Mr. Eisenstein’s Holiday
by Gary Inbinder
|part 1 of 3|
A weekend at a luxury seaside resort did not fit Eisenstein’s budget. Fortune had thrown him some knuckle balls; one more strike and he was out. Nevertheless, on his sixtieth birthday, he booked a room in a place he had visited in greener days.
The hotel had seen better times, too, yet upon his arrival, Eisenstein failed to notice any decline. The owners had put up a proud front in the economic downturn, and everything about the place — the well-tended lawns, neatly pruned trees and hedges, the polished marble and walnut paneled lobby, the friendly and efficient staff — remained, as in the good old days, comme il faut. But in harder times they had lowered rates, and that tended to make the place less exclusive. To the discriminating, such as Eisenstein, that change appeared noticeable in the tone of the clientele, like a telltale smudge on the wainscoting.
“They are always so loud,” he thought. Eisenstein made that observation while standing in a short line at the registration desk. The stylishly dressed, thirty-something couple ahead of him chattered incessantly while their children, a boy of about eight and his somewhat younger sister, scampered up and down the lobby. “I would’ve been slapped, if I had behaved like that in public,” our friend thought. He categorized the family: “Trailer trash with money.”
The couple took their turn at the desk where they complained about the wait in line, which had not been long; the parking accommodations, which were in fact quite good; the service, which was impeccable; and so forth. “Trying to get a lower rate on a better room,” our friend speculated to himself, adding as an afterthought, “How typical of them.”
At that moment, the boy skidded on the slick marble floor and slammed into Eisenstein. Our friend winced, exhaled loudly and glared at the brat.
“Sorry mister.” The presence of his parents prompted a grudging apology. The father turned at the sound of Eisenstein’s “Ooof,” followed by the boy’s perfunctory expression of regret. The mother continued haggling with the desk clerk as though nothing had happened.
“I hope you’re all right, sir? The kid didn’t mean it. He’s just antsy after a long drive.” The father smiled like a used-car salesman peddling junk. Then, he turned to his boy. “Stop it, d’you hear? We’ll be done soon.”
The boy looked down and whined, “All right, Dad, but what about Meredith?” At that moment, the little girl whizzed by, wailing her Hollywood-inspired impression of the evil dead.
“Well, at least she hasn’t run into anyone — yet.” The father shared a knowing smirk with his male offspring, as though they both anticipated disaster and were amused at the prospect.
Eisenstein forced a rictus-like smile. “That’s all right — kids will be kids.” He continued to eye the man while thinking, “Have you considered the benefits of sterilization?”
Just then, there was a loud crash of broken glassware followed by howling. Little Meredith had made the intimate acquaintance of a fully encumbered cocktail waitress.
The mother stopped yammering at the desk clerk and turned her attention to the accident. “Oh, my baby!” she cried. “If she’s hurt, I’ll sue.” Then she tottered off on her platform shoes in the direction of the collision.
Amid all the commotion, Eisenstein noticed that the line behind him was lengthening, and a routine check-in had evolved into a tiresome melodrama. Fortunately, another desk clerk came on duty to get things moving. Our friend registered, eager to escape the family he had dubbed a prime example of Painintheassus Modernus Americanus.
* * *
Copyright © 2010 by Gary Inbinder