“It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Kevin,” he said with a thick Middle Eastern accent while shaking my head. I smiled back and turned to face the front of the hotel. Fashion 26 Hotel. My driver had told me it was located in midtown Manhattan, but that didn’t mean much to me. He had indulged me and given me a rough idea about the layout of the boroughs of New York and districts of Manhattan. He had also rattled off a list of the famous people he had driven, from Bill Gates to Chris Rock. That thought was probably a comfort to him while he drove a college kid in jeans and freshmen dorm hoodie who didn’t even work for Microsoft, but was just there to “cover a press conference.”
I nodded at the doormen as I dragged my suitcase through the automatic doors, then stood momentarily in the lobby. The wall was covered with mirrors, the lights were turned down, and all of the staff looked very sharp.
“Hello.” She paused for me to look as I awkwardly tried to orient myself. “Are you checking in? I can help you here.” I shuffled over to the counter. “Do you have a last name for your reservation?” “Leung. L-E-U-N-G. Maybe. I’m not sure.” I reached around for my backpack for some sort of paper in the itinerary I was given. “Kevin. I have you. No need for confirmation.” She tapped a few keys on the computer, situated slightly back and facing perpendicular to me on the other side of the L of the counter. “It appears we have a package here for you in the backroom. Let me get that for you. Feel free to have a cupcake from Crumbs.” She gestured to the little display in front of me. Oooh, Crumbs! My friend Stephanie, who I consider an expert in desserts, had mentioned it.
“Is Crumbs a thing around here?” I think I have this problem where I talk too much when I’m nervous or don’t know what to say. “Definitely.” She disappeared into the backroom, and by the time she had come back with a black notebook labeled “Kevin Leung” with a sticky note, I had overcome my fear to touch anything in the hotel and grabbed one of the two-bite cupcakes. My hands were occupied with the notebook and cupcake when she asked me for my credit card for incidentals. I nodded off her explanation for the credit card as I had no intention of using the mini-bar in the room or any other service.
“Oh, that’s cool. It’s like a cassette,” she said, looking at my card before swiping it. “Oh really?” “Yeah, you can see the 2 spools here,” gesturing and showing me my own credit card. “Huh. I guess I never noticed.” I half unwrapped the cupcake when she pushed some paperwork towards me.
“Initial here and here,” she said pointing with the pen. “And fill out your email and phone number here, just in case you forget something.” She looked at me expectingly for a second, probably just for confirmation that I knew what to do. I wanted to eat the cupcake, but I became self-conscious. I tried to imagine that situation: she’s behind the desk, talking to a clearly overwhelming kid, and is watching as he stares right back, lifting a cupcake to his mouth while he’s supposed to be filling out paperwork. Instead, I picked up the pen and began to write, using the side of my cupcake-holding hand to keep the paper still.
I initialized twice to unknown agreements and filled in my contact information. By then, she was back at her computer punching in more important information. I signed at the bottom while there were still a few blanks for the mailing address. She was still at her computer. Do I fill in the rest, or eat the cupcake? She didn’t mention the mailing address, but the blanks were there. I didn’t want her to turn back and wait for me to do something I had ostensibly already been told to do. She had more information about the room, asked me if I would have guests (“I don’t think so”), how many keys I needed (“Uh, one should be just fine”), whether I needed wifi (“Definitely”), and a few other simple questions. She went back to the computer for my key, and I sprung the cupcake to my face, takin gout a bite. Tasty red velvet. I tossed the other bite in and had to muster together some fast chewing and a tough swallow as she asked, “Will you need help getting your bags up?” “No, I think I can handle it.”
As she finished the last details, I noticed the Crumbs crumbs I left on the floor. It turns out those napkins weren’t just promotional material. A few pleasantries later, I was off and standing in the elevator, trying to figure out how to get me to my floor.