I had made a point of stating that we would be a late arrival when I made the reservation, knowing full well that our reception would go until midnight. So, when we strolled into the lobby of the hotel and announced our name at the desk, we expected keys and a smile from the reception clerk. (Note the word “expected”)
“All our rooms are taken,” The very young man behind the counter announced.
“What!” my husband exclaimed. “There must be some mistake. We have a reservation, the honeymoon suit – V.E.S…”
Nervously, the clerk said, “You didn’t show up, so we gave your room away.”
“You did what? Gave our room away? I shouted, leaning heavily on the reservation counter, “To the other ‘just married’ couple that strolled in the door? My NY sarcasm was in full swing and so was my Italian temper!
“We had a reservation that stated late arrival.” I bellowed.
“I knnnnow,” The clerk stuttered, “It’s just that…well… someone needed a room…and, well, you weren’t checked in…and ummm…”
“Well, get them out!” I demanded, “That’s our room!”
“I, well, I caaaan’t,” the clerk stammered.
“But, you CAN tell us that WE have NO ROOM!” I exclaimed ever more irritated at circumstances, and in a tone that was less than friendly, my NY accent growing thicker by the minute. “Did you even look to see that our reservation said late arrival?”
“Yes, I saw that, but you…you…you weren’t here,” the clerk quivered.
“Ok, call us a taxi and get us another room,” my husband said, always the diplomat, and knowing full well that this was a relative impossibility in Carlisle, PA after midnight.
After calling to wake up his supervisor to get some advice – who, by the way, apologized profusely for his clerk’s stupidity – the clerk tried to find us another room. However, there was a convention in town and every room for a 25 mile radius was reserved by a Royal Order of Some Cloven Creature, or something of that sort.
In the interest of starting off my marriage without needing an arraignment, I restrained myself from killing the little man behind the counter. I wish I had paid better attention to a passage read at our wedding:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13: 4-7)
Let’s just say, I wasn’t feeling the love. I was angry, hurt and not enduring anything very well. But, my husband got it and knew what to do. He wasn’t going to be stymied by this little inconvenience – no brooding for us. We would do it the Army way – always advancing the mission. And so, my new husband and I ventured out into the night, like Joseph and Mary (minus being pregnant with the Christ child)-- exhausted, disappointed and with no room at the inn.
We drove for what seemed like hours -- possibly because it was hours -- stopping at every hotel we passed along the way. In PA twenty years ago, there weren’t hotel chains on every corner; these were more like roadside motels circa 1955. Finally, we saw a police officer pulled over in a parking lot. My husband stopped the car, approached the officer and explained our situation. The officer, with the help of his dispatcher, tried valiantly to find us a room. However, he would also confirm that the convention had everything booked.
“Why don’t we just go back to my parents?” I suggested half-heartedly.
“We’ll keep driving,” he said, quite matter-of-factly.
There was no arguing the point. We drove for a total of three hours until we finally came upon a hotel 30 miles north of where my parents lived. It was now 3:30am.
“Do you have any rooms?” he asked in a hopeful voice.
“Why yes we do.” the older women said kindly.
He told her what we had gone through and she was very gracious toward us. She couldn’t believe that we had been turned away everywhere we had stopped.
“You poor things! It’s just down there on the left,” she directed.
“Thank you!” we offered in unison, so grateful for a place to finally settle down.
But, something wasn’t quite right. The room looked as if someone had just been there. The floor was wet, the towels were used, the bed was unmade and, to make things just completely disgusting, there were fresh cigarette butts in the ashtray.
Imagine my distress! I had just about had it – we were in the next best thing to a stable, I just needed to locate the cow and the ass. Tears started to flow – how could this possibly be happening? This was supposed to be the most special night of our lives. It was turning out to be a disaster!
He picked up the phone.
“Front desk, how can I help you?” the voice inquired.
“This is the couple you just put in room 225. The room seems to have been used and not cleaned,” he said, restraining his impatience. Holding the phone away from his ear he asked me, "Are we in the Twilight Zone?" I just shrugged. I remember asking that very question earlier in the evening about the pants incident.
“Oh dear! Don’t worry, we’ll get you another room,” she said sweetly, a little embarrassed to have put us through another ordeal.
A gentleman came up with a set of keys and helped us move our luggage down the hall to our new location. Finally, a room; and one that was clean and ready for an exhausted and frazzled newlywed couple – even if it would only be for a couple of hours. My parents expected us to be at their house for brunch around 10am the next morning and it was already after 4am.
Driving back to my parent’s house the next morning, we laughed about the look of fear on the reservation clerk’s face when I lit into him. We also had a good laugh at the fact that it took us almost 4 hrs. to find a place to stay.
“Well, look at the bright side,” he said, smiling at me, “It couldn’t get much worse than this.”
Really? I honestly didn’t think it could. That’s when I learned to never presume upon anything. God had a plan greater than anything I had ever experienced. And, looking back, He was grooming us in these moments at the very start of our marriage for a life lived in His will -- if we’d only trust. But, we needed to do a lot of living and learning to come to recognize that fact. And laughter would be a crucial element to help us carry on through rough seas ahead.
So, I agreed, “It sure couldn’t get much worse than this!” smiling as I said it.
But, there was the rest of the honeymoon and married life before us that would make me wish I had never agreed with that assertion.
And the story continues…