The Waiter And I

It’s day 8, the city away from the tourist core is alive with city culture, groups of friends and food which reminds me of home. Finding a little restaurant on a side street that is playing 90’s hits and churning out dinners to write home about. I love that part of Milano, but I miss my people, I miss my home, I miss my coffee shop and I miss my dojang.

Tonight I stayed in the hotel to dine and broke down and ordered the Burger off the dining room menu, comfort food. The hotel dining room was quiet with a few fellow guests and for the first time in 8 days I found myself dinning Milano time – fashionably late, after 8pm.

The waiter has been here all week. Maybe he sleeps in the hotel? I can’t escape him. He servers me breakfast, I see him flitting around at lunch and he is always there in the evening. They know my last name and my room number. I enter the room, they nod, circle my name on their list of hotel guests and I find myself a seat.

I won’t lie, that’s a nice feeling. They know who I am or at least HE knows who I am.

He’s been watching me and I take blame for accidentally initiating it the first night I arrived.

Not hungry after my flight I decided to do some grocery shopping and picked up fruit, granola, yogurt and other easy snacks for my room. It wasn’t until I was settled into my room when I realized ‘how was I exactly planning on eating the yogurt?’

I showed up in his dining room well after closing time asking for a spoon. He looked at my quizzically, walked over to his sidebar, opened the drawer and pulled out a serving spoon.

“This?” he asked in uncomfortable, broken English.

I gave a little laugh wondering why he would choose to pull out a serving spoon of all spoons, why would anyone want a serving spoon? He was confused. I was confused. He looked at me then back at the spoon in his hand, ‘I’d asked for a spoon, what was the problem?’

Desperately wanting to eat my yogurt and feeling panicked I reached out, “Yes, perfect” and I took the serving spoon and immediately thanked him in Spanish, “gracias”.

Right there I made my impression. Who was this bizarre North American entering his dining room at 10:30 in the evening, asking for a spoon, laughing, accepting a serving spoon and thanking him in Spanish!

And so it began. Standing at the elevator bank, mindlessly playing on my phone, waiting, I’d get the feeling of being watched and instinctively I’d look to my right. There he’d be, far off in his dining room, sporting a most serious face, his dark rimmed eyes boring into me.

I’d shiver, was I in trouble for borrowing the serving spoon?

I’d imagine him thinking, “What is that girl doing with the spoon? Something sinister?” Followed by him requesting the cleaning staff check my room while I was out.

The elevator doors would open and I’d dash into safety.

Yes he was my server tonight and as expected he was watching me, not out of the corner of his eye, he was looking at me squarely. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do with his seriousness. It was freaking me out. If you know me at all, I prepared myself to do what I most often do when I feel uncomfortable….I prepared myself to crack a lame joke in hopes that I’d get an eye-roll, an annoyed smirk and then he’d leave me alone. From experience it works and it was a good plan.

What I wasn’t prepared for is to be one upped by an seemingly super serious Italian waiter.

“Can you put it on my room please,” I asked after I finished my meal and then for good measure added my last name as he was walking away from me.

He stopped, turned slightly, a hint of a smile on his face and he said in his broken uncomfortable English that made it difficult to understand, “You are the boss then!” And his hint of a smile went to a full-on smile, I could see his teeth.

He just cracked a joke!! A lame joke!! Maybe he’d been preparing it all week and he finally had his chance!! I should be so proud, but unprepared to be outdone I replied in the most serious businesslike voice that I can muster, “No, not the boss.”

Immediately I saw my mistake as his face went from beaming to ultimate disappointment as he quietly acknowledged that I didn’t think he was funny. Not wanting to disappoint the waiter who had lent me one of his many serving spoons and who had spent the last 8 days glaring at me, I smiled broadly and quickly recovered, “Oh but I pretend to be the boss.”

This pleased him and off he disappeared behind his counter, giant smile on his face.

The Italian man had made a joke!

I am good to come home now.

P.S. Over the next few days when I catch him glaring at me with his serious face and piercing eyes, I am going to imagine him thinking up his next lame English joke. So pleased 🙂

Le-Weekend a Ottawa

Le-Weekend a Ottawa

20130915-130517.jpgWe decided leaving the cars at home and using public transit would a be a new and novel way to see our Capital.

The train didn’t disappoint although snoozing the blaring alarm at 4:45am, in a sleepy haze catching the 5:32am streetcar and walking 5 city blocks to Union Station, the start of the trip wasn’t proving very sleep friendly. We were travelling European style, whatever that means!

