In Banff: On night duty

Of course I hated it, as I’ve always hated the addiction, and suddenly, in a wave of anger fuelled by this weakness, I grabbed my pack of cigarettes and lighter and threw them in a trash can near the Banff Park Museum. Impulsively, indeed, but then you got to stop any addiction at some point. This night felt – for undefined reasons – like a perfect moment to quit smoking. But was it the right night for it?

Just then, a group of teenagers, standing at the red pedestrian light on the other side of the road, howled like wolves, one reacting to the other. A pick-up truck with music pounding out the open windows drove right by me, taking a right onto Banff Avenue, toward the bridge. ‘We did it, bitches!’ yelled the young passengers. ‘We’re in the Rockies! Fuck yeah!’ Across the street, another group of such young men passed by; they wore wigs, skirts, and fake tits. The lights went green. I crossed the road, as did the howling teenagers and dressed-up young men on the other side. They reminded me that it was Friday night; I feared the Friday, and already regretted having thrown away that pack of cigarettes – hell, how I longed for a fag right now!

Down the Avenue were lines of youngsters in front of the Brew Pub and a dancing called Sasquatch. The boys had beards and wore caps, they were being loud and in jolly moods. The girls were dressed to the bearable minimum. Police cars stood in the middle of the avenue, with their lights on and engines running, and cops walked by the lines. Rock music was audible from several bars; live music was especially loud. One would almost forget that we were inside a national park.

I hated Friday night! From 2am onwards, I’d be confronted with people who were drunk and in festive moods, because neighbouring rooms experiencing noise would ring down and ask for me to shut them up. I hadn’t flown to Canada for that. But what could I do? Go home again, back to the Netherlands? Not a chance. I had come to Banff for two years and was here to stay for two years. I could have known what Canadians meant by “national park”; I could have informed myself in the Netherlands before making a decision, but I’d deliberately chosen to arrive uninformed. Dealing with drunks would thus be part of the unexpected Banff experience.

‘Hi, Archibald,’ I greeted my English colleague as I walked in.

‘Hi, Jesser,’ he said. Jesser was the British nickname for Jerry, as I called myself in English.

I walked into the back office and took off my coat. Archibald was in Canada on a working holiday visa: hij could work anywhere in this country and if he didn’t like it, he’d simply move on to the next employer. The hotel where we worked, had asked him if he’d cover the night shift two nights a week. He’d refused. His sleep was too dear to him. I didn’t have that luxury: I was in a feudal situation. If I’d resign, I’d have to leave Canada. Better still: I was only allowed to work here as a night receptionist, because nobody else wanted to do that job. It was the condition on which the hotel had been able to arrange a work permit for two years.

I returned to the front desk to commence the night shift.

‘How was your day, Sir?’ Archibald greeted the fat coach driver who walked.

‘Fuck you…,’ the coach driver said, and laughed.

Archibald raised an eyebrow. ‘Excuse me?’

‘Oh, it’s been such a long day. …I was just kidding.’

‘You may find that funny, but I do not. Don’t talk to me like that.’

The bus driver gave Archibald an apologetic look. ‘I was just messing with ya.’

‘I’ll tell you again: I do not find that funny. That is not how I wish to be spoken to. Do not do that again.’

The coach driver engaged in some small talk with me, and then seized the opportunity to apologize to Archibald.

‘Apology accepted. …Don’t do it again.’

The coach driver mumbled something and strode off to the elevator.

Archibald looked truly insulted. ‘Unbelievable. Unbelievable, mate! I asked him how his day was, and he answered with “Fuck you!”’

Shaking his head, he went into the back office to grab his backpack and jacket.

I asked, ‘Anything to pass on?’

‘The only thing was that room 348 has received an extra duvet, but I’ve emailed Housekeeping to notify them. And that’s it, really.’ He came out of the back office, ready to go home. ‘All right, Jesser. Have a nice shift.’

‘Thanks, mate. Have a good night.’

‘Have a good night, mate,’ Archibald said with a nod.

