Finding Love in Unexpected Places.
“This so-called 'bargain' vacation is too good to be true,” sighed a clearly disappointed Janet. She continued, “just because something online is said or shown to be true doesn't mean it always is true. Yes, the smooth golden sand with shells easily seen on the beach's surface is beautiful. Clear skies, clean ocean waves with happy children and their families together building sandcastles are a joy to see. The palm trees are a nice touch...those pictures are too staged and too heavily edited to be real! Also, it being so inexpensive makes things appear even more suspicious." Wondering if Rosalina was sober given her atypical behavior, Janet asked,
“How much did you say it was?”
Knowing that she was about to be given an uncontrollable lecture by her best friend, even worse than hearing one from a relative or stranger, Rosalina James meekly replied,
“$1000.00 per week. For seven days and nights that's nothing compared to what it would be in other locations, beach-side or otherwise! For a newly constructed hotel, Paradise Hotel already has thousands of five star reviews! Nothing less. I would think that alone would impress Miss Social Media.”
Janet realized this was an argument she was not going to win. Desperately hoping a plain and simple explanation might work she slammed Rosalina's laptop closed. Forced to focus on Janet, she said,
“Miss Technological Engineer, I'm having great difficulty understanding your behavior. As one of the people I know who generally does read the 'Terms and Conditions,' I am trying and failing to point something out to you. Did you read the fine print? Apparently you didn't. Since I have no intention of going with you, I see no reason to read them. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if it said somewhere in the eye squinting small print that you have to sell your soul to the devil. Perhaps that's a bit crass. Unwittingly agreeing to something just as damaging is not. I just don't want you to suffer!”
Assuming that everyone possessed the same level of integrity, Rosalina, like many other people, decide not to stress herself out. Therefore, she did not try to explore the depths of the 'Terms and Conditions' fine print. Perhaps due to her desperation to spend the summer doing something fun, she naively forget all about them, although people who do often regret it.
“Don't you ever dream about surfing on gentle waves, spontaneously searching for the latest marine life rather than surfing the web for the latest information to create expertly written essays. Don't you agree that the temptation to explore the 'outside world' continues as we grow close to the end of our school careers and have to start the boring nightmare of adult life? You told me you wanted to do something this summer," opening her laptop and enthralled by the advertisement,
"why not this? Why not take a small chance and come along?”
Rosalina stood her ground on the matter and was determined to go, even though she knew that Janet was just as stubborn as she was. However, a vacation was the only way to keep her heart beating at this point. " Something this good can't possibly be a scam, right?” was constantly clouding her thoughts.
Wrong, she shortly realized as she hesitantly walked up the steps into a microscopic hotel and realized she had indeed walked herself into a scam. Paradise Hotel was in desperate need of repairs she could tell the moment she arrived. She fell, nearly breaking her leg, but caught herself before she suffered anything worse than a scraped knee and minor cuts on her hands. Taking a trek up or down this pathetic excuse for a stairway, was almost asking for a death sentence.
No railing was present and some stairs were partially falling apart. Others were missing, leaving large gaps between what stairs were sturdy enough to walk on. She gave a sigh of relief as she realized she only had to bring one large suitcase up. What a nightmare it must have been for families with significantly more luggage. Those who over packed or families having to pick up small children and pass them across the large stairway gaps to enter/exit would suffer the most.
Compared to the Paradise, the hotels featured in horror films, cells holding insane killers and general real life prisons were glamorous enough to be rated higher than the five stars available on a rating website. She desperately hoped that the photos of the island were more realistic than those of the hotel. Given that this extremely intelligent and detail oriented woman normally did read the 'Terms and Conditions' it was surprising that she did not this time...she would never have fallen for the scam if she had. What she knew for certain was that she would either need to weasel herself out or endure a week long nightmare. If she even survived the week, would she return in one piece was a thought that started pounding in her head.
Finally reaching the top of the stairs she entered the derelict hotel. Unsurprisingly, there were no signs leading to the check in desk or any other area of the hotel. Nor were there any employees in sight. Frankly, with the way the rest of the hotel appeared, it would be highly unlikely they would know what they were doing anyway.
The inside of the hotel matched the outside with regards to the supreme neglect. Wallpaper and paint were either falling off or the job not finished at all. Artwork hung with traditional glass frames were strewn across the floor, broken but the glass left unswept.
As much of a nature lover that she was, she cringed at the sight of essentially a jungle of bugs crawling all over the walls, floors and ceiling. It's bad luck to open an umbrella indoors, but she wished she had one because she surely felt bugs fall into her shirt and on her head. Her luck couldn't get any worse she thought. She didn't want to put down her suitcase but she had no choice. She quickly needed to shake any bugs out of her shirt and hair.
