Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CHECKING IN OR OUT (hotel/motel on vacation) (08/27/15)
TITLE: Mon-key-ing Around
By Jack Taylor
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If I wasn’t melting so bad in the Mombasa heat wave I would probably have thought that the little vervet was hilarious when we tried to check in.
We’d made our way down on the slow moving train from Nairobi, Kenya. It had jerked and lurched down ancient tracks stopping frequently for unknown reasons. The two hefty men assigned to our private cabin took it all in stride after we gave up trying to understand how private meant four of us.
“Private,” announced the steward with a smile. He drew an imaginary line between the two bunk beds three feet apart. “Your side, their side. Private.”
The air near the coast was as still and warm as an oven for the last hours as we willed the little huffer into the station. I just wanted to get to the beach hotel and check in. Little children ran alongside the train screaming and yelling, “give me candy, give me shilling.” When someone tossed something there was a mad scramble of little hands and feet rushing and wrestling for the treasure.
Burly porters manhandled our suitcases and carry-ons out of train windows into the hands of others who grabbed the goods and stacked them on hand-carts. Showers and washing were obviously a lost art among passengers, workers and residents in this place. Everyone knew the mantra, “special price for you my friend, special price.”
The smell of sweat mixed nicely with the odor of smoke from street side vendors, a receding tide that abandoned unwanted trash, and the regular rot of laneway garbage scattered everywhere one looked. Check-in couldn’t come soon enough.
Bartering for a taxi was like being a bear trying to choose one salmon in a fin-to-fin fish run. Hands grabbed for bags, shouting strange numbers, while other hands grabbed other bags yelling other figures. “Non-stop twenty, free stops thirty.” Somehow we closed our eyes and pointed and things got settled. The dents and scrapes along the outside and the rips and stains inside showed we had an experienced guide to get us where we needed to be.
“Good car, no?” asked Ibrahim. Islamic prayer beads tangled with Catholic prayer beads dangling from his cracked mirror. “Get you to check-in fast.”
Within an hour we’d gutted out a safari rally that wove through ankle deep potholes, stately palms and an unending parade of women carrying water-filled jerry cans, banana stalks, or clay pots of various purchased goods on their heads. “Fun, no?” said Ibrahim. The buses, trucks, vans and other taxis who viewed one lane on the road as good as the other left us deafened from horn honking, shouting and screeching tires.
We must have paid Ibrahim generously because he carried all our luggage into the lounge and personally introduced us to someone who was supposed to check us in. We accepted the mango juice we were offered and sat where we were asked to wait.
That’s when I saw the little assistant. He was sitting on the rafters above the key board eyeing the fruit platter sitting on the counter. I reached for my camera and as I did he dropped onto the top of the key board, grabbed a wooden hut attached to a key and scurried back up to his perch.
The hostess called us up to fill out our paperwork and talked us through the various information they needed. Check-in went smoothly. We would be in room 22 facing the ocean on the second floor. We were fortunate because all other rooms were taken. She turned to the keyboard and reached for an empty space.
She looked back at the paperwork and called over a security officer. He phoned house-keeping who went to check the room. The key had been turned in. Meanwhile, I was melting more and more. The guests splashing in the pool nearby and lounging under the large umbrellas where the sea breeze could reach them did not help the situation.
Finally, the vervet had played his game long enough. He called out so that the clerk looked up. She saw the elusive key in the monkey’s hand and called the security officer who showed up with a sling-shot. The monkey threw the key on the other side of the wall he sat on. When the security man ran to grab it the monkey swooped down, snatched a piece of papaya, melon and mango in his mouth and paw and climbed up the wall again.
It was a memorable check-in.
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