sun peaking out above the treeline to the east. The sun is rising with the brand new day and I have risen along with it, he thought to himself, wondering if he was feeling more poetic than usual because he was no longer so alone. How rare it was that he took notice of the sun or of the world outside of the hotel. Most of the time it took some effort to get him to think beyond what was inside of his head or what was in the immediate environment that he had to note for some sort of checklist. Today he was much more alive to the world around him, and he liked that feeling. He just wishes it was a more common one, as he wasn’t sure what to do with himself. After inspecting the rooms on both halls of the second floor he stood before the painting in the middle area next to the stairwell he was about to descend and saw the painting for that floor. It was a reproduction of Giotto’s fresco on the Last Judgment. Was everything conspiring to remind him about judgment today? He was going on his first date in perhaps a century and everything was reminding him about judgment. He stood there reflecting on the painting on the wall, and then turned to walk downstairs and go to the lobby.
He occupied himself with parts of the large book about taking care of guests at those hotel that he had never paid attention to. He was a bit chagrined to think about the fact that he had not taken advantage of the decades of solitude to entirely memorize that book. He had thought he knew everything because he had been in the same routine year after year but he had never studied ahead to think of what would happen when he had guests to take care of. And yet reading the book gave him as many questions as it had given him answers. It alluded very briefly to special requests for items that the hotel room didn’t have, and he had no idea how to obtain those items, except by sending an e-mail to the management system. He knew that he had not had a particularly easy time getting responses in times past using the system. He remembered that early in his time at the hotel that he had used the system often to make suggestions for improvements, but that as message after message was met with silence, he had eventually been discouraged, which perhaps was the intent, and he had simply stopped trying to reach out across the gulf of isolation that was between him and a world outside that his communication with was tenuous at best. And yet he had reason now to communicate that he never had before, since he had people to take care of, people who almost certainly wanted things that the hotel did not provide and that he had no idea how to obtain since he could not go anywhere to buy anything.
He started typing a message on the computer in the intranet system that the hotel used to provide such slight contact with the outside world that was available to him. Even more than usual, he labored over his words, and sought to find the right tone of concern for the well-being of his guests as well as genuine puzzlement that he hoped would be more successful than his previous enthusiastic efforts at making suggestions. After a considerable length of time he looked at his handiwork and saw that if the message itself was imperfect, it accurately captured his anxiety and concern and thought that he could not do better in the state of mind he was in. The message went something like this:
“To whom it may concern,
I do not wish to bother you, but yesterday afternoon two guests checked into the hotel I work alone at, and they immediately asked a lot of questions about where they were and why they were here. I am concerned that they think me to be a violent criminal rather than a modest hotel employee and I do not have the information that can set them at ease. Additionally, they seem to be the sort of privileged young women that may find the rather spartan items available for our guests to be not according to their tastes and wants, and I do not know how to acquire the items or explain why they could not be obtained in any way that would allay their own suspicions. I would appreciate some counsel about this matter as soon as possible, as I have no reason to expect the quiet that has been the case today to continue indefinitely.
He looked at the message and, being about as satisfied as he could under the circumstances, he hit send and sent the message across the black hole of silence. Perhaps it would have some good result in answering a few questions of his own. If his guests could obtain some items, perhaps he could obtain some additional supplies of his own that would make life a bit more pleasant for himself, like something to wear for a date aside from his work uniform. All things considered, it was a good uniform but he did not really want to wear it for a date. Rather, he wanted something like a nice suit that he could throw an apron over to do some cooking. At least that is how he imagined a romantic date to go, and he admitted he felt as nervous as a teenager looking forward to a formal dinner before one’s senior prom, and that had been a lifetime ago. He could not remember what his own prom had been like, but he did remember the feeling of it, the sensation that lingered long after the memories that had given them had faded from his mind.
He went to a room that he had never had cause to go to before, found a laundry cart, and rolled it to room #13. When he got to the room, he saw that there was a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. He thought of the Edwin McCain song that talked about the sign on the door saying “Sorry, we’re closed.” He knew that the sign was only a suggestion rather than a command, but he thought in the circumstances it would probably be unwise for a guy like himself to open a door without permission with two women who were understandably concerned for their own safety. Perhaps they would want some new linens later today or tomorrow, he said to himself, and pushed the luggage cart back to the laundry room and then locked the door and returned to his spot in the lobby at the computer screen. He looked at the time, to make sure that it was not too early for his date, and saw that it was somehow only mid-afternoon. He looked at the phone and saw that no one had attempted to dial him during the time that he had been doing his work around the hotel rooms. He looked at the closed circuit cameras and did not see any stirring in the halls or in the hotel grounds. Had the ladies really stayed in their rooms all day without doing or wanting anything, he wondered to himself. He heard the satisfying sound that let him know that he had a reply to his message. He read the message with some trepidation, and it was written like this: “We regret to inform you that we are not able to answer hypothetical questions, but please encourage your guests to dial *411 if they have any specific questions that are beyond your competence to answer. – The management.”
He looked at the message and read it a couple of times, trying to interpret the mood the message had been written in. That was the trouble with written communication, he mused to himself, that it was something that could be easily misunderstood because we imputed a tone to it and responded to that rather than to what the messenger was trying to say. For example, in reading the message, he felt a bit insulted that instead of answering his own questions, the person sending the message had encouraged them to a number to ask questions without any confidence that they would get an answer or that anyone would even be there to send a message. They would have to take it on faith, and he got the distinct feeling that faith and trust and confidence were in short supply in this particular hotel. That said, it is quite possible that the person who sent the message simply had a mischievous sense of humor and was intending to be witty. Certainly he had sent witty and laconic messages that went over like a led zeppelin before, and this was perhaps another such effort. He looked at the time, how the time passed, and it was now time for him to go to his date. He walked to his room and looked in the small closet and saw that, to his surprise, there was a black suit and white t-shirt and black tie, and even a tie clip for him to wear. He even found some dark socks and formal shoes. He quickly changed, and looked at himself in the mirror. If he had to say so, he looked at least somewhat distinguished, certainly not as plain as he thought of himself most of the time. He ran his fingers through his balding hair and walked towards the hotel room of the ladies. When he reached the room, he did a knock that he vaguely remembered as being “Shave and a haircut, two bits,” and waited for Kate to open the door to head to the restaurant with him for their date.