I had accompanied my mom on a business trip to Orlando, Florida. We stretched the trip into a vacation that included a couple of days in Daytona on the way down, an extra day at the new Disney World Epcot Center, and a stop off in St. Augustine on the way home. We’d been to St. Augustine a decade earlier on a family trip and remembered it quite differently from what it had become.
When we got to the Holiday Inn, we found that it had an eight or nine foot fence surrounding it. We checked in at a guard shack, waited while the guard checked with the front desk to be sure we had a reservation, then checked in at the desk. We parked directly in front of our room’s sliding glass door. We had to schlepp our heavy suitcases up to the sidewalk and follow it around into a central courtyard with a pretty pool that looked like no one ever used it. We skirted the pool and entered a long hallway with our key in hand. Our room was at the end of the long hallway.
As soon as we entered the room, the first thing I saw was a plastic stand with a brightly colored flyer in it standing on the dresser. It said, “In case of emergency, dial 9-911,” and went on to list the phone numbers for the St. Augustine Police Department, the County Sheriff’s Department, the fire department, and the local hospital. An identical flyer was on the nightstand between the beds, right by the phone. A third graced the back of the bathroom door.
As the hair on the back of my neck began to stand up, Mom said, “I feel like we are in Beruit instead of Florida.”
I said, “Maybe they are just really cautious. Hey, we have to be safe with Barney Fife out there on the gate,” as I triple locked the door and checked the sliding glass door’s lock.
We began to unpack the necessities that would get us through the one night we planned on spending there. We relaxed a little as we chatted about the last couple days of fun we’d had. We were simply too tired and weirded out to go anywhere for dinner, so we decided to eat in the hotel’s restaurant. The prime rib was good, but the house wine was worse than Heinz vinegar. We talked and relaxed, still reviewing our trip, and dreading our return to our real lives … mine as a UNCC student with a term paper due the day after we arrived home and Mom’s working at a job she absolutely hated, but had been doing for over twenty years. By the time we finished dinner, we were both tired and decided to head back to our room.
Once we were safely locked in again, I kicked off my shoes and began removing my jewelry. The back popped off of my earring and rolled underneath the bed. I got down on my hands and knees to retrieve it. I could not believe my eyes when I saw that there was a fourth standee flyer UNDERNEATH THE BED!! “You are not going to believe this!” I said as I hauled it out and held it up. Now we were both back to being seriously weirded out. I could only imagine that the management thought it a good possibility that some day someone would wind up hiding underneath the bed with their cell phone dialing the sheriff’s department.
“Are we in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode?” I asked.
“Let’s just get ready for bed, get some sleep, and get out of here in the morning,” Mom said.
She went into the bathroom and, in a minute, I heard the shower start. A few minutes later, just as I was reaching for the remote control to turn on the television, Mom reappeared with a tiny hotel towel draped across her nude body. She had forgotten to take her nightgown into the bathroom with her. She stopped in front of the suitcase on the floor as I hit the power button on the remote.
“Well, hello there!” boomed out a loud male voice. Mom’s knees buckled and she appeared to be trying to climb into the suitcase. Her reaction made me jump with fright, too. After a couple of second’s pause, we both realized at the same moment that our visitor had been on the television. Relief flooded over us in waves and we both laughed until we cried. At any point after that, all one of us had to do to get the other one to collapse in paroxysms of laughter was to say, “Well, hello there!” It became a private joke between us and for years we would lighten the mood with that phrase whenever we needed a laugh.