The day after Cecil flew out (hopefully fully clothed), Mammy O’Grady landed at Tegel Airport for her first visit to Berlin. Now, I’m sure most people’s mothers can visit and have a perfectly normal, totally drama-free trip, but well, this is me, so let’s begin, shall we?
Mammy O’Grady’s flight was due to land just after my evening lesson ended which gave me enough time to make my way across the city to meet her at her hotel. My sister had stayed at the same place a few weeks earlier so I knew exactly where I was going. In fact, I was a bit early so I circled the block looking for likely places to eat. MO’G likes her food…
I walked into the hotel lobby just as some guests were leaving in a taxi. I was a bit surprised at the way the receptionist looked at me; OK, so I’d worked a 12-hour day, but I didn’t think I looked like a complete hobo. I turned away from him and started discreetly scrabbling in my bag for a hair brush, just in case.
Receptionist: Can I help you?
Me: Um, no thanks. I’m just waiting for my mother. She’s staying here.
Receptionist: This is not possible.
Me: (Harumph – you can call me a hobo but not Mammy O’Grady…) No, she is. She’s just not here yet. She’s at the airport.
Receptionist: NEIN. The hotel is closed.
At this point, I took a look around. The reception was much darker than I remembered – and empty. The roaring fire was no longer roaring and the lifts had been cordoned off. Hmm, maybe there was something to this hotel closure he spoke of…
Me: But, but, it can’t be closed. Mammy O’Grady is staying here.
Receptionist: (taking pity on the confused hobo in front of him) What’s your mother’s name?
I gave it, he tapped at his computer for a few seconds and informed me that MO’G had been rebooked into another – even better – hotel just around the corner.
I managed to get MO’G on the phone, tell her the odd news and redirect the taxi to the new hotel. Thankfully, she was travelling with a friend or I think this would have sent her straight back to the airport.
Receptionist: I’m really sorry about all of this. I wish I could offer you a drink but the bar is closed too.
Me: (Dammit) What happened here anyway?
Receptionist: (with a (probably imagined) haunted look in his eye) There was an accident… The hotel has been closed while an investigation is being carried out.
Curiouser and curiouser. Anyway, I didn’t have time to ponder just then, so I marched around the corner and got to the door of the other hotel just as a confused MO’G and friend were pulling up in their taxi.
Greetings, hugs and vague explanations and theories out of the way, we made our way to reception. The super-cute receptionist flirted with my mother outrageously while checking them in, keeping up a machine gun-like flow of verbal patter like a German Don Juan on speed.
So this was what 4+ star service was like…
We walked away from reception, with MO’G glowing from her first exchange with a handsome, young German gentleman.
MO’G: If I were ten years younger…
LO’G: TEN?? Jesus. You’d still be old enough to be his mother.
We stepped into the lift and in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Zoolander, MO’G hit 4. Then her friend hit 4. Then MO’G hit 4. Nothing happened.
Me: (with only moderate, daughterly eye-rolling) You need to use your card.
Much giggling later, we arrived at room 4034. MO’G swiped the card. Nothing happened. Her friend swiped the card. Nothing happened. MO’G swiped the card. Nothing happened. Her friend swiped the card. Nothing happened.
Me: Oh, for God’s sake. Let me try it.
Me: Are you sure that’s a 4? Maybe it’s a 9?
So we traipsed to room 4039 and carried out the same procedure. Nothing happened. Back to room 4034 for several more attempts and a lot of handle rattling. Suddenly, the door opened, not because the card had worked, but because a ridiculously attractive older man had opened it, from the inside. I wondered how long he’d been watching the three mad women through his peephole before deciding we were probably harmless.
MO’G: (getting the hang of German directness in record time) You… you’re in our room.
Sexy stranger: (with a smile on his lips) No, this is my room.
It was true; he did look rather comfortable in his hotel slippers. After a rather confusing, amusing conversation (and an invitation to join him), I called reception from the phone in the hall. It seemed the receptionist had been so busy flirting, he’d written down 4034 instead of 4043. Mystery solved.
When I got home later that night, I Googled the first hotel and “Unfall”. It turned out that a 37-year-old Finnish man had died of smoke inhalation in the sauna there, following a fire. It also emerged that the fire alarm system hadn’t been operational for weeks in the run-up to the fatal accident. No wonder there was an investigation underway. While the irony of a Finn dying in a sauna was probably lost on the Finn, it wasn’t wasted on me. To the best of my knowledge, the hotel is still closed.
Anyway, not one to let a hotel closure, a fire, a dead Finn and an attempted break-in stop her, Mammy O’Grady ended up having a ball. She loved Berlin and has decided she will come back for another visit in the spring.
I guess I should start preparing myself now.