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Madeleine Begun Kane,
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Madeleine Begun Kane


If your husband ever invites you to join him on a business trip, be sure to ask him these questions:
   1. Will you ever get to see him while he is not -- technically -- asleep?
   2. What will he do, if you accidentally lock yourself out of your hotel room in the middle of the night while you are not -- technically -- dressed?

Unfortunately, I didn't think to ask these questions when my husband Mark invited me to join him for a six-week Boston business trip. So I had to learn the answers the hard way:
   1. No.
   2. He will remain -- technically -- asleep.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Back when my husband urged me to accompany him, all I could focus on was:
   1. Whether I could pack my cappuccino machine;
   2. Whether I'd get any writing done so far from home; and
   3. Whether we'd have reliable net access in our room.

Okay, I admit it: I'm a little -- okay a lot -- hooked on cappuccino and the on-line life. And I never -- ever -- go to sleep without reading my email and surfing the web.

Anyway, Mark managed to convince me that working out of a hotel room in a strange city would inspire new, creative ideas. He also swore that Boston is a modern city with lots of cappuccino and Internet connections. So I reluctantly accompanied him, after packing enough gear for a year.

We checked in late that first night, and the accommodations (paid for by Mark's client) were luxurious. But I gave no thought to our lovely hotel, the sites and sounds of Boston, or the excitement of living in a new city. While Mark unpacked, requested a wake-up call, and ooohed and aaahed at the view, I foraged for a modem connection. Only one view mattered to me -- the blank one on my laptop screen.

Finally, I had the computer set up. I began to relax, happy in the knowledge that any minute I'd ... What's this? An error message? What did they mean "no dial tone"?

It must be some mistake, I told myself, as I tried to sign on again and again and again. After a dozen failed attempts I was even reduced to violating my "don't crawl on a strange rug" rule. Struggling to reach the wall behind the desk and bed, I squeezed my arm into places it didn't belong, pulling and pushing and tugging at anything that looked important. And trying to spot a loose connection ... aside from the one in my brain.

Now a normal person would probably have given up and gone to bed after 10 or 20 or 30 failed attempts to sign on-line. (By this time, Mark had been asleep nearly an hour.) But the more disconnects I got, the more determined I was to access my net account. Am I stubborn? Yes. Plus I really needed my pre-sleep fix.

So I persisted, all the while cursing out computers, the hotel, my husband's client, and my husband, who apparently enjoys having his bed shoved across the room while he's sound asleep.

Then it hit me -- the kind of revelation one only gets way past midnight. I'd simply phone the concierge, and he'd do some concierge type thing and get it fixed. So I picked up the phone and -- you guessed it -- it was as dead as my modem.

You moron, I castigated myself, as I tried to guess whether I was being personally singled out for email deprivation.

Just then, I heard a sound in the hall. Eager to find out if anyone else had phone service, and forgetting that my attire (or lack thereof) would get me arrested in many countries, I rushed out the door, wedging it open with a shoe. Luckily (I thought) the sounds were coming from the next room, whose door was ajar.

"Do you have phone service?" I asked a female guest, who was still gripping her luggage.

She didn't answer. Instead she stared at me blankly, no doubt wondering why some barefoot, barely clad crazy woman was standing in her doorway at 3 a.m.

"Do you have phone service?" I repeated.

"No speak English," she said, as she put down her suitcase and looked around the room, possibly for a weapon. Now desperate, I attempted to mime talking on the phone. But she apparently didn't speak mime either.

At this point, I'm afraid I did something that can only be characterized as insane; I strode into the room, walked right past her to the far end, and picked up her phone. It was dead. This was good news, because you need a phone to get someone arrested for trespass.

I put the receiver down and belatedly began to apologize. But the woman ignored me -- she was embroiled in some incomprehensible dialogue with a man (her husband?) who had apparently been in the bathroom when I invaded their room. Were they plotting my demise?

I crossed the room as quickly as I could and darted past them, hoping they wouldn't try to stop me. And that they understood the meaning of the word "sorry."

Finally I made it out of there, and they slammed the door behind me. Relieved, I turned toward my room and, after tripping over my failed-wedge shoe, I discovered another shut door -- my own.

Ten minutes of door pounding later I was still stranded in the hall, and Mark (who can sleep through anything) was still sound asleep.

By now I was more or less resigned to going to bed without reading my e-mail. But no way was I sleeping in the hall.

I probably would have continued my futile pounding, but adding the crime of "destroying the peace" to trespass didn't seem wise. And getting thrown out of the hotel probably wouldn't help Mark's consultant/client relations.

But what else could I do? I couldn't very well take the elevator downstairs and beg the concierge for a key while I was dressed like this, could I?

Apparently, I could. I started down the hallway, moving as quickly as I could manage, and fervently hoping I wouldn't meet anyone en route. Fortunately, every reasonably sane person was asleep by then. So the halls and elevator were empty, and I even made it down eight floors to the lobby nonstop. I was so relieved, I didn't even mind the strange looks I got from the couple getting on as I got off. Or the amused grin from the concierge when I told him I needed help.

"Phone problems?" he asked, looking me up and down.

"For starters," I answered.

"Sorry, everything's down at least until late morning. Anything else I can do for you?"

"Yes, I locked myself out of my room. Could you...?"

"Yes, I can see you did. Hold on and I'll get my keys."

"This is very embarrassing."

He took another look and grinned again. "No problem. I've seen a lot worse."

Throughout the elevator ride up and the walk to my room he regaled me with tales of locked-out guests stranded in garb that made me appear ready for a full dress ball. Then he placed his key in the door and said, "Do you have any ID?"

"What?" I said, beginning to panic. "Where would I...?"

"Just kidding," he said as he unlocked the door.

Safely back in my room, I found Mark sound asleep. Exhausted and angry, I stared at him, willing him awake. I could have been kidnapped from the room in the middle of the night, and he would never have known. I could have ...

Suddenly, Mark sat up. "What is it?" he said.

"Didn't you notice I was gone?"

"What are you talking about? One sec. I have to go to the bathroom."

"What were you saying?" Mark said as he climbed back into bed.

"Never mind. But you should set your alarm. The phones are broken, and you probably won't get that wake-up call."

"Thanks," he said as he fiddled with the clock and lay back down to sleep. "What did you do to their phones?" he added just before he began to snore.

© 1999 Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.

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