As he walked out the door, a man walked from the hallway, where the rooms on the ground floor were located, to the front desk. He was middle-aged, and his tousled hair indicated that he had just been sleeping. He had a big head, wore a black leather coat and dark jeans. While still being five meters away from the desk, he bellowed, ‘The internet in this hotel is absolutely the worst of the worst of the worst! I tried to make a phone call, nothing! It’s terrible! I have stayed in many hotels’ – one had to love such grandiloquent boasting – ‘and it has never been nearly as horrible as it is here!’

He arrived at the desk and stared at me expectantly, but I thought that this theatrical guy with his Einstein hair was brilliant. He made me laugh. To my delight, he continued, ‘And it’s so cheap to get a good router! It’s so cheap! Just get a good router that will guarantee a good connection! I tried to log in at 5PM and it was simply impossible!’ What did he want me to do except for enjoying his performance? ‘Now that I know this I will never stay here again!’ Again an expectant look. I just sat there, smiling. ‘Anyway,’ he said when he realized that this would not result in anything else but a silent and scarily smiling front desk agent, ‘thank you.’ And he walked away.

He could’ve informed me in a normal manner about the malfunctioning Wi-Fi network and I’d have simply reset it, but instead, he had felt that he should bawl at That Face behind the counter, and That Face had responded with grinning and nodding. People like him made me very cynical, that’s all.

I counted the till. Canadian money was colorful, and seeing the Queen of England on it – whom in Dutch media was never referred to as the Queen of Canada – made the Atlantic Ocean feel like the North Sea. Yet this was Canada, and I could be absolutely gobsmacked when Americans, who had obviously shown their passports to Canadian border officials, still seemed to think that they were in the United States. Such was vividly demonstrated when a lady from Alabama presented herself at the front desk and asked, ‘What do your vending machines work on?’

‘Coins,’ I said.

‘Oh, which ones?’

‘Any. They will provide change.’

‘No, I mean, do they take American coins?’

‘You’ve crossed an international border, madam.’

She reminded me of Mrs. Pepper Pot: a middle-aged woman with chubby cheeks who had for the first time exchanged the forest where she lived for another country.

‘Oh, so they don’t take American coins?’

‘No, only Canadian.’

‘Oh, okay. Well, I don’t have any of these.’

‘Do you need to change money?’

‘Where can I get Canadian coins?’

‘Well, you can withdraw some money from an ATM, or I can change American dollars for you, and then I can give you coins.’

‘Oh, so ATM’s here dispense Canadian dollars?’

I fell quiet for a second, in utter disbelief, and mumbled, ‘Yes, madam.’

‘Oh, okay. And they take American bank cards?’

‘Yes!’ I yelled almost desperately.

‘Where’s the nearest ATM?’

I told her, and she left the hotel to find an ATM.

The front desk phone rang; it was one of the rooms.

‘Front Desk, Jerry speaking.’

‘There’s no hairdryer in our room,’ said a man with an Indian accent.

‘It’s mounted to the wall in your bathroom, Sir.’

‘It’s not there.’

‘You’ll find it on the inner-wall of the bathroom, Sir. On the side of the sink.’

‘Can you show me?’

‘Certainly, Sir.’

And when I got to the room, the hairdryer was, crazy enough, mounted to the inner-wall of the bathroom next to the sink.

The guest pointed at it. ‘It is not working.’

‘I’m terribly sorry to hear that,’ I said, and pulled the hairdryer out of the holder and tried the button. It turned on just fine. ‘It seems to be fixed, Sir.’

He nodded with dignity. ‘That’s good.’

I went back downstairs.

Mrs. Pepper Pot walked back. ‘Oh my God!’ she exclaimed. ‘It’s just like home!’ She gave me a banknote of CA$20. ‘Okay, so I need some coins for your vending machine. I’m dying for a Coke.’

‘Certainly.’

Having obtained her long-desired coins, she went over to our nearest vending machine, and came back moments later with an empty Coke bottle in her hand. ‘I would like to check-in now. It was just that I needed a Coke before anything else.’

‘Certainly. What’s the last name, madam?’

‘It’s under Meyer.’

I nodded and reached for today’s last registration card. ‘I require a credit card and a photo ID, please.’

‘Do you accept an American driver’s license?’ she jokily asked.

‘Only Canadian ones, madam.’

