BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The high-pitched smoke detector screeches loudly and I rush from the bathroom to the kitchenette of my hotel room. The building will be evacuated if I don’t quickly stop the cause of the noise and I simply cannot have that happen. Urgently I switch the toaster off, grab a chair and stand on it to reach the alarm. With a towel wrapped around me I stretch up and press the silent button. With my arms extended to the ceiling my towel falls to the floor. At that exact moment the door to my room opens.
Me: Jesus! Shit! (I drop to a crouch on the chair, in a sort of naked Terminator pose).
The hotel manager: Christ, I’m sorry! (He pauses for a moment, clearly searching for the words to justify his intrusion). I’m just here to investigate a fire.
I look at him over my bare shoulder in a room now so quiet you could hear a pin drop. His eyes are bolted steadfastly on my face as he slowly processes the situation.
It’s Tuesday morning at the Four-Trees Apartments in St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Minutes earlier I’d showered and carved a piece of the delicious fruit loaf I’d purchased at Prahran Market the previous day. I’d popped the toaster down and returned to the bathroom to comb my wet hair; I was really looking forward to a thick piece of buttery toast with apricots and dates coated in sesame seeds. Now I’m frozen to the chair as cold water from my hair trickles down my back: a plump and self-conscious drenched albino rat.
The young hotel manager finally overcomes his stunned embarrassment and looks away. I unsuccessfully try to break the uneasy silence by desperately babbling.
Me: It’s okay, it was just some toast. It didn’t even burn. The smoke detector must be overly sensitive. I’ve stopped it now. There’s no fire.
The hotel manager: Oh good. Okay. Um, I still need to check the area and re-set the alarm …. Sorry. I just can’t leave the area without making sure.
Jesus Christ, seriously?
The awkward atmosphere continues as he turns and faces the door to give me much overdue privacy. I get off the chair with as much self-assurance as I can muster, pick up the towel and wrap it back around me. In a weak attempt to reduce the discomfort I switch the TV on, purely for some noise, and head to the bathroom to dress.
I hear him bustle around the room making the necessary checks and he leaves with an excessively loud, “Okay that’s all sorted! Let me know if you need anything else”! I call out thanks, knowing that I’ll be avoiding him for the remainder of my stay. The air conditioning doesn’t work, the safe doesn’t lock and the Wifi keeps cutting out, all unacceptable in a five-star hotel, but I’ll put up with the flaws for the next two days. Certain he’ll tell his staff about this incident, I’ll do my best to keep a low profile until I check-out. Sigh. Causing an evacuation would have been less embarrassing. Admittedly, supervising the toasting bread in the first instance would have been the best approach … well my lesson has been sharply learnt through good old-fashioned humiliation.