I stepped outside. The hot air pressed against me. Florida air. In the distance a line of yellow cabs waited. I raised my hand. The first car pulled up. I opened the back door and slid onto the seat. It was cooler inside. The cabbie looked back under a white Panama hat and sun glasses. A big smile revealed nicotine-stained teeth.
"How you doin, man? Welcome to Miami! Where you goin?"
Where was I going? "Take me to the Eden Arms."
"You got it," he said and we sped away.
The cab pulled up and I was greeted by a doorman in pale green. Enormous crystal chandeliers hung over a lobby filled with white marble-topped tables, surrounded by couches and high-back, aqua-blue chairs. On the vast surrounding walls hung large oil paintings and mirrors highlighted by crystal sconces.
The hotel was busy. Guests checked in and out and bellhops pushed brass carts full of luggage. The front-desk clerks wore color-coordinated uniforms, complimenting the overall decor. Thick, royal-blue carpeting hushed the lobby sounds. At the front desk I was greeted by a cheery young woman behind a cream marble barrier separating clerks from guests.
"Good afternoon, Sir. Are you checking in?"
I hadn't made reservations. Instantly I felt unsure of myself. Penny always did this sort of thing for me.
"What's the name, Sir?"
Again she caught me off guard. Should I give my real name? She wouldn't recognize it, but the front desk manager might. He might divulge it to the resort manager, who would then tell the general manager. There would be embarrassing questions. So much for peace and quiet. I had to think quickly. We locked eyes.
"Sir? Your name?"
"Oh, my name. Anthony, James Anthony." I felt my cheeks flush.
"All right, Mr. Anthony, let me check. She scanned the computer. I composed myself.
"I'm sorry, sir. I don't see any reservations under that name."
"Are you sure? I know my secretary made reservations for me."
She was beginning to appear annoyed.
"Do you have any available rooms?"
"Only suites, Sir. They are a little more expensive than our rooms. Would you like a suite?"
"Yes, please," I said. "That will be fine."
As she prepared the paper work, I mentally repeated the name. James Anthony. I had just created a new persona. I felt strangely reincarnated as I repeated the name, but this briefly pleasant moment was interrupted by her next question.
"Your credit card, Sir."
"I'll need your credit card for billing."
"Oh yes, of course."
I gave her an embarrassed grin as I reached for my wallet. She was working to contain her impatience. I pulled out my wallet and fumbled through it for a minute.
"I seem to have misplaced my credit card."
She forced a smile, mentally assessing me with clusters of four-letter words.
"Are you with one of the conferences here? If you are "
"No, I'm not. Will you how about if I pay cash in advance for a week? I'm sure my credit card will turn up."
A line had formed behind me. "I don't want to hold these people up. I don't mind paying cash now. After all, it's my fault I misplaced my card."
She stared at me, visibly flustered by the line of people behind me. And by me, as well. No one paid cash for hotel rooms anymore. Especially in places like the Eden Arms, and certainly not for a week's stay. I pulled out a bunch of bills and held them up to her.
"You do accept cash, don't you?"
"Yes, but…" She glanced over my shoulder. "Okay."
She snatched the bills from my hand and a few minutes later completed the transaction.
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