I’m on a business trip overseas. I planned everything, and was quite proud to be able to travel with just a carry-on suitcase. Everything fit! That includes clothes for a full stay, including what’s needed for my presentation, shoes, toiletries, you know the drill. Even some casual duds to wear as I consult my Rick Steve’s book to explore the surroundings.
It’s mid-day, I’m between meetings and my laptop is nearly out of juice. Imagine my dismay when the power adapter I so thoughtfully included in my gear didn’t fit the plug. Just as I manage to update a few more slides in my presentation, the laptop goes dark. Good night, work.
Time to head down to the hotel lobby to see about my options. Walking to the elevator, I pass two busy workmen unwrapping new desk chairs. There are probably 20 chairs, and it’s hard to navigate my way to the elevator. Must be new chairs for the rooms. They’re nice. Leather, tan color, looks like plenty of adjustment knobs… The guys don’t even look up. The chairs are wrapped with cellophane, and it takes concentration to untangle them. The elevator arrives, fully loaded with chairs which will take some time to unload. I take the stairs. I’m a few floors up, but the lobby isn’t on the first floor. First floor is more rooms. I keep going.
Easy task. They clearly are prepared for travelers like me. For a five Euro deposit, I have an adapter for the week. The lobby is warm, cheerful, and ripe for people watching so I sit down to finish my work. The accents are awesome. I hear dialects from the UK, some from the continent, and who knows where else. A woman behind me has a musical voice. It is quite animated as she describes her latest saga. She shares details I don’t completely catch but clearly manages to hit a high C during the telling.
The lobby is being replaced. Not upgraded, literally replaced. As I am there, workers erect a floor-to-ceiling wall behind a counter with computers. At least five attendants wait behind the counter, checking in arrivals, answering questions, and providing adapters to clueless guests. Behind them is this new wall, obscuring the former check-in area. During the short time I am there, the wall is completed, artwork and a mirror are hung, and there is no sign of the original area. A large two-door entryway provides access for the workers who I’m sure will demolish the old area. The attendants are all smiles as if new walls and changing locations like this happen all the time.
Periodically I notice a load of chairs wheel through the lobby and get staged for the next elevator. It takes time to arrange the chairs so they fit. Each elevator can take about eight chairs at a time . Skills like working jigsaw puzzles are probably helpful. Periodically I also notice a guest appear from the stairwell. The guest is generally perplexed and a bit out of breath. Perhaps I looked like that, whether due to the stairs, or the missing adapter. While there are three elevators, they are all in service for the renovation. The back door is open where the chairs come from. Cold air drafts through and gradually battles the heater next to me. The room starts to get colder as I notice the light goes out. The sing-song story teller is plugging in her phone and needs to unplug the lamp. She sings a short tune of “Sorry Love, need to plug in me phone.” It’s a little darker, but not significantly. No need for light, I’m by a window.
I hear a short hum. Not a long drone, a short hum. It is a hum, no other word will work. Unique enough to catch your attention, but nothing that sounds familiar. Traffic is light, nothing passing outside could make the noise. It happens again, from behind me. The workers are busy, and the hotel-workers don’t notice it. I ignore it and get back to work.
The laptop is powering gracefully now. Originally at 6% when I plugged it in, now slowly inching its way up through double digits. Nothing breeds confidence like a steadily charging battery. Onward and upward to full capacity! There’s that hum again.
My work completed, and crowds dissipating, I consider my next venue. The concert conversationalist is solo now, her phone benefiting from the lamp’s power source. She’s the hummer! With nobody to sing to, she hums. But like I said, it’s not a hum. One note, the same note, probably on average once every 20 seconds. I turn around and she is leaning comfortably in a chair, her face obscured by a crossword puzzle. As I notice, she fills out a word and hums. Mystery solved!
The chairs have stopped and I smell cigarette smoke. Must be break time out back. With the door still open, it’s cold, smells bad, and I have to get away from the crossword hummer. Unplugging my laptop, I ensure that I take the adapter, and plug the lamp back into the wall.
Back up to the room, via the stairs. As I arrive at my floor, a worker glances expectantly at me. I’m not the guy, so he looks back down at an orderly collection of chairs and a pile of cellophane. Behind me I hear somebody else coming up. Must be the guy. I walk to my room, plug in the laptop, and have a seat.
Yes, I’m sitting in a brand new chair. It’s leather, tan-color, and no sign of cellophane anywhere!