I blame myself for the error of judgment. I should have realised that this 'independent Mediterranean-style family-run property' was not going to be an ideal choice based on the Trip Advisor comment that said 'this could be a great hotel, just not in this country.' But downtown Houston was full for the NBTA Convention and I didn't want to be stuck out in the boonies with an almost-in-Dallas zip code. So I took a chance...
It was a Sunday afternoon; the mercury way up over 100°F; and the city streets were deserted as the taxi pulled up outside the hotel entrance. It was an anonymous looking building with a simple glass door and few clues as to its function. Then a figure emerged from inside. Dressed in old jeans and a t-shirt, he had the grizzled and emaciated appearance of a man who's eventful life has added 70 years to his 40 year old frame. As he paused at the entrance, I could just make out the slogan emblazoned across his chest - 'body piercing saved my life'. There was a reddish stain on his shoulder that looked suspiciously like blood. He started to walk across to the taxi. My heart beat a little faster. Was this man typical of the hotel clientele? Maybe it was one of those welfare hostels. Would I have to spend the night fully dressed behind triple locked doors clutching a kitchen knife? "Careful man" murmured the cab driver as he prepared for a fast exit.I opened the taxi door. "Good afternoon sir", said the blood-stained, grizzled 110 year old, "may I take your bags?"
The blood-stained, 110 year old grizzled doorman led me into the tiny lobby where I was checked in by a thickly accented man of Mediterranean descent. In the background, two weary women of indeterminate age absent-mindedly shuffled papers and yawned. I took my key and followed Grizzly up the stairs and into a room on the first floor. He seemed like a nice man so I tipped him generously, partly as insurance against any nocturnal axe-thru-door incidents. After he'd gone I surveyed my surprisingly pleasant room. There were two large windows...but these were covered by blinds that refused to open. There was a coffee maker... but it refused to make coffee. There was a wifi signal... but my laptop refused to connect.
I had three hours to kill before the NBTA opening reception. So I triple locked the door, sat on the bed and - kitchen knife in hand - waited for night to fall.