Saturday, October 31, 2015

Wanted: Experienced Cattle Guard

The old cowboy looked down at the cattle guard and swore under his breath. 

"Kent?" he asked.  "Got any other ideas?" 

Mike slowly unhooked the chain from the one of the pipes that made up the cattle guard.  The other end was attached to the bucket of the front-end loader Kent was running.

"I was sure that we could just lift up one side of the cattle guard and dig the dirt out from under it," Kent said.  "But, it looked like the pipe was bending."

"Yep," Mike said.  "And if we can't lift it up, there is only one way we can get all of that dirt out from under it."

Mike looked down at the cattle guard again.  The heavy pipes were set about five inches apart, close enough that a vehicle could cross, but cattle would not even attempt to cross the pipes.  This meant that a cattle guard was a gate that never had to be opened or closed—a real time-saver on a ranch. 

This cattle guard, however, now had dirt filling the usual open space under the pipes.  The recent rains from a a tropical storm that had not come within a thousand miles of the Brazos River ranch had flooded the road and washed in so much dirt and debris that the cattle no longer viewed the cattle guard as an obstacle—something that was made apparent by the cattle the two men had found grazing along the county road that bordered the ranch.  Now safely returned to their pasture, the cattle would be safe as soon as a little maintenance on the cattle guard was finished.

An hour later, the two men were still on their hands and knees, scooping the dirt out from the between the heavy pipes.   It was slow work, but they were making steady progress.

"You know, they've done experiments and all you have to do is paint the pipes on the ground and the cattle won't cross it," said Kent as he lifted another small scoop of dirt out of the space.

Mike stopped for a second and looked at the other man.  "That's nonsense," he said.  "Why wouldn't they just walk across them?"

Before his friend could answer, a county road truck slowly drove around the bend in the county road and the two men could see two workmen laboring behind the truck as it slowly made its way toward the gate.

Staring at the truck, Kent answered, "Cows can't see that well, so they think the stripes painted on the ground are the real thing."

By now, the two ranchers could see that the truck was stopping every 20 feet or so, and one of the two workers was using a posthole digger to make a hole in the ground about two feet deep.

"Those cows could see well enough to realize this hole was full of dirt—and these pipes are real, not just painted on the ground."  As Mike was talking, he stood up so that he could get a better look at the approaching work crew.  As he watched, the man had finished digging the hole, and as the truck slowly moved forward, the man with the posthole digger followed the truck as it drove  another 25 feet up the shoulder of the county road.

Mike leaned back and stretched his back, one hand on his kidney.  "I feel as beat as a rented mule.  Besides, the eyes on a cow are so far apart they have about twice the field of vision as you and I.  What they lack is depth perception:  that's why you see them walk around shadows—they're afraid it might be a hole in the ground."

"But, you see, the cows think...." Kent began, but stopped as he watched the second workman following the truck walk up to the freshly dug hole and begin refilling the hole with dirt.  When it was finished, he followed the workman with the posthole digger as the county truck moved farther up the road.

"Just what in the world are those two fools doing?" asked Mike.  "Why are they digging holes and filling them back up?"

For a long minute, the two men just stood there watching the county workers as they dug another hole and refilled it.  As they watched, the truck finally pulled up roughly in front of where the two old cowboys were working.  Together, they crossed the road and spoke through the open window of the truck to the driver.

"What's going on?" Mike asked.

The driver nodded to the two men and answered, "The county wants to plant trees along the side of the road; they think it will help stop the erosion after heavy rains."

Kent walked over to the back of the truck and looked in.  "Where's the trees?"

"Didn't bother to bring them," the driver answered.  "The guy who plants them, Bob, is on vacation for two weeks."

"Then why are you digging the holes and filling them back in?" asked Mike.

"Well," answered the driver.  "Just because Bob's on vacation doesn't mean the rest of us shouldn't get paid."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

This Too Shall Pass

Curiously, I started my career in the hotel business at the top.  My first job was manager of a weird little hotel/bar/restaurant on the Texas/Mexico border.  The certifiably insane owner of the hotel decided—in the midst of a drunken stupor—that I might be able to shake up the place and return it to profitability.

