So this past Friday was a little crazy. Having failed to finish my revisions on the fifth Mustang Ridge book (or, rather, having finished one pass of revisions and deciding it needs one more before I can in good conscience turn it in; rather manically toying with the idea of renaming it Sagging Middle at Mustang Ridge; and giggling when I pictured the cover art to go with), I turned my attention to getting myself to a certain Sheraton in the middle of Connecticut, where I was booked to spend a weekend of quality Writer Time with my peeps, listening to Cherry Adair give her most masterful Master Class on Writing. (No, autocorrect, not 'Wiring'. That's a different master class, and probably a different Sheraton.)
And, yes, the above was one hell of a run-on sentence. You're welcome.
I had a to-do list, and I to-did it, from vacuuming the homestead (where the cat-hair bunnies had started procreating) and packing sufficient semi-matching clothes, to making a supply run so Arizona would have food while I absconded with the One Car. All while trying to make a 5 pm departure time, because when you're driving on Route 95, why not plan it for rush hour on a Friday? Just as I was wrapping up (no, not warping up; this isn't Star Trek, though come to think of it, warp speed would've been nice), I got the kind of text that one tends to get at the beginning of a girls' weekend.
It was from my most excellent roommate, G, and it read (paraphrasing, but pretty darn close): I'm in the bar with the troublemakers. We're all checked in. Push door handle up. Do. Not. Push. Down!
The bar thing? That made perfect sense. The troublemakers? Check and check. All's good with the room? Awesome. But I've got to tell you that the handle thing sounded pretty ominous, especially with the punctuation. Was that Siri being 'helpful' or was it a dire warning? And what handle? Should I beware some door, or (horrors) did we have a quirky toilet?
Sure, I could've texted back and asked her. Instead, figuring it was the sort of thing that would make sense when I got there, I loaded up the One Car, snuzzled Pixel T. Kitten, told Lucy T. Cat to watch the perimeter, assured Arizona that I had all the proper safety gear with me (New England vs. Arizona: I keep a down parka in my car; he packs jugs of water), promised to text him when I got there, and kissed him see-you-Sunday. And off I went.
The drive was uneventful, and I even secured the sort of parking spot Arizona likes, far from the crowd, under a light and with landscaping on one side. (This after our poor unsuspecting Suba-Roo got sideswiped whilst parked at a Mass Pike rest stop. He's all better now--and kudos to the woman for sticking around to give us her info--but I've stopped rolling my eyes when my beloved parks nine miles from the Walmart entrance.) Checking in was no problem, schlepping my boatload of crap (some trips I pack light; this wasn't one of them) to the fourth floor was straightforward, and our room was right on the corner.
There was a sign on the key-card-reader-thingy. It said: PUSH DOOR HANDLE DOWN.
I froze. Wait. Hadn't G said to push it up? Yes, I could've gotten my phone out and checked. But I like to live dangerously. Or follow instructions. Or something. So I swiped my card, waited for the light to turn green, and pushed the handle down, as instructed.
The door stayed locked.
Ruh roh. Had G said to push it up or down? What if she had said Don't. Push. Up? Would injudiciously pushing it up wipe the memory, meaning that both of us would have to get our cards re-keyed? Or, worse, wait for the maintenance guy to replace the card reader on our door? (Both of which have happened to me more than once at conferences.)
Or (and here was where the WriterBrain kicked in) was the device wired to a hefty blob of C4 stuck on the far side, ready to start counting down from three at the proper up-push signal? Might it trigger a guillotine? Hey, maybe the whole hotel would go into lockdown, with blast shields thudding down to cover all the doors and windows, sealing us in. The members of the new Republic of the Fourth Floor would be forced to live off the vending machines and whatever snacks we had brought with us, pooling our resources and developing a Lord of the Flies society, except with my blankie rather than a conch shell. Yikes!
Palms suddenly sweaty, I put down the rest of my crap, making a respectable pile in the doorway (including a box of granola bars and several six-packs of Ritz-and-peanut-butter crackers that I could add to the Fourth Floor collective, perhaps making up for the fact that I was the one who Pushed The Handle Up). Then, holding my breath, I swiped the card again. And this time when the light turned green, I pushed up.
And darned if the door didn't open, just like G had said it would.
So in the end, all was well. Nothing blew up, and nobody got locked on the fourth floor to reenact the fall and questionable rebirth of society. I got into the room, changed into a t-shirt that read Romance Writers' mating call: "Hey, honey, want to do some research?" and headed down to the bar to get started on my weekend.
And who knows ... Maybe one of these days I'll write a book about a hotel going into lockdown--with the hunky hero and scrappy heroine trapped together, of course, and forced to team up in order to vanquish the villains and get everyone else to safety--and you'll all know exactly where it came from!