When you work in a hotel with a thousand rooms, you can expect an equal number of unique encounters with every type of human being imaginable.
And some you would never have expected.
He was a nondescript, timid, slightly frail white senior who could barely look me in the eye, courtesy of a back curved by the rigors of time. She was difficult to make out at first, as the air in the room was thick with smoke and and the glare of the morning sun. Upon closer examination it was obvious time had been far more cruel to her.
Her hair, what was left of it, was hidden beneath a scarf and her hand shook as she pressed yet another cigarette to her chapped lips. She could no longer move without a walker or a cane and her eyes remained directed at the floor the entire time I gathered their luggage.
I was waiting for the service elevator when a faint tap emanated from the other side of the swinging door.
GUEST: I forgot your tip in the room! I left $10 for the housekeeper and $4 for you!
THE HOOK: You’re not exactly motivating me sir….
GUEST: Can you get it yourself? I left my keys in there. We’ll meet you downstairs.
Of course, my master-key picked that exact moment to die. Classic Hook moment, right?
My only hope at a tip, even a meager one, seemingly shot down, I made my way to the valet deck where my couple was waiting. He lovingly helped her into their Caddy (why do old guys love Cadillacs?) and popped the trunk and watched intently as I loaded their bags. Despite the earlier mishap, he still tipped me $5 and left me with a few things to ponder….
GUEST: Thanks for everything. Sorry about forgetting your tip, she had an accident in the room last night…
THE HOOK: No harm done. I hope she’s all right….
GUEST: She has a few weeks left. Cancer.
THE HOOK: I…..don’t know what to say, sir.
GUEST: It started in her colon, then the lungs, brain, and finally it entered her bones.
THE HOOK: How long have you been married?
GUEST: Ten years now.
At that point, I was speechless and so we simply shook hands and he went on his way, off to a dark future that will no doubt seem bereft of hope for some time. I wish I could have summoned some words of wisdom, but my mind was reeling from shock.
Could The Hook possibly have composed words to sufficiently comfort a man facing such a significant and inescapable loss?