Her look was priceless, and when I smiled in anticipation of saying “Just kidding,” she was ahead of me and shook her head. ‘You nearly had me there.’ She read the registration form. ‘Oh. I need to sign off on the no noise policy?’

‘Like every guest, madam, but it applies more to some than to others.’

The policy was simple: if a guest complained about another guest, the nuisance would get one warning. If the noise continued, the next step was eviction, if needed by the police. The officers never minded doing it, but it was my call. And I didn’t mind taking it. There’s no need to feel sorry for assholes: they had signed the policy, the first warning created awareness on their behaviour and eviction, therefore, was nothing short of a justified consequence. I loved procedures that were straight forward; this policy was crystal clear.

I checked her in, and sent her on her way to room 239.

Someone tried to open the emergency exit near the front desk, which was locked from the outside. I stopped counting, and opened the door to see who – a guest, perhaps – wanted to get in. But instead of a guest (or a person, anyway) a thin trickle of liquid entered the building. I immediately jumped backward. A young guy looked up in shock and for a moment we stared each other square in the eyes. Then he quickly pushed his penis back into his pants – while he was de facto still pissing – and ran off. I looked at the wet stain on the carpet and the small puddle between the carpet and the doorpost. Luckily, nothing had hit me. And then another guy, who had probably been pissing against the wall beside the door, ran off as well.

I stared at the wetness. Now, this is what I had flown to Canada for!

I quickly – bitching and cursing – cleaned it up, and continued counting the till. Then I reached, habitually, for my pack of cigarettes in the pocket of pants. Oh, that’s right. I sighed – I and my impulsiveness…

The phone rang. Mrs. Pepper Pot.

‘Front Desk, Jerry speaking.’

‘This is room 239. I am really sorry to bother you here, but the men above me are playing electric guitar on their balcony and they are singing loudly. It is impossible for me to sleep.’

‘I am terribly sorry to hear that, madam. I will put an end to it immediately.’

I had experienced my fair share of jerks, but this was truly bizarre. An electric guitar?! Surely, it had to be someone outside – 239 was right above a through road. I forwarded the front desk phone to the wireless phone and took the elevator to the second floor.

The amplified electric guitar music howled through the hallway. The infuriation that immediately came upon me – induced by the sheer lack of empathy inherent in such behavior – made me bang on the door without any subtleness. A drunk man in his thirties, who occupied this suite with a few friends, opened up, and seeing a staff member standing in front of him made him seem to realize something.

‘Oh. Are we too loud?’

‘Sir, if you don’t stop playing music and loud singing and talking immediately, I will have to ask you to leave – with or without police assistance.’

He pulled a $20 note out and pushed it in my hand. ‘Here you go.’

I returned the money. ‘You can keep that.’

He turned to his friends, laughed with a superior look, and pushed the money into my breast pocket. ‘Does that speak?’

I took the money out of the pocket and threw it on the floor. With clenched fists I stepped closer to him, looked him square in the eyes, and said slowly, ‘One more time and you will be out of here.’

He gave me a long, silent stare while he breathed heavily. His friends stood quietly in the background waiting for the first fists to fly. After having been portrayed like a prostitute who sucked cocks for a few bucks, I felt it appropriate to give that face in front of me a refurbishment. But in my capacity and feudal situation, I refrained from such desires. Yet this behavior – playing an electric guitar in a hotel in the middle of the night, bribery, insult – could not go unpunished.

‘Your friends will have to vacate this room immediately.’

‘They are staying here.’

‘This is a room for two, you are here with four. Two will have to leave.’

‘Three of us will use that king bed, and the other guy sleeps on the couch. Are you just looking for an excuse to evict us?’

‘You are violating the fire code. And since you don’t seem to comply, I’ll call the police on you now.’ I pulled the cordless phone out.

‘Wait, wait. We can get a second room.’

‘That’s a pity,’ I said with a little smirk. ‘We’re full.’

‘It’s only for one night!’ he begged.

‘I will go downstairs now, with two of your friends. And that will be the end of it.’

And so it went, without further ado.

