Saturday night Dan and I were on the road, returning from a visit with my siblings in Cherokee Village, Arkansas. Around 8:00 p.m. we pulled off the road to find a place to spend the night. Because a Toby Keith concert and several big weddings were taking place in town, vacant motel rooms were hard to find.
We finally located one, lugged in our overnight necessities, ate dinner, and settled down to watch some TV.
The TV didn’t work.
Dan fiddled with the set and the remote for about half an hour. Finally, he called the front desk. The night manager came to our room and repeated the same procedures that had failed when Dan tried them. She called for help.
A man came through the door saying, “I’m Security. I’m not Maintenance. I don’t know how to fix the TV.”
This man worked for a while. Unsuccessful, he and the night manager left our room, with sincere apologies.
Resolved to being unable to watch TV, Dan took his book and settled into the chair in the corner of the room. He switched on the reading lamp.
The lamp didn’t work.
We looked at each other, shrugged, turned off the lights that did work, and went to bed.
I was ticked. We paid good money for the room. We were tired. We didn’t ask for much. Just a clean room, a TV that worked, and some good lighting that would allow us to read. I went to sleep.
The next morning, after we were dressed and were preparing to leave, someone knocked on the door. It was Maintenance. “Joseph,” his name tag read.
A thin, older, slightly grizzled man came in. “I hear your television don’t work,” he said, smiling.
“Neither does the light in the corner,” I informed him.
He went to work. “You know I can’t fix things unless someone tells me they’re broke,” he said, still smiling.
“That was a big storm we had last night,” Joseph said. “Struck right at 3:00 a.m. I know that because I had my alarm set to go off at 3:00.”
“Oh, yeah?” I said, uninterested.
I finished working with my hair, Dan zipped the suitcases, and we went to breakfast.
When we returned to the room, the TV was playing and the light in the corner of the room shone brightly.
We dropped off our door keys at the front desk. There we ran into Joseph again.
“You folks have a good day,” he said to us, a pleasant expression on his face.
We went on our way. I thought about Joseph and the broken TV and lamp.
It was easy to be mad at the unseen, obscure people who stuck us with a room that had faulty equipment. But it was hard to be mad at Joseph, an old man who got up at 3:00 a.m. to fix things, then made polite small talk, and wished us a good day.
I hope I remember Joseph the next time service is slow at a restaurant or the library fails to have the book it promised me. These places are run by people who get up and go to work to serve people like me who are often short-fused and unappreciative.
I wish I had been nicer to Joseph.