Dreams, April 4, 2012
Where is the paperwork for the tentative flight reservation? I need to call to confirm the trip; the 30-day deadline might already be up. I look through the boxes but I don’t see it. And because I don’t have the paperwork, I don’t have the phone number for United. Oh, my cell phone will have the number. But where is my phone? Don’t have that, either.
I ask the people in the house if I can use their phone and borrow a pen and paper, so when I get through to United I can write down the information. Begrudgingly, they let me take some yellow post-it notes and a pencil. So many people in the house; what are they doing? Am I intruding? I try to find a quiet place to call, but I can’t. I will have to let them hear me call about the China trip, though it may be so showy to do so.
It’s a small town, with small town ways. Everyone knows everyone, by first name, and only first names are used. The town is dark with factories along a waterfront. When I pick up the phone, a woman comes on who seems to be the local telephone operator. Or is she at a hotel desk? After several attempts, I think I make it clear to her I’m trying to connect to United Airlines. It takes so long, and time is running out. I get through to United but the connection is bad; they say to call back. But, I don’t have the number! I have to go through Molly again. This is torturous. Okay, I’m put through to the airline.
“Is this United?” I ask because all I hear is a woman saying hello.
But I’m not convinced. No wonder. It is Lila from down the block; she’s the town travel agent. She wants to chat. I insist on dealing with the reservation. We get nowhere. “Damn you,” she says. I hang up. She calls me back, but one of the locals is telling me his life story and I can’t take her call. Yes, she is still on the line. As the ordeal continues, the phone in my hand is getting smaller and smaller. It has turned into a slice of brown bread, and only bite-sized pieces are left. Now just one piece remains; I have to switch it from my ear to listen and then to my mouth to speak into.
Eventually I get my flight to China confirmed. Lila says that if Lee and I travel on the same flight, they will give me a special gift picture book. No thanks. She alerts me to a great club and bar in Atlanta; I should visit it during my layover. Thanks. I’ll do that. I still don’t have her phone number, or United’s number. But I have the China trip confirmed.
Now I must find my hotel room again in Chicago. It’s on the fifth floor, a top floor, at the end of a hallway. No, not in that building. Not that one either. Not that one; I would have remembered lugging my luggage up the steep steps. There, that one, at the end of the block. It’s good to be in Chicago again.
Yes, this is where my room is. I remember the lobby, the wood-paneled walls. The cabinet of small drawers, like a library card catalog. The tiny elevator. People are talking about getting mugged in the buildings in the neighborhood. “Especially on the top floors,” says a woman. “They chase you down the stairs.”
Emptying my pockets, I can’t find the hotel key. Even the bite-sized piece of bread has crumbled. The women at the desk shake their heads. “No, we don’t have extra keys. We can’t help you.”
I have no idea how to get back into my room. My resourcefulness seems expended, and I despair. Is it time to give up? Must be: my pockets are empty.