Many hotel guests don’t seem to realize that their behaviour is key. Sure, there are countries where money does speak, where the staff is more than willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for a few notes and tolerate misbehaviour, but in many countries the salary paid by the employer is leading and staff wants to be treated with dignity, like everyone. If you start shouting, out of the blue, at a hotel receptionist about a malfunctioning router or try to buy him off with a pathetic amount of money to impress your friends, you shouldn’t be counting on empathy afterwards. The guest is often right, but the staff is always in charge.

We came down the stairs – I had avoided being in the elevator with tonight’s first two evictees –, and I sighed when I saw a young couple sitting on the couches close to the front desk. In the night, I considered the entire lobby my personal space. Many night receptionists tend to. It’s something to do with the autonomous nature of the job, its loneliness and quietness. Returning guests are greeted wholeheartedly, but become the equivalent of an invasive species when they linger for too long.

‘Can I eat pizza here in the lobby?’ the guy, with an Australian accent, asked. Next to him sat a very good looking girl.

I had a soft spot for Australians; I nodded. ‘Just keep your voices down.’

Together they ate their slices of pizza while keeping their voices down. He was part of a group that was in Banff to the party; she was the chick who had just been chatted up in the bar. I read an email.

‘Hey…,’ the girl said in a whisper. ‘You!’ She giggled; I ignored her. ‘Do you think he hears me? Little louder? Psst!’ She raised her voice. ‘Hey! You! Bellboy!’

I looked up. ‘Can you keep it down, please?’

‘What’s your name?’

I ignored her and carried on reading.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked even louder. ‘You heard me! I know you heard me!’

‘Keep your voice down, please,’ I insisted.

‘Okay,’ she whispered, though not in a cooperative way but rather provocatively, and smiled, enjoying the fact that she was challenging someone. ‘I’ll keep my voice down. What is your name?’

Her skirt was very short, but her black leather boots made her even hotter. What in the world was the Australian doing with a pizza in the hotel lobby? I thought: Go bang her, man!

Anyway, now that she kept her voice down, I said, ‘It’s Jerry.’

‘Jarred?’

‘Jerry, with a Y.’

‘Oh. Jarred.’ She poked the guy and placed her boots on the table. I faced her pussy directly. A nice, cleanly shaven fanny. Speaking of stating the obvious… ‘His name is Jarred.’

The guy pointed at his chick. ‘This is Aïda.’

She pointed at the guy. ‘And this is Ben.’

I said, ‘Nice to meet you, Ben.’

‘I’m from Ontario,’ she said. ‘Fucking Ontario… Where are you from, Jarred?’

Ben said, ‘I’m from Australia.’

‘Fuck Australia!’ she yelled, and gave me a sharp look. ‘Hey! Jarred! Where are you from? I’m from London. You know London, Jarred?’

I looked her square in the eyes. ‘Yes, that is in England, right?’

‘Fuck you, Jarred! Fuck you, you fucking Jarred! It’s in Ontario!’ While her eyes were glazed with alcohol, she looked at me with a daring stare. ‘Now. Jarred. Where, like, the fuck, are you from, Jarred?’

‘Amsterdam,’ I said.

She smiled. ‘Amsterdam, Ontario.’

Ben frowned and stopped eating for a second. He gave me a baffled look. ‘Are you from Ontario?’

‘No, Einstein. From Europe.’

Nodding, Ben clarified, ‘Amsterdam, the Netherlands.’ And he took a big bite from his pizza.

‘Yeah, I know,’ Aïda said. ‘But I’m paying fucking Jarred here back for saying that fucking London is in fucking England.’

I walked around the desk. ‘Okay, Puss-n-Boots. Your choices are to go to your room, be quiet and go to sleep, or to leave the hotel entirely and not come back again.’

Ben said, ‘Go to the lift, Aïda.’

‘What floor?’

‘Just wait there. I will be right behind you.’

Aïda walked to the elevator while Ben stood up and reached out his hand. ‘I’m sorry about all this, man. I know you grew tired of her bullshit, but I had to eat my pizza so we wouldn’t wake anyone up.’

‘Of course, I understand, Ben. I always have to understand people who are drunk and misbehave. Just be quiet, all right?’

‘Yes. Sorry again, man.’

