"What do you mean, 'I've missed it'?"
The tired look on the airline employee's face tells me that she has no desire to repeat herself.
"Well… when is the next flight?" I press again.
A few taps on the keyboard later, she gives me her best smile and informs me that I've got twelve hours to burn. Before I can launch into my stereotypically American rant about how that will be unacceptable and it's the holidays and I have places to be and they can't treat me like this… she announces that the airline will be happy to put me up in a hotel for the night.
I sigh deeply and glance at my phone. Six forty-five, December thirty-first. I'm supposed to meet my friends in San Francisco in four hours. Now it looks like I'll be spending it alone in Charlotte, NC.
I inform the desk clerk that since I appear to have no choice at all, I will take the room.
My mood doesn't improve when I'm informed that while I didn't make the connecting flight… my luggage most certainly did.
All I can do is scowl at the city as the airport shuttle whisks me through the busy streets to my hotel destination.
I call the guys in 'Frisco and give them the bad news. I endure their playful berating about how I just had to eat extra spicy burritos earlier in the day and how it tied me up long enough to miss my connecting flight. I swear I almost started to cry when they told me about some of the ladies they had wanted to introduce me to.
Sometimes it really sucks to be me.
My boy Brad offers to send a guest or two over to my hotel room to cheer me up a little. I express appreciation for the gesture, but tell him no thanks.
I end the call and return to my window staring ways. Hopefully the hotel will have a decent bar with cheap drinks tonight. I figure a nice bottle of scotch will be the only thing on my lips come midnight.
"Here you are, sir," the van driver says as he hands me my carry-on bag. "I try and give him a smile. The poor jerk must have to deal with pissed off people twenty-four-seven. I follow up my smile with a fiver. At the very least, I'm going to try and act like a human being toward him.
"Three-seventeen…" I mutter to myself as I check my hotel keycard. "Just high enough for me to jump out the window and end it all. At least the airline was considerate enough to give me that."
My door unlocks with a little 'beep' and I step inside.
I immediately sense that this room isn't empty and check my keycard again. I look back and forth several times… yes… three-seventeen is correct alright. The damn airline has doubled booked the room. Perfect.
The clothing on the bed lets me know that the other person is female. I suddenly understand what's happening – I smile and chuckle to myself. My boy Brad is a bad, bad man.
Whoever she is, she's singing loudly in the shower right now. I kick off my shoes and stretch out on the queen sized bed. Not bad. I'm still going to send the young woman on her way when she gets out, but not bad. I'll have to call the boys and thank them later. It's good to have some buddies that are willing to open their pocketbooks and have your back.
The shower stops and she steps out – fresh as a daisy and naked as the day she was born. She walks around the corner, sees me, screams and jumps back behind the corner again.
I only catch a brief glimpse, but she looks expensive. Blonde. Gorgeous. Again, I make a note to thank Brad later.
"WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?!" she screams. "WHAT DO YOU WANT!? HOW DID YOU GET IN HERE!?"
This catches me off guard. She doesn't seem to understand what is supposed to happen right now.
"Uuuuuuuum, I'm Jack… this is my room… and, didn't Brad send you over?" As I ask the question, the reality of the situation hits me like a ton of bricks. The room was double-booked, and Brad didn't send anyone over.
"WHO THE HELL IS BRAD!?"
My heart sinks. I'm so embarrassed right now.
"HOW DID YOU GET IN HERE!?" she demands again.
I hold my keycard up so she can see it from around the corner.
"I used my keycard. I missed my flight and the airline is putting me up in this room tonight."
My 'roommate' starts to cuss. A lot. I won't record all the colorful adjectives and phrases she uses, but she goes on non-stop for an entire minute.
"Well, I'm booked in this room for the same reason, but buddy… you'd better believe I'm not sharing a room with you! I'm not a hooker. Do you understand? If you touch me in any way, I'm calling the police! Give me a sign that you understand what I'm telling you!"
"Yes, yes, fine…" I stand and stride toward the door. "I'm going to go tell the front desk that the airline has screwed up and that I need a different room."
"Good, you do th—"
I door closes behind me, mercifully cutting her tirade short. It's just my luck that I'd get stuck with some prude who automatically thinks the worst of me.
I hastily explain the situation to the hotel clerk. After a few clicks of his mouse, he explains that there are no other rooms available. Peachy. He tries a few of the other hotels in the area, but to no avail. Seems everyone in the area comes to the grand metropolis of Charlotte for New Year's Eve, and there's no room in the inn.
Well I'm not going to go sleep in some cave, so back to my room I go.
I slip my keycard into the lock and knock several times as I open the door again.
The blonde, now fully dressed sadly, looks up from the side of the bed and scowls.
"Three guesses as to how many other rooms are available in this city tonight, and the first two don't count."
She cusses again. Bit of a potty-mouth on this one.
"Buddy…" she starts again, "it's not going to happen. You're not staying here."
She's really starting to get on my nerves now.
"Why?" I ask as even-toned as I can manage. "Because you got here first? I'm pretty sure my keycard is every bit as valid as yours!"
She starts to say something, but then thinks better of it and looks away.
I walk across the room and sit in the chair beside the balcony. Neither of us looks at the other or says anything for an unbearable amount of time.
"Fine," she says quietly, finally breaking the silence. "But I'm taking the bed. By myself. Get it?"
"Yes, fine," I reply, too tired at this point to negotiate. "The floor works. Better for my back anyway."
"Fine," she says again quietly. More unbearable silence follows.
"When is your flight?" I finally ask.
"Six-thirty," she replies, barely a whisper this time.
"Same. San Francisco?"
She looks up and nods slowly.
I nod some more back.
Then suddenly she leans forward, covers her face with her hands and starts to weep. Who does that? What am I supposed to do now?
I lean forward and reach out toward her.
"Okay… okay… I'm sorry for earlier, okay? It was a misunderstanding. I promise. I'm sorry I made assumptions. I'm an idiot."
She waves my hand away.
"No…" she sobs. "Whatever. I don't care about that. I overreacted anyway."
"You found a strange man on your bed when you came out of the shower. I think you reacted just right actually!" I say with a smile, trying to lift the mood a little.
I manage to get a teary smile in return. She looks at me for a moment, then extends her hand to shake.
"I'm Jill, b-t-w."
I take and shake the peace offering being made to me.
"Jack," I say again.
The tears keep coming, but at least she's smiling now.
"Jack and Jill – well that's just perfect," she says and chuckles again. "Two strangers meet in a hotel room on New Year's Eve, and one of them just got dumped a few hours ago." She wipes the tears from her eyes. "Sounds like the beginning of a trashy romance novel."
"Yeah, it does," I reply with a chuckle of my own. "Are you okay? I'm actually not in a relationship, so I'm pretty sure I'm not the one that just got dumped."
In response, Jill stands and opens the minibar. She takes out a vodka and tosses me a scotch. Returning to the edge of the bed, she holds up her bottle in salute.
"Here's to two strangers, a minibar full of booze, and a night where anything can happen."
I watch as she whips the seal off the tiny bottle and starts pounding it back.
All I can do is hold up my bottle in like manner and do likewise. I'm suddenly starting to think this New Year's Eve might not be so bad after all.