Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Small Change

"Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes."
-Oscar Wilde

Spouse is away. There was a time, and it seems now to belong to another life, that I could join him on such excursions.
When we lived in California the majority of Spouse's travels revolved around San Francisco Bay Area, and instead of flying we could drive- I could join in and get away for a few days.
It feels odd to speak of escaping from that home we had in our little town; now there are days when I would give anything to be back there, using my feet to get from one thrift store to another, from the library to the post office, from my college to where a friend might be.
Anyhow, we did wander away at times and I savoured every moment of those visits. My Spouse had a generous and understanding boss at the time and it was perfectly acceptable for me to accompany Spouse, stay in the luxurious hotels and eat dinner at sumptuous restaurants.
As for particular restaurants we frequented, I will not speak of Banana Leaf at this time; the slightest push and nostalgia might overwhelm me.
One such occasion saw us staying in a hotel seventeen floors tall, on the fourteenth of which we stayed.
I spent countless hours riding the elevator to the very top, feeling dizzy and descending again only to attempt the exhilarating heights once more.
I watched television; I watched a housekeeper clean our room and felt that I must surely be part of a television show to be experiencing such a surreal moment.
I lounged in the lobby, watched travellers coming and going and wondered where in the world they had come from, and why.
Spouse suggested one afternoon that I take a bus around San Francisco and have an exploratory day. Of course for that I needed small change which I did not have but Spouse assured me, before he left for the day to attend his meetings, that I ought to ask the concierge at the reception desk and that they would be familiar with hotel guests asking for bank notes to be broken into smaller currency.
I stepped up to the gleaming and polished desk, behind which was a suited and grave hotel employee.
I cleared my throat. Speaking to people is one of my weaker points and in a glamorous hotel as that was, I felt like a tiny mouse. I grasped a twenty dollar bill tightly in my hand.
"Excuse me," I said in my most nonchalant and least intimidated voice, determined to give the fellow the impression that I knew all about hotels and was really quite bored with them,
"do you have some spare change?"
It is said, about words, that once spoken they are scattered like fine grains of sand and cannot be retracted. I sensed immediately that my question was one more likely to be asked by impoverished homeless persons and not esteemed hotel guests, and for that I inwardly cringed.
It was my good fortune that the concierge was familiar with guests of all types and he was possessed, at least, of a sensible inner translator. He sorted the matter without any fuss and I was able to go on my way, a suddenly humbled tourist on the streets of San Francisco. Yet, I cannot forget what I said.
My self respect will never let me.


julochka said...

i think everyone has incidents like that, trapped in our memories, which we endlessly replay and painfully re-live, wishing we'd expressed ourselves differently. the good thing is that i'm sure you'll never do that again. and i'm also sure that the concierge in question has no memory of it at all. don't beat yourself up over the little things! :-)

Beth said...

oh that is so funny, trust me, I've been there. Once I was in a B&B in England and there were some Scottish rugby players drinking pretty heavily. I went up to the room while my husband stayed up and eventually there was a knock on the door and I thought it was my husband and as I opened the door, I said, "hello, is it a drunken Scotsman?" and it was actually one of the rugby players going to the wrong room. I was startled and embarrassed but he probably doesn't remember it.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Julie, it's worse when it's somebody you see often, and whose opinion I care about. (No disrespect to the fellow but I didn't know him.) I'm not good in social situations but you're right- no doubt he forgot it right away.

Beth, I laughed hard when I read that. I can only say 'ouch' and 'how funny.' I'm sure you and your husband laughed about it for a long time after- and if the guy did remember it, it'll hopefully be with good humour!

Pappy said...

Great humor in your stories. I am drawn to the slight differences in the same language. I guess it is in my DNA.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Teixcan, I'm always fascinated by language and how it's full of stumbling blocks and tricks. It gives room for a lot of wordplay. As you said, same language, but a lot of differences.

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