Four minutes later, a lot of shouting filtered out through the closed elevator doors. When the elevator arrived and its doors opened, Aïda hastily came walking out. Ben followed her. He was lived.

‘Fucking bitch!’

He saw me, stopped, and stared with big eyes in my direction. ‘She’s a whore! She demanded money!’ he shouted ferociously. Aïda hastily walked out through the main doors. ‘She’s a fucking prostitute!’ Ben pointed in exasperation at the closing doors. ‘She wanted a hundred bucks!’

Then it was quiet for a while. The bars in Banff closed at 2am. All at the same, so every Friday again, at 2:10am, the doors opened and the quietness in the lobby was replaced with the laughter and enthusiastic talking of intoxicated guests. The same happened on Saturday, but due to the tiredness of Friday night, there was never any trouble: on Saturday, the guests went upstairs and straight to bed. On Friday, in contrast, they went upstairs to party on in their hotel rooms. Not all of them, but there were always a few. And so the awakened guests in neighbouring rooms would call down to the front desk, upon which I would have to go upstairs again in order to turn the drunken jolliness into a forced silence. That’s why I feared the Friday: one never knew how things would turn out…

But now it was 0:30am, all reservations had arrived, and this was the time for me to work my way through the checklist before the chattering would begin. So it went: at five minutes to two everything was done and ticked off and I habitually reached for the pack of cigarettes in my pocket. Oh, that’s right.

I decided to make a cup of coffee, instead.

As I walked back from the staff room to the front desk, stirring the sugar in my coffee, I could hear a loud group of adolescents entering the hotel through the main entrance.

‘If you can’t get laid in Banff,’ one said, ‘you can’t get laid anywhere!’

‘How many cans of beer we’ve got?’ another asked.

‘Twenty!’ said the first one.

‘Dude! We gotta go to the liquor store!’ concluded a third.

‘Liquor store is closed, you dumbass,’ said number one.

Their voices softened as they went, and then a room door slammed shut.

But of course, this wasn’t a hotel where people could party in the middle of the night. The walls between the rooms were paper thin. That phone call would come soon, I was sure. I hurried, as fast as the cup of coffee allowed me to go without spilling, back to the front desk, and noticed that the jar with complimentary cookies was missing

It didn’t even surprise me. My only thought was, Here we go again! I wished I had a large, hungry, trained cougar behind the front desk – one of those supercats that live in the forests around Banff. It would be called Butcher, and if people were being outrageously loud and partying as if nobody else was sleeping in the hotel, I would invite Butcher to join me in the elevator, go up to the noisy room, where I would quietly open their room door with the master key and let Butcher in to sort things out. The last thing I would see before closing the door, was the lip-licking animal’s tail disappearing into the room…

Unfortunately, I had to do it myself. I angrily strode toward their hotel room. There was a lot of jolly shouting going on inside: ‘Dude!’ and, ‘Fuck!’ and, ‘Drink!’ All that. I made a fist of my right hand and moved it upwards, then remembered what professionalism entailed, sighed, and gently knocked on the door.

A teenager opened it, and looked at me with a sluggishly half-opened mouth, his eyes glazed with alcohol, pimples all over his chin. And while I looked him in the eyes, I thought: If I deal with this kid and his friends, I get to stay in Banff. Speaking of modern feudalism…

I said, ‘You guys are way too loud. You’ll have to stop partying.’

He looked at me for a second, seemed to study me, and said, ‘Sure.’ Then he closed the door, and yelled, ‘Party!’

I mumbled, ‘Fuck this shit…,’ and walked back to the front desk, intending to call the cops as soon as a noise complaint allowed for their eviction. But on a second thought: if they had the cookie jar (theft!), they qualified for eviction straight away. This thought revved up my mental engine, and I ran to the desk. I checked our computer system to see whether a room opposite theirs was vacant.

Yes!

I went over, entered the vacant and dark room, and peeked through the closed curtains. The kids were shaking cans and spraying the beer through the room. And there was the cookie jar, too. I ran back to their hotel room. I felt like an animal when I banged on their door.

This time, another pimple head opened the door. He gave me a similar stare as the previous dipshit. ‘Hello,’ he said comically.

