Customer Service

It was a smile so brittle and symmetrical, Sam was sure the receptionist practised it in front of a mirror. The tilt of her head seemed an affectation, the enamel of her teeth blinding white. No matter what Sam said, the expression and inflection remained the same—bright, saccharine and devoid of sincerity.

‘Can we get room service? My daughter hasn’t eaten.’

She stroked back Hattie’s curls from her face and the little girl grasped her arm, her eyes hooded with fatigue.

The woman’s smile did not falter. ‘Yes, we can help you.’

Thank God, she thought.

‘The Beach Grill is open until ten o’clock. They have high chairs.’

‘We can’t get room service?’

‘Room service is unavailable after 9:30pm.’

‘You can’t help me then. My daughter is two and it’s very late.’

The woman glanced over Sam’s shoulder and flicked her dark hair back. ‘Your room is on the south side. Follow the corridor to the left of the lobby and take the bridge to tower five. You’re on the second floor.’

Sam gritted her teeth. ‘So no one can show us to our room?’

‘I hope you have a wonderful stay here. Thanks so much for choosing us. Have a great evening.’

Hattie whined from the back of her throat, a sound Sam knew would soon accelerate into a high-pitched wail. She glanced around for a porter, but the only staff in sight was the fembot. She extended the handle on her suitcase and trudged away, her daughter’s feet drumming her thighs.

By the time she arrived at the door of room 262, Hattie’s cry was piercing. She rifled for the room card in her bag and slotted it into the mechanism. The dreaded red light flashed.

‘I’m going to have to put you down for a minute, darling.’ Hattie’s arms extended from her seat on the floor, her face red and puffy.

‘Mummymummymummymum!’

Sam inserted the card once more, the same red light. She rubbed it against her jeans. Again and again she tried and cursed. Hattie’s screams echoed down the corridor.

She left the suitcase, scooped up her child and took the lift down.

The woman stood poised, as if waiting for her.

Sam’s voice was as erratic as a pre-pubescent boy’s. ‘We can’t get into our room. The key doesn’t work.’

‘I’m sorry Ma’am, I can’t hear you with the infant.’

‘THE KEY DOES NOT WORK.’ She jabbed a finger in the air for good measure.

‘Of course, Ma’am. I can give you another one. Can I see some photo identification please?’

Sam leaned over the counter, her face scarlet. ‘You just checked me in. You don’t need to see my fucking photo ID. Get us into our room now or I’m asking for the manager.’

A flicker of irritation, then the plastered grin. She rustled around behind the desk, swiped a machine and held out a key card.

‘Oh yes, I remember you. Have a wonderful evening, Ma’am.’

The room was cast in gold from the floor lamp as Sam slumped on an armchair with Hattie. The toddler crunched on a packet of pretzels and Sam gulped wine from a tumbler, her head lolled in exhaustion.

 

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