I attended Left Coast Crime March 12-15 in Portland OR, across the river from where I live. Carola Dunn and I were co-hosting a table at the banquet Saturday night, and I decided to stay that night at the hotel so I could have a convivial glass or two of wine at dinner. My e-book editor, Judith B. Glad (Uncial Press) agreed to share a room, but the hotel was already full. We booked room at a smaller hotel nearby.
Saturday, after five hours of panels, Jude and I checked into our small hotel, I parked the car in the garage beneath the structure, and we opened the trunk. I’d forgotten to bring my suitcase.
Did I mention it was raining stair rods? We schlepped Jude’s suitcase to the elevator and went up to our room. I had several hours to drive home, fetch the bag, return, and dash to the convention hotel bearing sacks of party favors for the table Carola and I were sponsoring.
I abandoned Jude to a nap and drove home. It was 3:30. Traffic was as coagulant as week end traffic gets, thanks to the downpour, but I contrived not to smash anyone. My husband smirked and pointed me to the bedroom where my suitcase awaited me. I drove back as smoothly as I’d driven over, parked outside instead of using the underground garage, thought about climbing the stairs but walked down to the elevator and pressed two. My key did not work in the room door nor did Judith answer my knock.
I refused to panic. With lordly calm I snagged a sweet-faced housekeeper. I persuaded her that my roommate was in there, just asleep and, uh, a bit deaf. Presto, the room was mine. Judith was not there. I thanked the maid profusely and used the loo. Perhaps Jude had gone out for a stroll, just singin’ in the rain. It was almost five. I had about an hour but heck I could lie down and take a snooze while I waited for Jude to return.
I slept for half an hour and woke to the conviction that I was IN THE WRONG ROOM, that I was up a floor from where I ought to be. An unpleasant substance was about to hit the fan. I changed into party clothes, grabbed my handbag and the balky room key, and clattered down a flight of stairs. The key didn’t work in the room directly below the one I had appropriated, but Jude answered my knock at once and opened the door.
“Oh, thank heavens, you’re safe!” She clasped her hands. “There’s a horrible wreck on I5. I thought you were trapped in traffic.”
With quavering voice, I confessed my incredible blunder. We raced upstairs. I had closed the door behind me, leaving my suitcase, membership badge, and nightly medications in the second floor room. I could not get in. The obliging maid had disappeared.
We dashed down and out into the deluge. The handsome young man at the desk dealt deftly with two customers, then turned to me. “How may I help you, ladies?”
I explained. Several times.
He was wonderfully sympathetic. I thanked him but pointed out that I had about fifteen minutes to get my bags from “my” room, transfer them to “our” room, and drive Jude and the all-important party favors to the other hotel. His massive calm did not waver. So sad, he said, but he could not allow me into the room to retrieve my belongings. It was against company policy and quite possibly against the law. Until he contacted the man who had rented the room and got permission, he could not use his master key to enter it.
When did he think that would happen?
He didn’t know. It was Saturday night and all kinds of things were going on, including a mystery convention (“I know!” I wailed) and a very nice Christian music concert plus all the local pubs and restaurants operating at full blast and something taking place at the Coliseum. He was going off-duty at ten-thirty himself. OMG
Jude and I dashed to the car; I drove to the convention hotel and abandoned her with the party favors at the conference entrance. I drove back and engaged in heavy-duty pacing in the hotel lobby. Rain sheeted down. The young man at the hotel desk tried a couple of phone calls to a cell phone number given by the patron whose territory I had violated. No dice.
Finally I gave up, told him I’d return around ten, and thanked him for his efforts. I darted out into the deluge and stood at my car, fumbling in my purse for the car keys. Also no dice. Back in the hotel lobby, I groped the chair I’d been sitting in, found the keys, dashed out again, opened the door, slid in, started the engine, and checked my wallet to see if I still had the ticket that would allow me to park at the convention hotel. I did, but my driver’s license had disappeared. I emptied my handbag.
Back to the lobby. Half a dozen curious Japanese teenagers (just checked in) watched me sympathetically as the hero at the desk produced my license. Someone had spotted it in a puddle in the parking lot.
Despite Gar Anthony Heywood’s best, which is very good indeed, the banquet went by in a blur. The food was good. Awards were handed out amid cheering. Carola was charming. Our party favors went over nicely, and why not with a free book from Carola and a stuffed rat from me in each little “evidence bag.” Seven nice women including a delightful librarian and Jude, wearing her editor hat, and a cheerful man from Friends of Mystery kept things buzzing at our table. It was no use. I felt like those baffled detectives who cannot solve the whodunit puzzle. I HAD to know what had happened to my belongings.
We got back to our ill-fated hotel at ten. The desk clerk wasn’t optimistic. He promised to keep calling the cell phone number.
Jude and I went to our room. I borrowed a tee-shirt to sleep in and lay down, exhausted, while poor Jude read. About eleven I woke with a start. Jude was standing over me, beaming and holding my little carry-on. The nice clerk had retrieved it. Ahhhh.
I could moralize. Stop me, somebody.
This strikes me now and struck me at the time as one of those true situations that are more bizarre than anything I could imagine. I can guess at negative consequences for the maid who helped me, though I hope she wasn’t fired. I thanked everyone at the hotel profusely and explained that it was all my stupid fault. But what of my victim, the man whose room I usurped, the nice Christian gentleman who just wanted to attend a concert and returned to discover that an elderly and elusive lady of the night had invaded his space?