The train car was surprisingly full. After travelling for 5 hours swaying back and forth, and having to pee every 20 minutes from the swaying of the train, we arrived in Ottawa and found our way to OC Transpo and bus 95. We clamoured on with our luggage, and spent the 15 minute bus ride stumbling over each other trying to stay standing.

The entrance to the hotel was obscure. For a large mid-luxury hotel chain, we walked around the block twice looking for the entrance. Ok, I exaggerate and perhaps we only did one tour of the building and maybe all the construction out front helped in our confusion. We made it to the front lobby and towards the in-training concierge.

“Hello, can I help you,” she asked politely.

“Yes, we checked in online and we are here to retrieve our keys.”

“Your reservation number please”

We gave her the reservation information.

“Oh, yes, we’ve been expecting you!”

That sounds promising, I thought to myself as she went and found our hotel keys. After showing my ID, she handed us the keys and off we were to our room.

The room. Oh the room.

We opened the door and out came the smell of musty, stale, 1970’s cigarette air. You know the kind? It’s when the rooms used to be smoking rooms and after ten bouts of febreeze, the hotel had now deemed it a non-smoking room.

Ewww.

I grumbled something and the support I received was, “It smells fine to me, my nose is stuffed up with a cold,” followed by, “did you want me to go ask for a new room, this one is fine for me.”

That’s not helpful!

Too hungry and tired to start a meaningful conversation about changing the room that seemed fine to one of us, we left our bags in the smelly, stale room and went to find some food.

We found a delicious sandwich/salad shop a block away.

After lunch I decided I needed a quick 20 minute nap. Hopefully a full stomach would help me like the smelly room and put me in a better mood. So off I went on my own, back to the hotel to have my nap.

I got to the 15 floor, opened the door and had to steady myself against the door frame. The food in my stomach only made the room worse. I rationalized, “If I had booked a room in my own city as a weekend getaway and I was given THIS room, I’d probably just go home!!”. So I picked up the phone and dialled 0.

“Hello,” I said to the nice lady who picked up, “we just checked in to the hotel and I wanted to know if the room I am in is a smoking room, because it smells like old stale cigarettes.”

“Oh really, I am sorry to hear that, we no longer have smoking rooms. Did you want to maybe febreeze the room?” She offered.

“Sure,” this was a ridiculous suggestion but I was game to explore the option, “do you have a few bottles that you could send up here to spray the room with?”

She laughed, “have you unpacked yet”

“No”

“Ok, I will transfer you to the concierge and tell them you would like to change rooms.”

“Thank you”

That is how I changed rooms. I gathered our bags, re-folded the end of toilet paper roll I had used earlier, into the neat little triangle, put the used soap back in the box and slid it into my purse and raced up to the 20th floor.

Why did I re-fold the toilet paper or take the used soap bar with me?! I don’t know but it’s funny that was my reaction, I wanted to wipe any trace that I’d ever been in such a smelly room!!

The new room was amazing. Newly renovated, it smelled like new carpet and fresh paint. The telephone was even clean and didn’t stick to the palm of my hand when I picked up the receiver.

This was a room I’d stay in if I had booked in Toronto!!

I unpacked a few of my items, slide out of my jeans, put on my pyjama’s and crawled under the sheets. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep when I remembered, “I need to text N to let him know I’ve changed rooms!!”

I rummaged around in my purse, found my phone, sent off two texts.

We’d agreed on 20 minutes so after 40 minutes had passed I started wondering if he:
a) lost track of time
b) was lost in the hotel wondering if I left him with just the clothes on his back

I closed my eyes and decided he’d eventually find me and so he did and none the too pleased when I opened the door to let him in.

Not wanting to pay for roaming charges, he’d turned off his cell service and didn’t receive my texts. Instead he arrived back at the room on the 15th floor, coffees in hand only to find me and our bags……gone!! He checked the closet and yes, I’d forgotten our jackets. He picked them out of the closet and went to the lobby to try to find me.

Ofcourse I wasn’t in the lobby. I was in our new room, snuggled under the sheets, having a nap!

He went back up to the 15th floor and found two cleaning staff in the room trying to smell the stale, cigarette air. When they saw him standing at the door they said, “Oh Mr. ‘insert MY last name here’, she has already moved to your new room.”

They kindly called front desk to find out what room I’d moved to and that’s how I ended up spending the evenings on a “European” inspired trip in a nice smelling room with a comfy bed and a clean phone that I never did use 🙂