(Percival, IA) — I may be mistaken. I’m no Constitutional scholar. But isn’t there something in the US Constitution about a right to coffee? I’m pretty sure there is. And I think there’s something in there about motel rooms and how they’re supposed to have a coffee maker.
This morning, however, I awoke at 5 in my room at the Knights Inn in Indianapolis and discovered that one of those constitutional rights had been violated. There was no coffee maker in the room. I briefly considered organizing a class action suit, but instead, I trudged, in my sweatshirt and sweatpants, up to the front desk to ask for coffee.
The front desk guy was in one of those late-night motel cubicles for security purposes. It looks a little like the box office at a movie theater. And on my side of the plexiglass was a fellow with whom this night auditor was engaged in conversation. Actually, all of the conversation was emanating from the guy I had joined on the dangerous side of the plexiglass. The night hotel guy’s contribution to the conversation on which I had intruded seemed noncommittal, and was punctuated by a concerned look in my direction. But my presence seemed to make night hotel guy’s stress level go up considerably.
I said, “Sorry for interrupting, but I wonder if I could get a cup of coffee.” Hotel guy said, “No. No coffee.” He said it in sort of a clipped tone. But I could clearly see that the coffee pot was full of fresh, steaming coffee.
Then, the guy on my side of the plexiglass noticed that I was there. “Dude!” he said. And gave me a fist bump. As he turned, a vapor consisting of, as best I could tell, a combination of alcoholic beverage, armpits and urine wafted (if “wafted” is the word I want) my way, and I immediately assessed the situation. Drunk homeless guy and I were on one side of the plexiglass, and hotel guy was on the other. I acknowledged the friendly fist bump, and decided on the spur of the moment to obtain my coffee, instead, from the Waffle House just a few yards away, across the parking lot.
When I turned to leave, though, drunk homeless guy decided to come along as my guest. And when I entered the Waffle House, I ordered a small black coffee to go. The two people behind the counter, seeing both of us enter, for some reason immediately decided that we were old homeless buddies, and that we were there together. Which we were, but not by my design. I prudently decided that the circumstances called for me to use my most non-drunk-not-homeless guy voice. “I’d like a small black coffee to go… if you please. Yes, rather. Quite. Thank you.”
Drunk homeless guy’s conversation tended more to the “Dude! Yeah. Coffee… just had to bail my f**kin’ brother outta f**kin’ jail. F**kin’ cops f**kin’ arrested him cuz he’s an old man and has a limp. He’s f**kin’ 57 f**kin’ years old and the f**kin’ cops f**kin’ arrested him.”
At this point in the conversation, I made my polite goodbyes and hastened back to my room. And that’s when I discovered why both hotel guy and the alert uniformed staff at Waffle House had initially thought Drunk Homeless Guy and I were together. Staring back at me from the mirror was a face containing puffy red eyes, a head with hair sticking up in every direction, and badly in need of a a trim… and a beard which was maybe a week behind its grooming schedule. I was wearing a stained brown sweatshirt and sweatpants. And the person in the mirror had stormed into the motel office… and minutes later, accompanied by Drunk Homeless Guy, into the Waffle House.
I intended to spruce up a bit, and, at check-out, present myself to hotel guy, to make it clear that I was not a buddy of Drunk Homeless Guy, but when I went to the desk on my way out, nobody was behind the desk. Instead, there was a hastily-lettered sign saying, “Sorry — out helping another guest. Sorry for inconvenience.”
Actually, I think he just went home.