A bad sign: "Do Not Play the Piano!" I've hated this sign all my life- hated the fact that it is usually hanging on a piano. What else is a piano for, if not to play? They ought to stick a different sign on it: "Reduced to Furniture." This was the first thing I saw upon entering the restaurant.
The second thing I saw was a series of grotesque, stuffed animal carcasses, all of which were posed to look tame and smiling. I stood by the brass "Please Wait to be Seated" plaque and waited, staring at their vacant expressions. And I waited to be seated. And waited...
I finally grabbed my own menu and sat myself at the bar. Most menu items contained one or more forms of beef and cost $15 or more a plate, so I settled on a wine dinner. I asked for a wine list. Of course, there was no wine list. The waitress pointed at the bottles on the bar.
Now, I'm fine with cheap wine. Some cheap wines are very good. I try not to be a snob about such things, but when the fanciest wine on the menu is Kendall Jackson, you know you will not be drinking anything spectacular (and the dinner prices had given me false hopes). I pointed at "red" and she poured me a glass. And I mean a "glass." Think of a glass of water. Take the water out. Replace it with wine. It was a good 16 ounces of cheap, red wine! I'd never had a pint of wine before (though I can no longer say that). I happily lapped it up in an attempt to calm myself. I cracked open my new book and began reading.
David Sedaris is an amazing writer. He has a way of turning any awkward situation into a humorous, thoughtful, and touching story. Like I said- a perfect traveling companion for a vacation like this. My mind was in tune with his long before I opened the book. Opening the book helped, though. As did the wine.
Suddenly, I found my situation... charming. The smiling mountain lion on the mantle, propped (quite unnaturally) next to a fake fern was... sweet. The elk head, turned in a gaping smile, tongue wagging was... quaint. Why, even the curling iron plugged in by the cash register behind the bar made a quirky sort of sense! "Of course," I thought, "what better place to curl one's hair?"
My fellow diners with their screaming children suddenly endeared themselves to me. These people probably worked very hard for their vacation. We all work hard here in the U.S. of A. After we work hard and earn our vacations, we just want to go someplace where we can eat a fancy steak, let our kids run wild, and sit under the gazing eyes of a murdered animal. Not exactly my idea of "vacation," but I was happy for my fellow travelers. They seemed very satisfied (though to be fair, they probably weren't staying in one of the six remaining so-called poolside rooms). The family in front of me found it somehow... cultured to pass around the plastic toothpick dispenser after their meal. Their children crawled on the floor, moving from table to table in search of... something.
"Up, Mitchell! Up!" the mother commanded brightly, as if Mitchell was a pup in training.
High on wine and compassion, I walked out to the lobby where I would simply inform the woman behind the desk that my phone didn't work. She began every sentence by trailing off as if she'd hoped they would finish themselves.
"Oh! Oh... I'm... oh... so sorry... um..." "Not a problem! I was just calling to complain about the dog next door..." "Oh...oh..." "No, no. It's okay, but I also wanted to book a massage. Can I do that from here?" "Oh, yes! Yes, by all means. Oh..."
She offered me the phone. I smiled and took it from her, feeling guilty that I had mentioned the dog (she was clearly concerned), and called down to book my massage. The woman on the other line asked me if I wanted Carol or Sue. I said that I knew neither, but I'm sure that they were both just fine.
"But which one do you want?" she insisted. "I have to put you down for one or the other!" "But all I know about them is their names," I replied, defensively. "Fine. Nine A.M. with Carol."
And with that, she hung up. Just another odd employee, I'd guessed. In the back of my mind, I was somewhat fearful of what a massage was, if "customer service" was such a foreign concept. But I couldn't be bothered by that now. I was heading out to do what I came here for: soak in the hot springs! Surely that would melt away all of the day's headaches...