The day I graduated from being a mere fan of Seinfeld
Rental Agent: I'm sorry, we have no mid-size available at the moment.
Jerry: I don't understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?
Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That's why you have the reservation.
Agent: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to *hold* the reservation. And that's really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take the reservations. What you need to do is to *hold* it.
On the way there, my plane was on time. I got into a cab to go to the hotel downtown, and called my friend to say I'd arrived. The driver was a Tanzanian lady. As we passed a gas station I remarked that gas in this place was even more expensive than where I'd just come from. She said, "There's going to be an accident if you talk about gas again." I laughed, and asked her to turn the music up. It was some mellifluous African stuff. She said it was Congolese music -- apparently very popular in eastern Africa. I said I hadn't heard anything like it, although I was familiar with some African music. She said Fela. I said yes, and King Sunny Ade, Youssou N'dour, she said Miriam Makeba, I said Ladysmith Black Mambazo. She said these are all the acts that have made it big in the west. Back home in eastern Africa, people dig this Congolese stuff.
We listened in silence, and then we talked about the American elections.
I arrived at the hotel at 1:30 and went to check in. The woman at the front desk took my printout, clicked a few keys, looked at her monitor, clicked again, then handed the printout back to me. With a big smile she said -- yes, sir, we have you down in our system and everything's okay; it's just that check-in is at 3 o'clock and we don't have any rooms available right now. She reconfirmed that they don't have early check in, and then said -- but you can leave your bags with the bell-hop, and come back at any time that's convenient to you, if that's okay.
At least, that's what I think she said.
I gave my carry-on to the bell-hop. My friend had arrived from her office three blocks away. We went off to have lunch, then went to her office and worked till 7. Then we met another friend for dinner, and sat around talking till almost midnight.
The two of them dropped me back to my hotel. For some reason, they both came in with me.
A different woman at the front desk (someone sporting a name tag that said 'Aquanette') told me that they were all booked out and no rooms were available for me. That was my Seinfeld moment.
I went through the motions of arguing with her. She pulled out a form which she filled laboriously in, then an envelope stuffed with singles, from which she pulled ten notes which she counted twice before handing them to me. "We're sending you to our sister hotel two blocks away. Here's return taxi fare. Tomorrow morning you will have first priority for a room here."
"So I'll have to come back here again?"
"What if I want to stay there?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to talk to the manager there in that case."
"And what time did you say I'll be able to get a room here?"
"Well, people start checking out by 8 o'clock."
"So how come I didn't get a room five hours after 8 o'clock today?"
"Because we do not have early check-in."
So of course I went to the other hotel. Which turned out to be a Best Western that was in the process of being reconverted. At 8 in the morning I get a call from the front desk asking me to check whether the previous occupant had left a cellphone in a drawer; at 8:05 I get a call from the near-hysterical previous occupant imploring me in a Kiwi accent to look again ("Did you check behind the television? I'm so mad I could scream. These people refused to give me a safe-box.") That's when I decided I'd better try my luck at the first hotel. So I packed up my bags and trudged back.
The day manager could not believe that the front desk person had said I'd get a room by 8. But here I was, at 9:15, saying I'd given them an hour and a half grace already. We argued some more. I pulled out my old chestnut about being a business school professor who teaches cases about customer service. She said she'd have a room for me in half an hour. ("House cleaning does not being till 9:30"). She did. And in the evening, a steel basket laden with one apple, one pear, one orange, four strawberries, and a bunch of grapes had found its way into the room, accompanied with an apology letter that had my name spelled wrong.
My night there was comfortable. The next morning at 8:45 I made my way down to check out, stepping past the house cleaning cart that was blocking up the corridor.
That evening, the cab to the airport was driven by an Iranian man. He'd lived here for 27 years. He hated everything. Blacks! Useless. I lost eight million dollars thanks to blacks. Ten children each -- they're taking over the country. I owned apartment buildings -- they never paid rent. One woman, she was 31. had seven children. Her eldest was 17. And she's a grandmother. That's what they're like. Care for nothing. Sit in cars, play loud music, all the girls will run to them. Don't care if they're a gangbanger. That's all they want. Jews! Control the world. Just 16 million of them, out of 6.3 billion. Running everything. Ruining everything. Iranians! We're so good by ourselves, but we pull each other down. I have a brother - I helped him get started. Now he makes movies even though he has a PhD from Columbia University and he's a millionaire. But he won't give me 20,000 to start my own restaurant -- and he knows I am good at it. I don't want it from him, but he won't give it to me. Always pulling each other down.
I was glad the ride was short. I was dog-tired, and well, even in Seinfeld, the malevolence comes in tolerable doses.