I saw the sign. I just didn’t care.
“Please enjoy your breakfast with us here in the dining room,” it said. “FOOD IS NOT ALLOWED IN GUEST ROOMS!”
In all fairness, I was a little cranky. Hotels do that to me. Being away from home, working with difficult clients, a strange bed, and a constant stream of CNN and infomercials. And the food. Every morning, it was the same thing. Bacon with the taste of buffalo jerky, stale oat bran muffins, watered-down coffee, and those cheese-filled pseudo omelets. Yuck.
I wasn’t about to self-inflict insult to injury by eating with a bunch of Salt Lake hicks and hygiene-challenged over-the-road truckers. So I took the food to my room. What’s the big deal?
Marge didn’t see it that way. Each morning she tended the steam table with the flair of Emeril Lagasse, monitored the juice levels with the enthusiasm of Anita Bryant. When she wasn’t busy stocking muffins or clearing tables, she regaled her guests with wit and charm. She was Marge, Holiday Inn Express hotel manager extraordinaire.
She grew more grumpy by the day. Finally she could take it no more. “Sir, I must insist you eat your food here in the dining room,” she said, and pointed at the sign.
I just smiled. “I don’t think so, Marge.” I heard her mumbling four-letter words to herself as I walked to the elevator.
The next morning, she was ready for me. She barred the door. “Mr. Hanson. Please. Eat your breakfast here with the rest of us.”
I turned. A suited businessmen looked up from his bowl of Special-K. A gray-haired couple munching oatmeal in the back of the room smiled encouragement. A table of white-shirted Mormons turned away from their waffles to stare. “Yeah, stay,” they said in unison.
What choice did I have? “Okay, Marge. You win.”
As she turned to refill the Froot Loops, I made a run for it.
“He’s getting away, Marge,” shouted a burly truck driver, his voice garbled with a mouth full of wheat toast.
I barely made the elevator. Marge’s huge hand swiped the back of my t-shirt as the door shut behind me.
“C’mon, c’mon,” I said to myself as the elevator dinged its way slowly to the fourth floor.
I was in the hall, halfway to my room, when I heard her coming. A rumble like an earthquake came from the stairwell. Balancing my Styrofoam plate in one hand while scrambling for my key card with the other, I ran for the door.
I almost made it. At the exact instant the light turned green, Marge piled into me with the fury of a woman scorned. Steaming coffee and scrambled egg-whites flew everywhere. Tomato juice ran down the wall like blood.
“I told you,” said Marge. “NO FOOD IN YOUR ROOM!” Her breath was hot on the back of my neck as she twisted my arm in a vicious half-nelson.
“Uncle, uncle,” I screamed.
But she wasn’t done. She reached around to give me a wrenching titty-twister, the likes of which I hadn’t felt since 10th-grade gym class. “That’ll teach you.”
I helped her clean up the mess and she escorted me back to the dining room. Cheers came from the other guests as Marge fixed me a plate.
“I don’t think I’m hungry, Marge,” I said.
She set the plate down before me. “Of course you are. Now eat.” She smiled. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
Why didn’t you go to a different place to eat?