March 2019 SOLC–Day 22
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“Good morning,” I say as the desk clerk motors by, clearly rushed and heading back to his post.
“Good morning,” he replies. Then continuing past, he mutters at me, “I live in interesting times.”
My eyebrows raise, but I don’t respond. This is a man on a mission, with no time for small talk. He putters about the desk, grabs a few things and flies back down the stairs. I imagine he must also be setting up the breakfast area.
When we spend the night in hotels, I often find myself spending early morning hours in the lobby. I’ve learned that I enjoy my mornings more if I’m not trying to write on the bathroom floor to avoid disturbing whoever’s traveling with me. Usually that person prefers to sleep past 4:30 am, so I slip out of the room, notebook and laptop in hand, and head to the lobby. It’s typically quiet and peaceful, and I enjoy writing in a new place.
Suddenly, a man pops through the door from the long hallway leading to the hotel rooms.
“Do you know where the man is?” he asks.
His hair is close shaven and he’s small and wiry, wearing an athletic jersey emblazoned with Fleury 29. He pushes through the door into the lobby, a bundle of energy. If he were a dog, his tail would be wagging and he’d be doing that whole body “Oh!!! A human friend is here!!!” wiggle.
I assume he’s talking about the desk clerk.
“I think he’s downstairs getting breakfast ready,” I reply.
“Oh, ” he said, looking around and then looking at me again. “What do you do around here?”
“Oh, I don’t work here. I’m a teacher, but down south in Durham.”
“What grade do you teach?” he asks.
“I was a crazy student,” he says.
Really? Somehow I’m not too surprised.
I open my mouth to respond, but Fleury 29 continues.
“You know Ritalin these days? Well, my teachers didn’t know what to do with me. They used to have me walk around the room on my hands. Again and again and again.”
“Then, I moved to Ethiopia because of allergies.”
What?! Ethiopia? Allergies? What?
“You got time? ” he continues. ” I got stories. I would have been the most interesting student you ever had!”
The desk clerk emerges from downstairs, and Fleury rapidly turns and asks him for a broom and mop, then launches into some convoluted explanation about why he needs these in his room. I’m still envisioning those handstands and trying to figure out the relationship between allergies and Ethiopia, so I only catch their conversation in bits and pieces. This is a man who needs a pause button.
The desk clerk sets off to get the requested items, assuring Fleury he’d bring them to his room shortly.
“Take your time. Don’t run,” he replies.
“I kind of have, too,” the clerk mutters under his voice, rushing off.
“See you later!” Fleury says to me and heads off, gone as rapidly as he’d appeared, presumably to return to his room.
The clerk reappears a few minutes later.
“Sorry if he was bothering you,” he says, gesturing to the door through which Fleury had exited.
“Oh, no,” I say. “He was fine.”
“He’s part of my interesting times,” he says with feeling.
Later, at breakfast I see Fleury again.
“Fourth grade, right?” he calls across the room.
“Yes.” I smile and nod.
“I could tell you stories!” he repeats, then continues. “I got a lot of scholarships. My neighbors helped me out, because they used to watch me doing backflips and half gainers out of my mom’s second story window into the snow banks.”
What? Scholarships and half gainers into snowbanks? I can’t really figure this one out either. It is as mystifying as Ethiopia and allergies!
“You teachers,” he says. “You do a lot.” He pauses. “Thanks. I know it’s not easy.”
I start to respond, but he is off on another story. I just listen and nod, smiling, thoroughly enjoying myself.
I suspect that this is a man who always lives in interesting times.