“Did he just bite you?”
“Yeah. He bit my ankle.” I got ready to kick Yappy the rat-dog if he went for a second taste.
“Oh, no he didn’t. He just pretends.”
“No, he bit me.” I turned and walked out the door, frowning.
I don’t know about you, but many of my conversations with dog owners end with me wanting to cock my head to the side like a confused puppy. I like my dog enough (barely), but I’m far from a fanatic. If the focus of this story was the little ankle biter, I’d go on, but there’s definitely more meat in other places (even though it was a pretty fat dog).
The conversation was the end of an encounter that definitely had me shaking my head, but I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I even joked with some friends shortly after that I had just met the woman who was going to murder me and cut off my face so she could wear it. That joke made me chuckle, but I forgot about it until I mentioned the discussion to my wife a few days later, mistakenly thinking she would laugh along with me. I was wrong.
Let me preface the rest of this story by stating clearly that I understand my actions were either extremely confident or extremely stupid (probably both). In any case, as my wife put it, I wouldn’t have wanted her to do what I did under any circumstance. Let me set the stage:
My family and I are in the middle of relocating from our home in New Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. During the transition, my wife and kids have remained at home to get our house sold and tie up loose ends while I have been living in an extended stay for the past two months. The hotel is mostly quiet and my interactions with other people have mostly been limited to the hotel staff and my cat, who my wife insisted I bring with me. The cat and I have had some deep, thought-provoking conversations by the way.
During the first week of my stay, I left the room to drive around a bit and noticed a note on my car’s windshield. As I walked up I looked around to see if anyone else was nearby, but I was alone. I pulled the note off and read it.
“I’m from New Mexico too. Rm 124.”
I looked up again and looked around to see if I could spot a license plate like mine. Nothing.
I put the note in my pocket, forgot about it, and drove around a while looking for something to do. Most of the area I’m in was still on fairly strict lockdown then, so I headed back around dinner time. When I got back I noticed quite a few cars in the restaurant parking lot across the street from the hotel and decided to take my chances. As it turned out they were serving dinner on their “heated” patio. That was my first bad decision of the night.
The food was delicious, but the heaters on the patio were mounted to the top of one of those makeshift dining room tents and weren’t exactly uniform in their ability to warm the space. By the time I finished, my head and shoulders were nice and toasty, but I had to walk back to my room on two frozen popsicle legs. I noticed room 124 as I made my way back to my room and then remembered the note. So, I decided to stop in and say hi.
At this point in the story there are three pieces of information I had that you should be aware of.
1. Room 124 is directly next to mine.
2. Room 124 is occupied by an old lady and her dog.
3. I had two very high-gravity IPAs at dinner that night.
The door opened and a look of confusion flashed across the occupant’s face. The yappy rat dog began alerting her to my presence as I held up the note.
“You left me this,” I said. She paused and then smiled.
“Oh! Let me get a mask!” She slammed the door in my face.
If you’ve read along with me thus far, please understand that the irony of a horror film aficionado standing at a stranger’s hotel room door holding an ominous note is totally not lost on me. I was about to turn and go into my room when she opened the door again, this time clad in a cloth face mask. Yappy announced my return.
This point in the story was actually very quick, so I won’t hype it up to be more than it was. Immediately I learned several things. It did not smell good in there. She was NOT from New Mexico but rather had lived there once (30 freaking years ago!!!). Despite my obvious physical superiority, I had put myself in a situation that could have been very dangerous. She wanted to converse and be besties, I wanted nothing more than to go back to my room and push the couch up against the door. So, I quickly excused myself and turned to leave. That’s when Yappy decided to show me who is boss by nipping the heel of my shoe.
When I left I sent my joke text to my friends and then wound down for the night. I didn’t think about it again until I told my wife. Her concern got me thinking about this supposed “new normal” we live in these days. I won’t make any excuses about the stupidity of my choice that night (I didn’t die after all), but I wonder if the deprivation of personal contact we’ve all shared over this past year has changed the way I perceive risk. I’ll never know if I “would have” gone there pre-covid. We’re not there anymore. I do know, however, that my shit’s not right alarm certainly didn’t work as fast as it has in the past. If I were going to make a bet, I’d say quite a few of us are in that boat. It may well be time we start sharpening our risk analysis skills. One day we may actually have to use them in real life again…