The sound of vicious yelling, crying and pounding on the walls indicated where she ought to go. An unusual sight to behold, an extremely large crowd of people were divided into two lines. The first line was filled with couples and families. The second was of individual travelers. Why those two lines existed was left a mystery for what seemed like an eternity. After getting line one organized, an exhausted man, clearly fearing the remaining guests' reaction rang a bell to get their attention. He then addressed them solemnly,
“Hello everyone and welcome to the Paradise Hotel. My name is Johnathan. I am the manager of this fine establishment, although given the recently spreading illness, I have been forced to fill in for many of my employees. I apologize for any unfortunate delays this may have caused you. I am delighted that you have all chosen to spend your vacation to Lush Island here!”
Hiding behind the safety of the check-in desk, he paused, clearly trying to come up with something positive to say but very little came to his mind.
“...we offer wonderful amenities and...are also within walking distance of many other places! You are easily able to expand your journey beyond Lush Island, yet we hope you will remember your home away from home is here. Like many homes, our hotel is small. Clearly our online presence is not, given the number of people who responded to our vacation advertisement!”
The crowd could easily tell that Johnathan was stalling, until finally he had no choice but to just take a deep breath and explain the situation.
“Given our vacation advertisement went viral so quickly, we had little time to take note of how many guests we were booking. Thus, it was a huge surprise when we realized we overbooked. We took a gamble, slightly overbooking, assuming people would reschedule, and clearly lost. To solve the dilemma, my staff and I have come up with an innovative solution. We are going to give our individual travelers the opportunity to meet new people. Every two people in line will share one room. Maybe you will meet a new best friend, potential work contact, or even... find TRUE LOVE! Regardless of the relationship you develop it all has to start somewhere, so why not here at the lovely Paradise Hotel!”
The outrage coming from the guests having to wait so long was but a mere whisper compared to the deafening sounds of the remaining people in the room. Cursing, swearing to write horrible reviews, and many simply confused people, questioning the legality of such a proposal all blended together so much that Johnathan could not understand what anyone was saying. So he rang the bell again to continue,
“Given the circumstances, if you would like to reschedule your stay to a different week, primarily during our off-season, we will be happy to accommodate you without any extra charge. Those of you who simply no longer have the desire to stay with us are subject to the 'Terms and Conditions.' A booking with us is non-refundable, nor is shortening your stay going to get any partial benefit. Unless you are willing to write a five-star review detailing your stay, while in our lobby. I would hate to have you forget to do so when you got home. Unconditional editing at our discretion is also a point to be noted."
Seeing the disbelief spread across all of their faces, Johnathan simply stated,
"No, I am not joking, you can see quite clearly stated at the bottom of the 'Terms and Conditions.” Reaching under the desk, grabbing pens and paper, both which needed bugs shaken off he laid those down and gave one final address to the crowd,
“I hope nobody wants to leave, but I understand. We have been short staffed at the moment due to sudden illness, a situation not present when the ad was posted. Many of the present maintenance difficulties will be addressed promptly. Paper and pens will be located here. Those who would like to reschedule please stand over there and I will work with each of you after I am through distributing keys to the remaining individuals.” The manager had to find additional pens and paper as several people sat down and began to write.
One would have simply thought it would be a first come, first serve situation with the temporary roommate assignments. Due to the clearly uneven amount of each gender present, many strangers of the same gender hurriedly found someone to stay with. Those who were unlucky, as Rosalina was, or simply did not care enough were placed in an opposite gender assignment. Even if she was paired up with another woman, it would still be an enormous risk to partake in what seemed like a social experiment. Thoroughly annoyed by the fact that none of her friends wanted to come, she realized how utterly alone she was.
Rescheduling for any other time was not an option because of her school schedule. Her built in sense of integrity prevented her from writing a faux five-star review. Her desperation for any vacation at all, also made walking away unthinkable.
Maybe, the gears turning in her head, since she came to be outside, not stuck in a hotel room, she could simply stay out the whole day and come back at night. Apparently, other places were within walking distance. A week of fun in the sun, would be a blessing regardless of the situation. She just prayed that the man she was paired with knew how to be respectful. The last thing she needed was to come home with a horror story as a souvenir.
Well, you get what you pay for Rosalina thought to herself. Alas, the money the future PhD spent booking such a 'bargain' would have been better spent saving to help pay off her ridiculously high amount of student debt. Grabbing two keys, both which needed to be sterilized, the man she was assigned to as a roommate handed her one. After navigating the small hallway maze, they found their room.
