The mystery began on an otherwise unremarkable Monday morning, when I attempted to checkout of the hotel where I had spent a rewarding weekend. It was one of those small boutique hotels that like to call themselves an Inn, in this particular case, Tiffany Inn. Yes, I know, a bit pretentious, but the setting off a California desert highway was perfectly lovely.
I tell you this to explain why I could not just leave the key in my room and checkout via television: no swipe card, and no television in this hotel. Of course, that is what attracted me in the first place. I had chosen this sedate spot for a mini retreat from my busy life. And, it had been an idyllic weekend, filled with meditation and prayer, reading and reflection. But, I digress…
I was packed and ready to go, after breakfast in the hotel dining room. I was last in the long checkout line, which moved slowly. Finally, my turn.
“Hello. I’m checking out of room 7.”
“I’ll be right with you.” After waiting another few minutes, the night man, finishing up his shift as counter clerk, returned his attention to me. “You said room 7?”
“Yes, I’m Miss… ,”
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you will not be leaving today.”
This enigmatic response was delivered with flat affect and an offhand manner that seemed out of place given the friendly staff I had otherwise encountered during the weekend. Figuring I must have misunderstood what he said, I inquired politely, “Is there a problem?”
“No, not really. You just can’t leave today.”
I glanced over my shoulder, out the window, expecting to see perhaps a huge storm brewing. Nothing but calm breezes and sweet sunshine…“I’m sorry, I’m not following…is there a problem with checking out?” my voice rising a bit.
"Relax," said the night man, “I can check you out anytime you like; you just cannot leave.”
Uh oh. I can checkout but I can’t leave? Strains of “Hotel California*” ran through my mind, and a chill crept up my spine. “…Never? You mean, I can check out anytime I like, but I can never leave?” The reference was just too good to pass up but apparently the clerk was either too young or not sufficiently steeped in classic rock. Without missing a beat, he responded, “I didn’t say never. I just said you can’t leave.”
A feeling somewhere north of irritation and south of alarm began to form in my chest. I scrutinized his face, looking for a clue, although to what, I wasn’t sure. “I haven’t checked into the Twilight Zone, have I? Or perhaps, Candid Camera?”
“Okay, I’m done with this game. You have my credit card number. Just put the charges on that.” I abruptly plopped the key down on the desk (rather loudly, I must admit), picked up my overnight bag and huffed off to the front door. Just as quickly, a huge (I am not exaggerating) wrestler-type security guard (replete with snake tats winding up both arms, I kid you not!) stepped in front of the door and glared at me, all the way from his 6’ 7” 350 pound frame, down to my 5’ 3” 115 pounds.
Forget irritation. Now thoroughly frightened, having been intimidated by both a monstrous security guard and a creepy night man, I turned around to see the expressionless clerk behind me, jiggling a key. “Here you go, Ma’am. That was room 7, correct? It has been cleaned for you.”
Without a word, I took the key and walked back to my room, fear and confusion having rendered me zombie-like. I opened the door, expecting some kind of beast or other horrible surprise inside. Surprise indeed! The room glowed spectacularly with hundreds of sparkling Christmas tree lights, and I was enveloped in the sweet aroma of rose petals scattered throughout the room. Classic romance music reached my ears just as someone stepped out from around the dresser. “Good morning sweetheart.” “Don!” I gasped. “You just about gave me a heart attack! What are you doing here? What is all this? I just had the most frightening experience…,” and then I saw what he was holding: a glass of pink champagne and a diamond ring.
Jer 29:11 (NIV) "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
* Inspired by Hotel California by The Eagles
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