On vacation in a hot, foreign clime. He’s driving an airport rental car past rolling rows of slab houses, their faded and chipping pastel colors a dreamy bleached rainbow in the shimmering heat of the road. On each bare cement stoop, brown closed-lipped locals sit and stare blankly as he rolls by, seemingly disinterested in seeing yet-another tourist.
Soon the tiny house start to dwindle, slowly replaced by dingy stores, then the garishly-painted commercial properties with faux fronts that denote he’s getting closer to downtown. Gradually the gulf comes into view on the left. Piers and boats grow in number, with lofty high-rise hotels loom in the distance, the road curving ahead along the peninsula. Several roads merge into one main highway as he continues down “Hotel Row” as they call it here. Traffic is getting thick now, in sharp contrast to the empty road behind him. Tour buses lurch and surge nervously close, full of brightly dressed travelers who are either looking excitedly out the windows or are sitting slumped, sagging and sweaty in their seats.
Ahead he sees a sign with the logo of his all-inclusive hotel, He pulls into a long, arching driveway of clean white concrete. He drives up to the front entrance, under the bright blue canopy with the hotel’s logo, and stops in the cool, dark shade. A young lad with black hair, dark skin and pearly teeth opens his car door, bowing slightly. He slips a dollar slips into the lad’s waiting hand as he closes both the car door and his smile.
He steps into the air-conditioned lobby, the pink marble masonry nicely appointed with gleaming brass fixtures and lush, dark carpeting. At the front desk, a pretty young woman greets him with a practiced smile and efficiently checks him in. She pulls out a hotel map, makes and “X” and draws a path leading to his room, which she circles twice. She then hands him his room key and turns her attention to the next person in line.
He returns to the car, follows the arrow around the hotel to the rear and finds a not-very-close spot to park. He grabs his single suitcase, locks up the car and quickly heads inside the nearest entrance to escape the blazing heat. He looks at the hotel map, turning it around so it makes sense for the direction he’s facing, and continues down the hall until he finds his room number. He jiggles the key to get it in, but once inserted the lock turns easily with an authoritative CLUNK. He pushes open the door, hearing it sweep over utilitarian carpeting much less plush than that of the lobby.
The room is a few degrees warmer than the hallway and the air is still. He puts his suitcase on the bed and checks the room’s window air conditioning unit. After turning a few knobs and trying a few buttons, it eventually rumbles to life. He sets the temperature to COOL and the fan on HIGH, but after a few minutes decides that the fan is too noisy and turns it down to MEDIUM. After deciding that’s livable, he takes a quick shower to freshen up, dresses in looser, cooler clothes, grabs his wallet, hat and room key, and heads down the long hallway.
He passes a small cafeteria with vending machines, a few round tables and plastic chairs. Further down the hall he catches the smell of chlorine as he passes a door marked POOL AREA. The hallway makes a right turn into another long passage, which eventually leads out onto a long veranda. It’s sparse; just a few wicker lounges with flat cushions and a few glass-topped tables, each complimented by pairs of wicker chairs with the same flat cushions. There’s an overhang with ineffective, slowly turning ceiling fans hanging down at regular intervals. A couple sits at the furthest table sipping colorful umbrella drinks, talking quietly. He opts for one of the seats farthest from the couple, A white-coated waiter appears from somewhere and he orders a piña colada - hold the umbrella. The waiter quick returns with his drink, then disappears again just as quickly. He takes a few sips, then props his feet up on the empty chair, stretching out into a comfortable slump, hoping to catch a quick nap before the revolution begins.