Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adventures in the Mayflower Hotel

Back in the 1980’s, I used to travel on business to New York. Often, I stayed at the Mayflower Hotel, on Central Park West. This hotel is no longer in existence.

The building was pre-war, with very high ceilings and large rooms. Many rooms were suites, with non-frost-free refrigerators with the old style ice cube trays, and sometimes a kitchenette with a hot plate. Some people stayed for a long time – it was popular with people performing on Broadway, for example.

The thing I liked about it the best was that I could run in the park after work. I would not run in the park after dark, but during spring and summer and until the end of daylight savings time in the fall it was fine.

I had good experiences at the Mayflower for the most part, but once or twice some strange stuff happened.

One night I woke up after midnight. My room was in the front of the hotel, overlooking Central Park. The person in the room next door had the television on very loud, and was watching some kind of a Western, with lots of loud music and gunfire.  I could not go back to sleep with all that noise. I beat against the wall; I got dressed, went into the hall, pounded on the door.  No effect.  I called the front desk to complain, and they called – I could hear the phone ringing, but he didn’t answer.

Suddenly, it was quiet. He must have awoken, and turned off the television.  Finally!

But, the shooting continued.  The shooting was going on in the park, across the street. I put my lights out (!) and peeked out, and saw a police car down there, and evidently the police were shooting at someone, probably a drug dealer or something.  Okay, try to sleep through that!

The second strange thing that happened was while I was working on a system implementation that was seriously late and over budget.  I was the main guy on-site, but I knew there was no way I could accomplish all that needed to be done and had asked for more help. There were four of us on site, working on the project, and I was feeling pretty good, but one by one they fell away. One guy became simply physically exhausted and appeared to be at the end of his rope, so the boss sent him back home to Dallas. Another had to leave suddenly due to a death in his family, an accidental death that was completely unexpected. Finally, my boss had to leave because his wife was having suicidal panic attacks.

So I was back where I had started. The client company was sympathetic, and let me have pretty much unlimited use of the computer, but it was on ‘second shift’, or roughly from the time people would normally go home until midnight.  So I would work usually from about noon until two or three in the morning, go back to the hotel, try to sleep in late (not easy in a hotel, certainly not in New York), and come on back the next day.

One early morning I was totally wiped out. I walked back to the hotel, unkempt, my tie hanging loose, clothes a mess, raincoat hanging open, and when I pulled on the front door, it was locked. Now what?  I stood there for a moment, and then someone opened the door. I explained that I was staying there, and fumbled around for my room key to prove it.  He said he recognized me, and explained that they were locking the front door at this time of day to keep out, well, to keep out people who looked like me.  I pretty much resembled a homeless person, I guess. 

I went to my room and tried to sleep. Then the noise started.  Beep . . . beep . . . beep.  A slow but steady beeping noise. There was no way I could sleep with that. I couldn’t identify the source. I thought it might have something to do with the phone. There were two beds, so I took the phone and put it underneath a pillow on the other bed.  The sound continued unabated, so it wasn’t the phone.  I just looked around, and realized that the smoke alarm or CO2 detector on the ceiling was making the beep.  I pulled a chair underneath the alarm and climbed up.  With the ceiling being very high – prewar building – it was all I could do to get a hand on it, and I couldn’t turn it and I couldn’t get it loose. I stretched as high as I could . . . and got a charley horse in my hamstring.  Excruciating pain!  As I floundered around trying to get down from the chair so I could massage my leg, the thought passed through my brain: I’m going to fall off this chair, hit my head, and die in this hotel room, and no one will ever know why.

I managed to get down, and ease the pain in my leg, but the beeping continued. I got back on the chair, reached up, and before my leg could spasm again, ripped that damned thing right out of the ceiling.  I got back down and took the batteries out, but not before noticing an identical hole in the ceiling a foot or so away from the one I just made. Some other poor bastard had done the same thing. Now I have one more thing to observe when checking into a hotel – the location of the smoke alarm.  It’s happened again.

When I finally came home after that implementation, I had a hard time finding my house.  When I had left, there was a vacant lot across the street, but when I came home there was a house on it. 

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