‘Hello, gravel tile. You are going to give me the cookie jar and then you’ll go to bed. If not, I will have you and your fellow shit pimples evicted within the next ten minutes.’

‘We don’t have the cookie jar,’ he said with a challenging look.

I smirked. ‘Listen, retard. I have seen the jar, all right? Give it back, and go to bed.’

A voice, coming from a third kid, asked, ‘Did he say he has seen the cookie jar?’

The guy stared at his buddy, gave him the angry kind of look you’d give to someone who just shared your greatest secret with the world, and then said pitifully, ‘Yes.’

The third kid, another pimple-faced youth with a drunk gaze, came around the corner of the door. ‘Hey man, want a beer?’

‘You shut the fuck up!’ his friend yelled. ‘We got to go to bed or he will evict us.’

‘No, he won’t.’

I stepped inside, pushing the kid aside, and said, ‘This is a room for four people, there are six of you. Two of you will have to go.’ I pointed at the guy who had questioned whether I would really evict them. ‘You are no longer a guest here.’ And then I found the guy who had answered the door the first time. ‘And you especially are not staying here any longer.’ I walked to the cookie jar. ‘And this belongs to the front desk.’ Turning to the two boys, I said, ‘Grab your shit and leave this building at once.’

Without disputing their removal (which surprised me), the two boys quietly grabbed their jackets and left the room while I walked behind them with the cookie jar under my arm. I saw them to the door, placed the cookie jar in the back office, and watched the CCTV monitor for a while to ensure they would not come back in through the underground parking.

When you watch a black-and-white monitor in which nothing seems to happen, your attention gets drawn to the tiniest movement on it. That’s how I noticed a person sitting in the corner of the screen, against the concrete wall in a parking stall, with only a leg visible on the monitor. I decided to have a look and went down the stairs into the parking.

On the way, I found a couple – probably in their late teens – making out against the concrete wall in an empty parking stall. She stood with her back against the wall; he slowly rubbed his penis against her crotch. They tongue-kissed passionately with their eyes closed.

I quietly positioned myself behind them, and bellowed, ‘Excuse me!’

The guy turned around with the speed of light and swung himself against the wall next to the girl, who stood there with bewildered eyes. The guy’s face was the colour of chalk.

I said, ‘I’ve got about twenty rooms vacant upstairs. Do you need one?’

She hastily shook her head. ‘My parents already have a room.’

‘Well, if you need a room for yourself and your one-night-lover here, just swing by the front desk and I’ll fix you up.’

And I walked on, ignoring the whispered mutterings behind me.

The person I’d seen in the monitor was an adolescent female. She was asleep, unless she was unconscious. I positioned myself next to her.

‘Hey!’

She looked up at me. The girl was thin, sleep-deprived, and desperate-looking. She might have been drugged. She starting crying softly and said multiple times how very sorry she was about all this.

‘Where are you staying?’ I asked.

‘In Canmore.’

She seemed terribly young; she could’ve been a minor, and I knew I had to tread carefully. I did not step away or kneel down, I remained at all times where the camera could see me.

‘How old are you?’

‘Twenty-one.’

‘Okay,’ I said, relieved. She had an accent. ‘And where are you from?’

‘Quebec.’

‘What’s your name?’

All she did now, was looking at me with watery eyes as though she was in shock. She did not answer.

I asked, ‘Has anything happened to you?’

She burst into tears; traumatized, clearly. I tried to talk to her some more, but could no longer get a sane word out of her. The girl moved onto her knees and leaned forward until her forehead touched the concrete floor. Vomit flowed from her mouth.

I stood there, staring at her. How do you handle these things? She could not go back outside in the state that she was in. I decided to call the police. She fell asleep again.

‘Good.’

I went back to the front desk to make the call.

‘RCMP Banff,’ I soon heard a lady say on the other end of the line.

‘Hi. This is Jerry at The Settlers’ Inn. I have just found a girl in our underground parking who was sleeping on the concrete floor and vomited. I do not believe she is a guest, and I can’t talk to her. She seems to be traumatized, too. Could she be picked up?’

‘She can’t speak to you because she is in shock?’

