At 3:10 a.m., I used the flashlight app on my cellphone to look for bedbugs.
I didn’t find any and didn’t expect to. I was looking for bedbugs mostly because I wasn’t asleep, and when a person isn’t sleeping in a hotel room, she naturally thinks about bedbugs. Especially if her ankles itch.
I knew my ankles itched because I was in Maine, where the mosquitoes are the size of lobsters, but in my mind I could see black dots moving at the foot of the bed.
Finally, I leaped up, threw back the blankets and investigated. Nothing.
Twenty minutes later – 3:30 by the bedside clock – someone in the room next door decided to shower. The person thumped into the tub, kicked the shower wall several times, ran water for 15 minutes and kicked his way out before removing the toilet from the floor and throwing it against the wall.
A hotel room of one’s own is a gift, at least in theory. When my children were small, I spent a night in a Chicago hotel while on a business trip. Because of some mix-up, I was upgraded to a suite, which meant a living room, a bedroom and a kitchenette.
It was wasted on me, since the aforementioned business kept me out until after 11 p.m. and breakfast was early. Still, before I stumbled into bed, I sat on the couch in the living room, inspected the kitchen and sat on the couch again on my way to the bedroom. It was glorious.
The hotel room in Maine wasn’t that fancy, but it had a king-size bed. Our farmhouse bedroom is bigger than some, but even so, installing a king-size bed would mean moving out everything else, including the closets, the rug and the electrical outlets. A wall-to-wall mattress would make more sense.
This bed was the size of a swimming pool, and when I first climbed in, I was sorry I couldn’t slice off a strip and leave the rest of the expanse untouched for the next guest.
Five hours later, I was no longer keeping to my twin-bed-sized portion. The bedbug search alone left the bed looking like a pile of prison laundry, and the four pillows, each the size of one of Snow White’s dwarfs (none of them Sleepy) were flung about like toppled gravestones.
At 3:45, I was obsessing about lunch. Friends and I had found a restaurant in downtown Bangor across from the public library. When we received our checks, I pulled out a card, then decided to pay with cash. The waiter swept up and returned our three check folders at the same time, after which we left the restaurant and walked over to the library, which turned out to be closed. Who closes a library on summer Saturdays? Why close a library on Saturdays? Is this why schoolchildren fall behind in the summer? We had many questions, all of them querulous.
It was dinnertime before I realized I had forgotten to leave a tip at lunch. I was aghast. I’ve waited tables myself. Not well – on my best days, I was awful – but I’ve done it. Not tipping is akin to petty theft.
“Calm down,” my friends said. “We tipped.” But I was inconsolable. “What must the server think of me?” I asked the wall, which was thumping again. Could I mail him a tip? Could I write a little note? “This is for the young man who waited on three women last Saturday.”
I looked at the clock. It was 3:55. And I dared to criticize the Bangor Public Library.
At 4:30, I thought about the room phone, far away across the airstrip of the mattress. In exactly one hour, that phone was going to buzz with my wake-up call. By the time I thrashed my way to it, the entire corridor would be awake. I moved the phone to the edge of the table and positioned myself crossways, the better to grab it when it rang.
Then I remembered my cellphone, charging on the other bedside table. Its alarm was set, as well. Perhaps I should reverse positions in order to silence my own phone, then whirl around to snatch the room receiver, all in one smooth movement.
At 4:45, all my neighbors turned on their televisions.
At 5:15, my phone buzzed. I shut it off.
At 5:30, the room phone rang. I was asleep.
Write to Margo Bartlett at email@example.com.