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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Welcome To The Hotel California!

The following is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed below are purely fictional. Any resemblance or similarity to real persons or events is purely coincidental. Parts of the story below were inspired by a dream I had.

The following is copyrighted to Blogannath. All rights are reserved.

Welcome To The Hotel California!

My friend and I entered the spacious hotel lobby just before lunch time. I looked at my watch and noted that the time was 11:40 AM. Just enough time for us to rush up to our room on the 78th floor of the high-rise hotel, drop off our computer bags and other things, and make it back to the lobby in time for lunch at noon.

The lobby was crowded with other guests who apparently had similar ideas as us. We squeezed our way onto the first escalator that we found. We were a little annoyed when it turned out to be an escalator we should not have taken. We found ourselves back in a different part of the lobby, faced with more crowds milling around a set of escalators.

This set of escalators presented a bit of a struggle for us to get on, but we managed to squeeze on between other groups of people who were talking animatedly to each other. We reached a landing from which 3 other escalators branched off. We made a left at the landing, and stepped on the escalator, only to find ourselves back in the lobby, at the foot of the escalator bank. I told myself I was supposed to have made a right at the landing, not a left. It was obviously a stupid mistake precipitated by my flustered state. I was getting a little worried about our making it back from our rooms in time for lunch.
infinite staircase
We managed to get back on the escalator, and at the landing, we made a right to what I hoped was the correct escalator. Unfortunately, the final outcome was no better than before. We found ourselves back in the lobby once again. I looked at my watch, and it read 12:21 PM. So much for making it up to our rooms and back by noon. At this rate, we might miss lunch entirely.

I looked up from the plush lobby of the hotel. The main hotel building was off to our left. The lobby seemed airy and vast, with seemingly no ceiling. I could look up at the entire height of the massive hotel. There was a series of escalators on the outside of the hotel building with a landing at each floor. The escalators were arranged so that they formed one giant diagonal line across the side of the hotel facing us, from the bottom right to the top left. Now, how do we get on those escalators? Why were the escalators in the lobby dumping us back in the lobby all the time?

We decided it was time to try a different approach. We walked down a corridor to another part of the lobby where we were faced with doors to two elevators. The one on the right said "Floors 1-10." The one on the left said "Floor 8 - immigration." Immigration? That must be a new term for hotel check-in used exclusively by this hotel!

We walked around a little more, but there were no other elevators to any other floors of the hotel. There was no indication that either of these elevators would take us to a floor that would have elevators to the rest of the floors in the hotel either. The elevator on the left that would take us to "immigration" seemed like the best bet at that point. I was sure I would find someone there that could point me the right way to get to my room.

My friend wandered around the corner just as I was making up my mind to take the elevator up to "immigration". I called after him, but he was already gone. I cursed under my breath and took off after him. Around the corner, I did not see my friend. But I found myself next to a giant glass wall that seemed to separate the lobby from a large kitchen.

This was a magnificent, high-tech kitchen with stoves, boilers and other appliances galore. Chefs in white clothes and tall hats were stirring, sauteing, putting things in ovens, taking other things out, and so on. Some of them were also cutting with a practiced ease though I could not tell what exactly they were cutting. And some others just seemed to be walking around, supervising the chefs who were doing the work. Just to my left was a set of steps that seemed to lead into a spacious restaurant.

Halfway up the steps was a rotating platform on which stood my friend, incongruously dressed in a chef's clothing, demonstrating some cooking technique to anyone who cared to watch. It turns out when I came upon the rotating platform, the chef's back was turned towards me, and I had mistaken him for my friend. I was about to ask him what he was doing on the rotating platform, but as the platform turned, I could tell that it was not my friend at all. I lost interest in the platform and continued on up the stairs.

The stairs did lead up to a restaurant. It was quite uncrowded even though it was now the peak of lunchtime. Probably too expensive, I thought. Patrons were seated mostly in ones and twos around square tables with decorative lights, candles and other paraphernalia. I walked around, threading my way between the tables, looking for my friend.

When I finally found him, he was seated at a table with another gentleman. I walked up to him and asked him whether he had grown so tired that he had decided to have lunch before going up to our rooms. The gentleman next to him was reading a newspaper that covered his face. Now, he slowly lowered it. I was struck by his resemblance to the actor Morgan Freeman. The same kindly face, the same dancing eyes, the faintest trace of a smile on his lips.

I sat down at the table, next to my friend and looked at "Morgan Freeman". He did not say a word, but his face seemed to be asking me to say something. I felt uncomfortable sitting there without talking. My friend had not said a word during this whole time. I looked at the stranger and told him we had been walking around the lobby, and up and down escalators trying to get to our rooms. He nodded slowly and raised one eyebrow signaling me to go on. All these escalators going here, there and everywhere, but every time we step onto one of those, we find ourselves back in the lobby. More slow nodding and raised eyebrows.

I then blurted out that I felt like a dead man stuck in the afterlife, desperately trying to find my way back to the living world, and thwarted every step of the way. The stranger's face bloomed into a full smile. He then talked in a voice that was eerily like Morgan Freeman's too. He pointed to the diagonal line of escalators across the side of the hotel, and asked me, "Do you see any doors at the landings to take you inside the hotel?" I must admit, I had not noticed that detail before, but he was right, the landings were just small horizontal stretches in the diagonal line of the escalators, but there were no other distinguishing features about these landings. There certainly did not appear to be any doors, as he had pointed out.

He went on, "Do you see any waiters in this restaurant?" No, I did not. "There are people sitting around as if for lunch, but do you see anyone eating?" No, again. He then stopped and went back to his sphinx-like state, encouraging the gears of my mind to turn and chew on what he had said. I looked at him quizzically and asked him, "So, this is the afterlife and I can never return to my hotel room in real life?" No reaction from "Morgan Freeman".

I was getting quite confused. In addition to the obvious confusion about my state, I was also plagued with confusion about the engineering aspects of the hotel and its escalators. So, if the escalator up the side of the hotel did not allow guests to get off at the landings, what happened to all of them at the end of the escalator ride? Was there some optical illusion turned into reality that made escalators that seemed to be going up somehow deposit their passengers back in the lobby? My engineering mind was competing for attention with my non-engineering mind, and adding to the confusion swirling around in my brain.

"But that is ridiculous", I exploded. "I was perfectly fine when I left the hotel for . . ." What was I in the hotel for, anyways? Well, never mind why, I was here and that's what counted! "How can I come back to the hotel and find myself in the afterlife? It doesn't make any sense."

I was waving my hands around quite forcefully by now, getting worked up and hot under the collar. I was never hard to provoke into a rage, and I don't suffer fools gladly. This stranger sitting opposite me was obviously a despicable fool, and I was not going to sit there and suffer him gladly, whether he looked like Morgan Freeman or not!

The stranger once again smiled at me enigmatically. He took out a card with several words on it and put a check mark next to one of them. When I peered across the table to look more closely at the card, the heading read, "The 5 Stages of Grief." And below it on separate lines were, "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance." There was a neat check mark next to Denial . . .

The End

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