Monday, January 14, 2008

Crack-Smoker's Logic

This tale was my first real introduction to the seamy side of the hotel business. I had been working at the hotel maybe a month, and by this point had settled into doing mostly the overnight shift. On the weekdays this is usually a pretty quiet shift: guests with reservations check in until midnight or 1:00 am, and then through the rest of the night you get maybe one or two walk-ins at random times, though usually not much after 5 am. On the weekends it can be a different story: you won't really see the stream of walk-ins stop until the bars have been closed for a while, and then after the that the remaining latecomers are both more frequent and more odd. This story is an example of that.

Around about between 5:30 and 6:00 am, a man and a woman in their twenties come into the hotel asking for a room. This is when I first started, and the winter too, so we had rooms left to sell even though it was morning. The two have apparently just come back from gambling at the local Indian casino and they mention something about the woman having a fight with her sister and needing to get away — as it turns out the room is only for her. She has just enough cash to pay for the room rate, but when guests are paying only in cash we require a cash deposit for damages, and she doesn't have enough to pay that.

After some degree of discussion between the two, the man decides that he will pay the deposit, and he makes it very clear that he's putting down the deposit: it's his. After they check in the man comes back to the desk alone to make this last point clear. He's leaving now, but will be back later to collect the deposit; the woman is going to try to collect the deposit, but it's his, so don't give it to her.

Once she has checked in, the woman then begins bringing boxes of random possessions into the room through the back door. I can't see back there very easily, so I don't pay too much mind, but she ends up bringing in a whole bunch of stuff. After that, she's in her room and things are quiet again for about half an hour.

Then our new phone console, which is just a few days old and unfamiliar, starts making this loud alarm sound, indicating on it's LCD panel that further instructions will be forthcoming if I hit the function key. It turns out 911 has been dialed from a room, and as I follow through the console instructions I find out that it is from the room of the woman who checked in minutes earlier.

Now at this point I am naive and inexperienced: I think, "What if something bad is happening right now? What if she needs help? What if she is being attacked or raped? Was she even able to complete the 911 call? Are the police even coming?" So I go to the door and listen for any commotion inside. Hearing none, I knock on the door. It's front desk, I explain, just making sure everything is alright. In response she yells out something clearly indicating she thinks I am someone else. I forget what she said, but it was something on the order of, "I told you not to come back" or something else you'd say to someone familiar with whom you were fighting.

Again I explain that this is front desk, a 911 had been made, and I was just checking on her safety. There is a pause and then the unmistakable sound of the deadbolt being locked and the chain being latched. So, yeah, asking after what had happened was clearly a mistake. Though at least now I know her state of mind is probably not a normal one.

So I go back to the desk and dig up the non-emergency number for the local police department so I can call them and ask what is up. The person at dispatch tells me that they got a call reporting that someone in the hotel was smoking crack and walking around the halls naked — I think I would have noticed someone naked in the halls. The kicker is that when the dispatcher tells me what room number the caller had said this was supposedly happening in, it is the same room from which the 911 call had originated — the woman had called the police on herself for smoking crack!

At this point the first police officers arrive and start asking questions. I explain to them what I have just figured out from talking to dispatch, and the officer radios back so that dispatch can confirm that, yes, the woman sounded disoriented enough that she very well could have been reporting herself. I've already made a master key for the police and some of them head to the room, while one stays behind at the desk to get all the info on the woman.

...Starting with her date of birth and driver's license number, which I don't have. See in my month there I've never been told to take that information, and there isn't even a place in the computer to enter it. The officer is angry at this and starts getting threatening. He can hand out fines both to the business and to me! Apparently the police had hounded the hotel earlier about making sure this information was recorded, but since then there has been a complete turnover in both the desk staff and all levels of management, so no one at the hotel is at all aware of this requirement.

Now, I've just personally entered all the other information on this woman's driver's license into the computer. I proceed to give it to him and 30 seconds later someone radios back that it all checks out with the records and it is unambiguous who this person is, but the officer does not at all seem satisfied, like I am trying to pull one over on him or something. Besides, he seems mad that I have even let her into the hotel. As if, what? I'm supposed to turn down every young black woman that walks in or something?

At this point a bunch more officers show up — later I learn that this must be every single officer in the suburb that's currently on duty — and one of the officers comes back from the room. The master key does nothing about latched chain and they don't think they can get in through the window, so they want to try to coax her out using her name. They try this for a while but it doesn't go well, and eventually they come back with a request to bust down the door.

Fortunately this turns out to be doable. Several of them bash the door until the doorframe, to which the door chain attaches, comes off from the wall, and they can get in. A few minutes later an ambulance comes and they take her away strapped into a gurney sitting upright. The police go through the room with me so I can survey the damage and inside I smell what I can only assume is the smell of crack. It was certainly the smell of some sort of smoke, and it was unlike anything else I have ever smelled.

Later, the woman, who had not been arrested, I guess, came back for her stuff. We were able to fix the door, but despite all his instructions, the dude did not get his security deposit back.

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