Three pieces of luggage failed to make it to Austin, Texas, on the nonstop flight I took from Newark, New Jersey: a young family’s car seat; some guns (in a case) that belonged to two young hillbillies; and my golf clubs. As we filled out claim forms in lost-luggage office, I performed mental triage, assigning highest priority to the car seat (for humanitarian reasons) and lowest to the guns (since there was at least an outside chance that the hillbillies were planning mayhem).
I myself was headed to San Antonio (by rental car), to play a municipal golf course there, on assignment for Golf Digest. The woman on the right in the photo above told me that my clubs, assuming they arrived on the next flight from Newark, would have to be flown to Dallas and then to San Antonio before they could be delivered to me at my hotel, sometime the next day, even though San Antonio is just an hour and a half from Austin by car. She said that Southwest would reimburse me for a sleeve of balls, a glove, a pair of shoes (up to fifty dollars), and rental clubs. This has happened to me before, and I wasn’t too bummed. But that evening she called to say that my clubs had arrived in Austin and would be sent by car after all, although they wouldn’t be at my hotel until three or four in the morning. Hooray!
I told the clerk at the front desk that my golf clubs would be delivered after midnight, and asked him just to hold them for me until I picked them up. “Right,” the clerk said. “We’ll call you when they get here.” I said, “No. Please listen. They’ll be arriving at three or four in the morning, and I’ll be sound asleep, and I don’t want you to call me. I won’t need them in the middle of the night, and I won’t need to know that they’ve arrived. Just hold them at the desk and I’ll pick them up in the morning.” The clerk said, “Right,” and in large letters I wrote PLEASE DO NOT CALL ME on the form he’d asked me to fill out.
A little after three that morning, the phone in my room rang. “Your golf clubs are here,” the clerk said.
Well, maybe I’d have done the same thing if I’d been stuck behind a hotel reception desk at three in the morning, with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company. When I was twenty, I spent a summer working on the lawn-maintenance crew at an apartment complex in Colorado Springs, and we used to drag our shovels across the parking lot each morning at six-thirty, to make sure the residents were awake, too.
I was sound asleep when the clerk called because I had taken several critical steps to keep down the noise and light levels in my room. Among other things, I had pushed a chair against the curtains to keep them fully shut, turned off the wheezing fan in the room’s HVAC system, and unplugged the empty mini-refrigerator under the TV, to prevent the compressor from repeatedly cycling on and off:
I had also disabled the electric eye on the bathroom light switch:
The electric eye turns on all the bathroom lights whenever it detects motion. That may or may not be a good thing during the day, but it’s a nuisance in the middle of the night, because, if you are only getting up to take a whiz, the last that you want (or, at any rate, the last thing that I want) is to be suddenly blasted with daylight-level illumination, as though you had been caught trying to cut your way through a barbed-wire perimeter fence. Hey, why not turn on the TV and the radio, too, and have the desk clerk call to make sure everything’s O.K.?
Here’s how I foiled the electric eye, before going to bed, by using the Kleenex box and a hand towel: