I said, "I would like a quiet room with one of those beds you can set your sleep level to." I was in one of those hotels that claim that after sleeping there you'll be fool enough to jump off a mountain or fly an airplane because you're feeling so mighty chipper on account of the sleep they gave you. Most of America's been sleepless since the Fifties, so you can imagine how a promise like that might strike us. I, for one, would walk a mile for a thing like that, but that's nonsense, of course, because you can only reach a place like that by driving 30 miles. There is no walking there.
"Sure thing," she said, "I'll put you on a floor with very few people if any at all."
No kidding. The room was the quietest and the most spacious you ever saw on the fifth floor of anything. The bed was enormous and the carpet was new. There was a small fridge in the room and a huge TV. The AC was on full blast and the arctic interior contrasted nicely with the 100-plus-degree exterior. I turned it off. The view over the freeway was immense, ending past the cars into a former pasture dotted with the upcoming ruins of a new subdivision. Far beyond the subdivision, some ignorant cows stood on the ghosts of future big box stores.
I plugged the Internet into my laptop and was on the receiving end of 60 emails touting a stock in something that would make me rich enough to shop in that barely glimpsed future. I then decided to take a bath in the tub in the new-feeling bathroom and turned on the hot water. It came pouring generously out of the faucet at the same time as the shower. I turned the shower knob to off but it wouldn't work, so I decided to take a bath and a shower at the same time. The trouble was that the shower curtain was in the bath getting wet. I pulled the curtain out of the tub which caused the shower to spritz beyond the curtain into the room and over my clothes.
When I bounded into the freezing room, unaffected by the prior command to warm up, I shut down the view by pulling together the curtains and rapidly wormed my way under the covers. That's when the room started creaking. The corner of the room sounded like it was buckling. The ceiling above it showed a spreading water stain. I listened to the ominous creak for a while, then reached for the remote to turn on the TV to drown the creaking. The remote didn't work, but the TV started making popping noises like it was warming up for a burst of gunfire in my direction. (Which would have come my way if the TV had come on, only they'd have been TV gunfire, if you know what I mean).
I called the desk. I said, "The room is creaking like the roof's going to collapse any minute, the shower won't turn off, it's too cold, and someone's shooting at me from the TV."
"No problem, sir," the cheery youth at the desk chirped. "Come down and we'll give you the key to another room."
I got the key to a room three floors below. "Thank you," I said gratefully to the college-age desk-person, "I was starting to think that I was going crazy. Did anyone ever stay on that quiet floor?"
"I'll make a note of that, sir. The building was collapsing, right? I'll let maintenance know."
My new room looked as new as my old room, only much more cheerful. I lay on the bed and sighed. Then the creaking started.
New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years Of Writing From the City is the latest book by Andrei Codrescu.