‘She is either terribly drunk, traumatized, or both. She is from Quebec, lives in Canmore; she said she is twenty one, but I did not get her name.’

‘I will send a car over straight away.’

‘Thank you. I will try to get her to the lobby.’

But when I hung up, she came out of the elevator. I walked over to her. She started to cry again and collapsed into my arms. She stank horribly.

‘What happened to you?’ I asked.

‘I… am… so… sorry,’ she murmured through her tears.

She really seemed like a girl who was pretty and smart normally, and it was such a shame to see what a mess alcohol could make of a human being. I guided her to a couch in the lobby and sat her down.

‘Take it easy now,’ I said. ‘Dry your tears.’

She looked up at me, and saw that I was staring impatiently at the door. Suddenly the crying stopped, and she stared ahead, and then up to me again. My gaze was still at the door. She realized, of course, what I was up to, and so she got up and started walking toward the front doors. I could obviously not hold her hostage, but she was not in a mental state where she should freely and aimlessly walk around Banff at 2:30 in the morning. There were two-legged predators roaming the national park at this hour.

‘Sober up a little more before you head out,’ I said. ‘It won’t be wise for you to …’

She didn’t look back, and walked out the doors. I followed her out onto the street. A police car appeared, and the driver rolled the window down.

‘Is that her?’ he asked.

‘Yes.’

He switched the car into reverse gear. With much acceleration, the vehicle shot backwards through nocturnal Banff, past the girl. With a jerk on the wheel, the car swung to the right and bounced onto the sidewalk. It completely stopped the girl in her tracks. Two police officers jumped out. They grabbed her and threw her in the back seat. The door was slammed shut and that was that.

Ten minutes later I received a phone call. She had been put into the ‘drunk tank,’ but wouldn’t be fined.

The drunk tank! Now, isn’t that something? This is a large jail cell, especially for people who are intoxicated with alcohol. I had never seen a cell from the inside – yes, at museums, but not modern ones, and I can’t quite say that I’ve ever been tempted into activities that would get me there –, but, given that there’s a bed in there, the remainder of the girl’s night certainly would be a lot more comfortable than mine.

At 4:30, a young couple walked in. They were about eighteen years of age, drunk, and looking for a room.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘we are fully booked.’

The guy said, ‘Can my girlfriend use your bathroom?’

‘Sure. Just ahead in the aisle.’

The girl went ahead, but turned around halfway down the aisle, and gave her boyfriend a longing stare to make it known that she wanted him to come along. He shrugged to me as to indicate that he had no idea what she wanted (perhaps bathroom sex was a new experience for him, or he thought that I was a clueless monk), and followed her down the corridor. I heard only one door close. I waited two minutes and then went down. I quietly checked the men’s bathroom, which was, of course, unoccupied and then went straight into the girl’s bathroom. I swung the door open (‘Good morning!’) and almost bumped into the bare-assed guy. His pants and underwear were halfway down his upper legs, and while he still had his shirt on, his girlfriend was completely naked, her dress lying on the tiled floor. I gave her an appreciative look. She had a very fine body, nice and tender, steady tits, shaven vagina, smooth skin. But the moment I opened the door she ran from the sinks, which she was leaning against, into one of the toilets.

The guy hastily pulled his pants up, looked at me in shock, and said in a panicky voice, ‘We are leaving now.’

‘That’s right,’ I said.

And so it went.

I reached for my pocket…

At a quarter to seven, my Japanese collegue walked in for the morning shift.

‘Hi Jerry,’ she said. ‘How was your shift?’

‘Just another Friday night.’

She nodded empathically.

The best part about the night job was the walk home. The morning air was always fresh and cool in the Rocky Mountains – which one’d almost forget about during a shift. The sky was often perfectly blue. And on Saturday morning, the liberating feeling that Friday was six entire days away, dominated. But on this morning, there was something missing – and I hated it, badly.

At the Banff Park Museum I reached into the trash can and found, both at once, the half-filled pack of cigarettes and the lighter. I lit up with great pleasure. Finally! I inhaled and blew out a large cloud into the cool mountain air. I put the pack into my packet, because, as long as the addiction would haunt me, that was where it belonged.

 

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