Basil? Is that you?

I admit that I put off finding a hotel until pretty close to the last minute, so maybe I should have expected that things wouldn’t go perfectly well. Still, when I first spoke with the front desk clerk to make my reservation, the fact that I had this conversation should have alerted me that the owners of the hotel were named Mr. and Mrs. Fawlty:

Me: I’d like to make a reservation for next week, please.
Clerk: Sure. What kind of room would you like? We have king sized beds available, queen-sized beds, and double twins all available.
Me: Ooh, I’d like a king-sized please.
Clerk: Just a sec, let me see if one’s available.

I made some sort of "Whu?" noise, because she needed to check on the availability of the rooms she’d just told me were available, but she was gone. Then she was back a moment later:

Clerk: I’m sorry, we have no king-sized beds available. Would you like a queen?
Me: Uh… Sure.

Then when I got to the front desk to check in:

Clerk: Would you like a room with free high-speed wireless Internet access?
Me: Sure, that would be great!
Clerk: (After checking on his computer) I’m sorry, we don’t have any rooms with wireless available. We’re overbooked, you see. But I can give you a cable to use in a room with an Internet jack.
Me: Uh… Sure.

That was okay. Actually, it worked out better for me, because my Kubuntu laptop is always a little shy when trying to connect to wireless networks in strange places, whereas wired Internet access is always just fine.

I also asked for directions to a local grocery store. I got directions to a local Walgreens, and was told that there were grocery stores close to it. There weren’t any really close to the Walgreen’s, but I did find a Trader Joe’s about two miles away. That worked out well too.

Now, because the University I work for makes it notoriously difficult to get reimbursement for expenses, my boss suggested I should arrange to have our financial services department pre-pay with a check that they would FedEx to the hotel. When I checked in I was told that the check hadn’t arrived, but that was no surprise. I’d checked in on Sunday, and even if the check had arrived the day before there would have been no one in Accounts Processing to deal with it. When I called on Monday to make sure the check had arrived I was told it hadn’t. "But," the accounts supervisor told me, "there is a package at the front desk for you."

Curious — and kind of annoyed that the check hadn’t arrived — I went to the front desk. Where there was indeed a package. Sent from me, with the shipping label I had filled out with my name in the sender’s name field and addressed to Accounts Processing.

Me: This isn’t for me. This is for Accounts Processing.
Clerk: (points at shipping label) But your name is on it.
Me: Yes, in the sender’s field. It’s addressed to Accounts Processing.
Clerk: (blank look)
Me: Would you like me to open it?
Clerk: (looking relieved) Yes, please.

Meanwhile, the Accounts Processing supervisor was hovering over the front desk clerk, sniffing. "He thinks that the check for his room is in there," she said with the tone that suggested I was a lunatic and idiot child for even thinking such a thing.

So I opened up the package, sure that opening a FedEx package not addressed to me is a violation of some sort of policy. And sure enough, inside is a check for the hotel, written out by my University’s accounts payable department.

Me: Well, this certainly looks like a check. Here.
Clerk: Thanks, we’ll take care of this right away.
Accounts Processing Supervisor: Sniff.

The first day of the conference passed without any issues. I went to the pre-conference event and had a pretty spiffy time, though the information wasn’t as valuable to me as I’d hoped it would be. The pre-conference event was in my hotel, but the main conference was in the Convention Center a couple of blocks away.

For the main conference I went to the convention center a few minutes before the keynote speaker was to begin and asked for my nametag. After some hunting, the girl at the desk told me mine wasn’t there. After some hunting and some asking around, it turned out that my hotel had actually thrown away several dozen nametags that were on their premises. Mine was among them, but at least I wasn’t the only one spending the day without a nametag.

There were other minor incidents throughout my stay at the hotel, but those are the ones that really stood out. None of them were really bad, and I was never really horribly inconvenienced so at no time was I really annoyed. So it was kind of like an episode of Fawlty Towers, but without the comic genius of John Cleese.

So that was my grand adventure in South San Francisco. Oh, and there was a conference or something where I learned some stuff which I’ll talk about later.