Monday, 13 March 2017

Changing Rooms in Cuba

    As we sat down to eat we raised our glasses and toasted our finally making it to Cuba with our friends as we had been talking about this for some time now. In the back of my mind I was thinking, “I wonder what will be wrong with our room this time?”

      A little bit of background is called for at this point. My wife and I had been travelling together for over 35 years now and it was a rare occasion that we checked into a hotel or motel and ended up not changing rooms. It can be triggered by any of our five senses; sight, sound, smell, touch or taste. It can be something as innocent as a watermelon and a lawn chair floating in the pool, or a group of southern gentlemen sitting in the back of a pickup truck drinking beer outside our window, to weevils eating their way through the headboard of our bed. There might be a shattered ashtray in the bathroom leaving glass shards potentially disastrous to every step taken or there may just be blood on the bed sheets. Location is of no consequence. This could happen anywhere, from a Manhattan hotel in Times Square to the jungles of the Amazon. Suffice to say, there was usually something that caused me to holler, “Karen, phone the front desk!”

      With that in mind you can understand my hesitation and decided lack of confidence when I discovered that Murray and his wife Karen would be staying in the main hotel and we would be in a casita away from the main hotel down by the beach. It was a quaint little European style cottage-type of room and it reminded me a lot of the room where we spent our first night in the Cinque Terre in Italy the previous year. However, it took us about 5 minutes walking to get to it; it was a long way from the main hotel area – I think it was in Puerto Rico.

      It didn’t take long for the pieces to fall into place. It was one of the noisiest places we had stayed in quite some time. To begin with we went to bed at midnight and 5 minutes after the lights went out it was light enough in the room to read a book. The bed was just an old mattress and I mean it was old – I think Che Guevara used it last. Comfortable did not appear anywhere in its product description. Unless something really unusual happened I wouldn’t be sleeping much tonight so let’s see how the ambient noise works out.

      Well, by 12:45 AM I’m not sure if I had even closed my eyes much less slept because all I could hear was people talking. They weren’t talking particularly loud but they were on the porch right outside our window. My usual defense against this sort of thing is to turn up the air conditioning and drown out the noise with a more agreeable noise. Well, as luck would have it, the air conditioner was the only thing in the room that was built in this century and, naturally, it was whisper quiet. So at my urging Karen called the front desk to explain that it was nearly 1 AM and we were trying to sleep but the voices were carrying and these people were disturbing us. They said they would get security to look into it right away.

      By 1 AM the voices persisted so Karen looked out the window. She decided to get dressed and go visit the two guys herself. You are probably wondering why I would let my wife embark on such a potentially dangerous investigation. If I thought there was any real danger apparent, of course, I would not let it happen. The process was that Karen was very calm and persuasive talking to people in situations like this. I, on the other hand, would be very confrontational and abrasive and would quite likely make the situation worse and get shot doing so. I thought it odd that security had seemingly ignored our plea until Karen returned and informed me that the two guys in question were in fact two security guards. That explains why they were slow to respond to our complaint. Part of the noise we heard was them talking on their radios to the front desk – about our complaint!

      Finally, quiet, time to sleep. 1:30 AM – the first group of vacationers returns to the casita and of course they are very respectful of other guests and take care to be quiet so as not to disturb them. Yeah, right! Yelling and banging doors they arrive with the fanfare of a New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sleep? Who are you kidding? 2:00 AM – the second group returns just as noisy, just as respectful. Now can I sleep? 3:00 AM – just outside our window we hear one incredibly loud WHOO-HOOO! Yeah yeah, we know, you’re in Cuba you Neanderthal. So, dare I say it, it looked like the Whiteheads were about to change rooms as soon as day broke.

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