Friday, September 18, 2009

"The Mont Blanc"

The elevator was too slow in descending twenty floors to the tower lobby. Peter Sweeney thought another bad thought about the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. But his complaint about the Otis elevators was secondary to the livid anger he felt about the fifty dollar charge which was going to be levied against him for departing his room two hours after checkout. Paying six hundred dollars a night, per room, and he had three, was no small deal over the course of a week. The writer's convention had been a wonderful success, but that did little to lesson his anger. The doors opened and he hit the lobby, walking fast to where the concierge desk was located. An ebullient Japanese woman was on duty. She was a terribly cute butterball of a little thing, who Sweeney liked, but that did not deter him.

"They're charging me a fifty dollar late checkout fee for staying in my room until my flight's ready on Tuesday," he began. The woman, who's name tag read Malani, looked up from her sitting position across the desk with wide open eyes of surprise. "This is not fair and I want that charge waived!" Sweeney demanded, his uncommon emotion causing the young woman to blink and nod her head in agreement.

"I will call the management," she declared, reaching for the telephone. "i will speak to my manager, and even his manager, if necessary. I will get the charge waived. I completely agree and apologize. You are a very valuable guest and I will get this changed."

Sweeney deflated. He had nothing more to add, so he turned abruptly and went back to the elevators. Up in his room he changed into his best aloha shirt and long pants. He was to keynote the conference in half an hour. He rolled ideas around in his mind on how to begin his hour long talk. Nothing came to his mind. Once dressed, and properly adjusted using his full length mirror, he returned to the slow Otis machines. He was calmer on the way down, certain that Malani would take care of the idiotic late charge and put that problem to rest.

This time Peter approached the concierge desk more gently, more like his old affable self. He smiled at Malani. She got up from the desk and came around to meet him. Then she began to cry. Great tears coursed down her beautiful Asian cheeks. Then she began to sob as she talked.

"I could not get the charges waived. My manager said no, so I called his manager, who also said no. He said I would lose my job if I brought up the subject again. I am so very very sorry that I have failed you."

Sweeney stood rooted to the spot, unable to take the scene in fully at first. The woman cried on, tears falling down onto the front of her pink uniform. Unconsciously, he moved forward and hugged the sobbing woman.

"Its okay. Fifty dollars does not mean that much to me. I have plenty of money. I don't know what I was thinking." Slowly he released Malani, then stepped back.

"Really, its okay?" the woman said, her voice husky from crying.

Sweeney nodded, smiling a smile he did not feel. He felt more like crying, but turned to retrace his steps to the elevators instead. The Otis cage did not seem so slow on the way up to floor twenty. Once in his room he sat at the end of his bed to think. The incident effected him deeply. He was not the kind of man who brought hotel staff to tears. He hated such people. What had he done? He stared at the dresser before him. Atop the dresser sat the distinctive box of new Alexandre Dumas pen, made by the Mont Blanc Company. It had cost him eight hundred dollars, and that was on Ebay. He intended to give it to the Pulitzer Prize Winner who would be attending his keynote speech. He hoped to win his way into the man's heart, or at least get his attention.

Peter stood up. He approached the dresser. Then he moved quickly, grabbing the box and heading back to the lobby while checking his watch. He had only ten minutes to get to the Monarch Room to deliver his speech. The elevators seemed running in molasses until opening, once again, at the lobby level. He walked quickly back to the desk where Malani sat. She looked up with a return of trepidation in her expression. But Sweeney smiled, and then held out the box.

"Please accept this gift from me. I do appreciate you, your service, and what you tried to do on my behalf."

Malani arose, stepped around the desk and took the box into both hands. She opened it. A small sound escaped her lips. Then she stared up into Sweeney's eyes with a look of shocked adoration. She closed the box as she bent into a deep bow. Her hands, however, came up with box held up in front of her.

"Thank you," she whispered, "I will live up to the value of this gift."

Sweeney walked away, his heart lifting, the smile on his face turning into a real smile. The crowd applauded as he entered the Monarch Room, his introduction already provided. He took the extended microphone and stepped onto the stage. He looked out over the expectant faces of the new budding authors.

"Thank you," he said, "I will live up to the value of this gift." As he spoke he realized that a small Japanese woman working behind the concierge counter at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel had changed his life.


  1. I am told, by the first reviewer, that I should not have published this story. It is 'too pretentious' by far, or so I am told. But what the hell. I guess I am a bit too pretentious.

  2. It is vintage (or will be) Strauss. Your shorts are some of your best fits.

  3. I loved it when I heard it, and I loved it on paper. You're a wonder, Mr. Strauss!