I Used To Know How To Act  
I Used To Know How To Act

“Chris,” I said while on the phone with my son. “Kelley visited me on this journey and so far, you haven’t. I realize you gave me a grandson and that’s a lot of points towards ‘favorite child status’ but all the little things Kelley does are starting to add up. If you aren’t careful, she’ll get ahead again.”

I must be a terrible mother and aunt. All the books say you aren’t supposed to play favorites and yet, I’ve always awarded “favorite child” and “favorite nephew” status. I’m fickle and can be bribed so my “favorites” are always changing.

It’s easy to be one of my favorites. All you have to delight me… and I’m easy to delight. I’m also good to my favorites so being the “favorite” is a coveted spot. On trips with the nephews, “favorite nephew status” may change several times, with the favorite always getting special rewards. My adult children are good sports and play along, but I don’t think they take it too seriously anymore. Somehow, everyone seems to still feel loved, even if they’re not the “favorite.”

“Mom,” Chris said. “I’ll be in Los Angeles on business in two weeks. Why don’t you meet me there?” I was in North Dakota and it didn’t seem possible but I wasn’t passing up the rare opportunity to be alone with my son.

“What about bringing Noah?” I asked hopefully. “I’ll take care him.”

Mom, I’m not bringing Noah. I’ll have to be enough.”

“Will you stay in the camper?” I asked excitedly. Silence met me on the other end. Chris has never liked dirt, germs, heat, or bugs. He wears water shoes in the shower of a Hilton. He went on his first camping trip at 3 months and screamed the entire time. His attitude about camping never improved. While I waited for an answer, I knew he was picturing getting dressed for a business meeting at a campground bathhouse. The next time I heard from him, he had found a dog friendly hotel with wireless high-speed internet.

My first sign of trouble was when I pulled into the Embassy Suites at the Los Angeles Airport and saw a parking garage with a sign that said “6’ 6” Clearance.” Sighing, I pulled next to a sign that said “absolutely no parking” and went inside.

As I climbed out of Happy, the Bellman squinted, trying to read the words on Happy’s side. He didn’t meet me with a cart and I was relieved because I had no idea how I was going to get my stuff into the Embassy Suits. The only thing that resembled a suitcase was under the bench seat cushions. To get to it would require doing something with the bicycle and laying the cushions on the ground outside. I was too intimidated by the formal Bellman to create such a scene.

Since Chris was stuck in the Atlanta airport, I had to register. For me, registering meant also paying the $25 per night pet fee and signing a formal pet contract where I agreed to pay for any damages, walk her only in certain areas, and about 10 other legal points. Do I need my lawyer to travel with my dog? I wondered as I read and signed.

“Where do I park?” I asked. “My van won’t fit in your garage?”

Your van won’t fit?” she asked incredulously.

OK, it’s an RV,” I confessed. “It’s over 8 feet tall.”

She stared and I felt myself withering. Knowing I would be entering a nice hotel, I’d put on my best casual clothes. As I stood there, following her eyes to my faded, wrinkled clothing with a stain on the shirt; I realized how hard the campground Laundromats had been on these clothes. Finally, she said, “You’ll have to park on the street.”

“But there’re no spots,” I argued, knowing I wasn’t great at parallel parking.

“You’ll have to wait for one to open up. We have no other parking. Be sure you check signs for street cleaning times and move your RV or it will be towed.”

Great, I thought as I went back in search of a parking place. Finally, I found a spot along the park in front of the hotel. This must be where I agreed to walk Belle, I thought, remembering the contract. The sign said “Street Cleaning, Tuesday 8-10 AM.” It looked like I was safe on that front.

Next came the difficult task of getting Happy level. If Happy isn’t level, Happy isn’t happy, and Happy shuts down the refrigerator as revenge. Briefly, I considered carrying the food to the refrigerator in the room but the projected humiliation of carrying multiple bags of groceries through the lush lobby stopped me. As I pulled forward, backward, and realigned along the curb looking at the levels, I wondered if the Bellman was still watching.

After parking, I sat down to decide the best way to get my stuff into the hotel without making a spectacle of my self. Aha, I thought looking at the travel bag holding my devotional books. It had a little room left. If I finished filling it up and took the stuff up to the room, I could return with an empty bag for a second trip. As I began to pack, Belle started barking frantically, jumping up and down. She doesn’t want to be left behind if I’m carrying a suitcase. “Don’t worry. You’re going with me,” I said trying to calm her down. Could the Bellman hear Belle’s barking? Was there something about barking in the contract?

I looked at Belle’s dog dish, realizing I should take that up on my first trip. It’s a clever design, made for traveling. One side has plug that will keep water and the other side has a plastic lid what will hold several cups of dog food. Knowing I was going to be there for 2 nights, I filled the dog food side to its capacity.

As I climbed out of Happy, I worried that I was carrying too much stuff but my sore foot meant I wanted to do as little walking as possible. I left the RV, dragging a nervous Belle on a leash, a rolling computer bag holding an overstuffed and unzipped travel bag, a purse and a dog dish.

Trying to get the hotel door open was a frustrating battle with balance that I lost. The travel bag went tumbling off the computer, spilling unmentionables on the pavement. Quickly, I stuffed everything back in, casting furtive glances for the now missing Bellman.

As I went inside, I realized I didn’t know where the elevators were. Not in a mood to go on a hunt, I walked back to the front desk, to the same woman who had checked me in. I looked at the check in line and decided I could ask my quick question without waiting in line again. “Where are the elevators?”

“What room are you in?” she asked. I told her and she pointed. As I walked off, a glaring man walked from the line to the counter, clearly wondering why I had jumped ahead of him in line. Belle saw the scary stranger huff up and bolted, catching me by surprise. As I jerked to balance myself, the dog dish went flying, throwing dog food all over the lobby and everyone in line. As I looked at the dog food, covering a 15-foot square area, I didn’t know what to do. I knelt down and starting picking it up with my hands. “Maybe she’s hungry and will help you clean it up,” the scary man suggested, as he brushed himself off.

Just leave it alone,” the woman said from behind the desk as she picked up a Walkie Talkie. “We’ll send someone to clean it up.”

Still on the floor, I looked up at the woman behind the desk and everyone in line and said, “I used to know how to act in hotels like this.”


Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information or to schedule a speaker for an event, go to www.pocketfullofchange.org or call Cheryle Touchton at 904-614-3585.

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