Our hotel room is 11 floors up, overlooking over the Atlantic ocean. As I sit on the balcony and peck away on the laptop, the small waves crash on the beach with a familiarly insistent sound.
Smells can instantly throw me back in time. The scent of a specific perfume can transport me back to a memorable night out with my wife or some girlfriend from my distant past. The sweet smell of a newborn baby brings me back to the moments after my oldest daughter was released from the incubator and I had my first chance to hold her. The odors of other things (vodka, blood, burnt rubber, the smell of spent ammunition, etc.) each have their own specific anchors in shocking, happy, or sad moments in my varied past.
The sounds of the ocean also bring me back in time. In this case, to a carefree weekend in Australia with a group of friends. A beach house on a cliff above the coast, south-west of Melbourne. Beach houses aren’t built sturdily and soundproofed so, for each night of the 4-night weekend, I lay in bed before drifting off to sleep, listening to the waves crashing on the rocks below. Since then, I’ve always enjoyed lying snuggled up in bed and listening to the patter of rain. (And I missed a chance to move to Vancouver not so long ago where this would have been a very common occurrence!)
It’s a dreary and windy day and not very warm. But we’re about to embark on whatever fun we can find in the day.
“Not very warm” is almost English in its understatement. “Numbing” might have been closer.
I was a little rushed before Brigitte, Charlotte and I left for Ocean City and I forgot to put down some of the seats in the mini-van and bring the bicycles with us. In the past, when the whole family has been heading off somewhere, there’s not enough room for bicycles and so my general-purpose checklist for trips doesn’t include them.
We hired a 3-seater and pedaled for miles up and down the Boardwalk, through the amusement park, along the pier, on and on until we were all freezing cold. Only 2 people could pedal at a time, so the middle person had the chance to sit back, keep warm, and avoid the niggling drizzle (did someone transport me back to England while I was asleep?). I did more than my share of pedaling, but when I was assigned to idle in the middle seat, I sensed that other people watched us slide by and I could almost hear them thinking, “The lazy bum is making his girls do all the work!”
We also toured around the region and explored options for tomorrow. Go-carting, jet-skiing, para-sailing, all seem interesting. The problem is that the end of April is still considered off-season and a lot of places haven’t opened yet for the summer season. So it might be more time on the beach (if the rain doesn’t get worse).
I had time for an actual bath and a cleansing shower while Brigitte and Charlotte played together on the beach in front of the hotel. Imagine that, free time!
Breakfast was at a diner and consisted of appealing egg-based dishes (they should offer statins as a side). Lunch was a light affair so we could have a bigger dinner. As a husband/wife couple in the past, or when the kids were young, we had to order complete individual dishes. More often than not these days, the girls and I order a few dishes and share the food around. As a family, we’re fairly democratic in our decision-making about where to eat, what to order, and so on. Since the price of a full-size dish is only a little more than that of a “half-size” dish, we save a fortune like this. For dinner, the girls and I split some soup and main dishes and had enough free space to share a single dessert between the 3 of us.
We settled in for a movie on the laptop (why bother with low-def high-cost hotel movies when my laptop can deliver hundreds of movies with good picture quality?). Tonight, my little angels didn’t niggle and fight back when I said it was bed-time. It reminded me of when they were toddlers. Full of energy for hours, they just sputtered and ran out of steam by the end of the day. Seeing them fast asleep as I type is nice. All their worries gone as their life batteries recharge for tomorrow.
A company called Legent was courting me to come work for them in Seattle. At the time, I was leading a time of database specialists in England and only a little interested. Legent flew me to Seattle, put me up in a 5-star hotel, and paid for everything. Yes!
On my first night, I had completed an 11-hour flight and an extended day. It was a Saturday and I wasn’t going in to their office for the first time until Monday.
I was drooping and getting ready for bed and an early night when someone knocked on the door. A very pretty lady was there and said she was there to turn down my bed covers.
I was stunned.
I had never heard of anyone with the role of “turning down bed covers” and worried this might be some ‘gift’ from Legent to tempt me into coming to Seattle. I almost slammed the door in her face.
But I thought I saw sincerity in her face and decided to wing it. She duly came in and did exactly as she said. She turned down the bed covers and put some chocolate on my pillows. And hesitated before leaving.
The more experienced among will know she was presuming I would tip her in some way. I was young and clueless, and not familiar with American tipping rituals. I offered nothing because I didn’t know what to do. And off she went. I hugged the bed covers tight that night, wondering constantly if there might be some follow-up knock on the door, perhaps to complete some transaction that I had failed to acknowledge.
When I see these signs for ‘turn-down’, I’m still mystified why anyone is needed to do this 15-second task, whether or not I should tip or hide in the bathroom, or whether there is some completely different dynamic at work that I don’t understand.
In this case, the simple presumably-friendly sign transported me back in time to that Saturday night in Seattle. Life is full of moments and memories and, if my wife leaves with finality, I will have a big mental cupboard of memories that will be regularly opened by sights, sounds, and smells. It seems a tough burden to bring to any new relationship that might develop in the distant future.