Behaving like a gentleman, he began to open the door for her. However, he quickly changed his mind and prevented her from entering the room. Curious as to his altered reaction Rosalina asked,
“What's the matter?”
He simply replied,
“I looked and it's clear there are too many bugs in this room to survive an hour in, let alone seven days. Of all the hotels I have stayed in over the past month, this has to be the worst. Learning from experience, I brought my own cleaning supplies, including bug spray. I'm going to take a few minutes to spray the room completely. Unfortunately, we won't be able to stay in there for several hours given that breathing in such chemicals may prove fatal."
Appearing to fear for his life as he reached over for bug spray, he commented,
"I suggest that to kill time we drive over into the nearby town to stock up on cleaning supplies. Perhaps there will be something of interest to do. I would feel incredibly guilty if something happened because you were alone in this pathetic excuse for a hotel.”
Wondering if it would be a pleasant ride or if she was about to commit suicide by going with him, Rosalina chose to assume the former. If nothing else, it would be like a taxi ride. Two strangers meeting, one driving and a passenger, with neither person behaving rudely. She could not disagree with him regarding the quality of the room based on the quality of the rest of Paradise Hotel. She briefly thought he was a superhero given how quickly he sprayed the room. She soon realized however, it was the room being incredibly small that resulted in such a fast finish. Slightly exhausted, the man wiped his hands off with a disinfectant wipe.
“Now that I am finished let's leave ASAP. By the way, my name is Dr. Jacob Houghman. What is your name?”
“Rosalina James, soon to be Dr. James. So where are we going?” she asked.
“Tree Town. Aside from what I mentioned earlier, it would be beneficial for both of us to get to know our way around. I'm a geneticist presenting at several research conferences for Humanity Research regarding the current outbreak of the Ripping illness. I'm not surprised by the absence of hotel employees, especially female workers given that our current research indicates it only effects women. Perhaps you should attend."
Noticing the blood on her pant legs and hands Dr. Houghman remarked, “It seems you fell victim to a similar injury on the barely there stairs that I did.” Showing his bandaged hands and arm.
"Let's see what I can do about your injuries before we go any further, alright?"
Due to all the other distractions, she had actually forgotten about her injuries. Given the state of the hotel and assuming an MD would know how to treat a simple wound she agreed to sit in his car while he looked her over. It took longer to remove the splinters and otherwise complete the process of treating her wounds compared to spraying the room down. This further indicated just how poorly designed things were in that hotel. If the stairs were properly constructed neither would have suffered injuries. Maybe being the roommate of a doctor would actually be beneficial.
After only about a 15 minute drive to Tree Town, they found a convenience store where he bought enough cleaning and bug spray to last a lifetime. A kindly older employee provided them with a map and schedule of the nearby town and coming attractions. Rosalina looked through it and saw something that made her eyes light up with excitement. A mid-week conference/exhibit on many technological innovations, including the possibility of artificial life creation, a step beyond robots. For a future Technological Engineering PhD, attending this would be a must.
Wondering what a geneticist would think of such possibilities, she told him her plans for that day and he indicated his interest in attending. While the minority of those in his specialty would agree with him, he found such topics fascinating. Whether anything discussed could be combined with human development piqued his curiosity. However, Dr. Houghman's curiosity was truly of Rosalina.
He certainly hoped she would not assume attending either conference qualified as a date. Eventually, asking her out on a date was something he strongly considered. Both individuals were attractive, although not worthy of being called models. They were also within the correct age designation. Not appearing to look like an odd couple, their shared interests and generally high intelligence made him think he had a chance. Being rich is rude to brag about, but likely a plus even to non-greedy women, he thought. The normal solemnness that comes with presenting grim research to the public was alleviated by her company. Glad that she took her mother's advice to bring both casual and nicer clothing she was able to emphasize her attractiveness. Rosalina hoped he was not expecting a long-term relationship. Seven days simply is not a practical amount of time to get that far.
Making a new friend made the trip worthwhile. She found someone who appreciated her for who she was rather than disregarding her as a sci-fi junkie. Being told she looked beautiful boosted her confidence. The Lush Island beach and Tree Town looked even better than the photos, especially with him beside her. Instead of a hotel, Paradise should advertise as a dating service.
Pointing out they lived closer together than they originally thought, Dr. Houghman suggested they meet again. Exchanging numbers, Rosalina made her first logical decision of the vacation as she politely commented, “yes, but not just yet.”