I was superbly unqualified to be the manager of anything.  I knew nothing about hotels, I couldn’t prepare a baloney sandwich, and at eighteen, I wasn’t old enough to set foot in the bar that I was supposed to be running.  I was the kind of incompetent manager that normally one can only find within the ranks university administrators or almost anywhere at the State Department. 

No other business, in my opinion, will provide a young man the kind of diverse education the hospitality industry will provide

Note.  Why in the world do they call it the ‘hospitality’ industry?  Cecil B. De Mille claimed that young actresses were called ‘starlets’ because ‘piglets’ was already taken.  If this rule applied to the hotel business, the true name should be the Mental Health Industry.

My reign as manager of the complex did not start well:  As I drove up and was parking my car at the hotel—a place that I had never before laid eyes on—a young man came barreling out the back door with a case of beer hoisted over one shoulder.  Watching him disappear down the alley, I wondered, “Who the hell was that?”

The next 24 hours were extremely educational.  I learned the head cook thought he should have been promoted to manager, and when he found out that I couldn’t even make coffee, he promptly resigned.  I also learned that in front of the hotel was a neon sign promising, "Fresh Apple Pie Made Daily".  Evidently, a good share of the restaurant's business came from local ranchers and oil field workers who came in before dawn each morning for coffee and pie.  While the morning cook could handle breakfast, the pies had to be prepared the night before.

This taught another great lesson:  When you are the boss, you are either responsible or you are irresponsible—there is no middle ground.  There is simply no substitute for getting the job done, and if all else fails, you have to do it yourself.  Management is exactly like fatherhood:  Everything is your job.

The local drug store (which coincidentally, rented part of the ground floor of the old hotel—making me its landlord) sold me a paperback copy of The Betty Crocker Cookbook.  I stayed up all that night--and many more later—learning how to bake an apple pie.  Along the way, I wasted a lot of flour and murdered quite a few harmless apples.  I think my first couple of attempts can still be found behind that hotel; the last time I saw them, they were being used as stepping stones across a wet spot in the alley.  Eventually, I could turn out a pretty fair apple pie. 

Note.  I don’t mind sharing my secrets to making a good apple pie.  Don’t overwork the pastry dough.  The pie looks better if you peel the apples, but tastes better if you leave the skins on.  Slice green apples paper thin.  You can’t use too much cinnamon or sugar.  Add butter.  Add more sugar and butter—no dish was ever sent back to the kitchen because it contained too much butter and sugar.  And the top crust needs three slashes.  One to let out the hot steam and two more because that’s the way your momma did it.

I learned a lot about coffee, so I can tell you there are five grades of coffee; Coffee, Java, Joe, Jamoke, and Carbon Remover. On any given day, I’m happy to have anything in the first three categories.  The last two can only be made by true coffee illiterates (these being tea drinkers, the US Army, and Mormons).  No one will complain if you serve them grade two (Java), but everyone will complain if the coffee isn’t hot enough to injure the drinker.

Another lesson:  People hide crap in hotels rooms and then forget to take it with them.  And usually, it is the same kind of crap:  Tennis rackets, cameras, and drugs are most common.  (Well, except for the expensive bottles of designer shampoo that damn near everyone leaves in the shower.  I worked at one hotel where the head housekeeper collected all those bottles and added it to the detergent used to wash the hotel towels and sheets.  I have no clue whether this actually worked, but the hotel laundry room smelled nicer.)

I have no idea what the street value would be of all the drugs I have thrown out after all those years in the hotel business.  Pills, powders and bales of weed were all tossed because guests couldn’t remember where they had stashed their stashes during bouts of drug-induced paranoia.  While no scientist has yet done research on the matter, every hotel maid can tell you that short term memory leads to marijuana loss.

In short, the hotel taught me that hard work and creativity pay off.  So against all odds, I made that small, little, tiny border hotel profitable and before long, I had made a deal with a seismograph crew working for a major oil company.  These guys went out into the middle of nowhere, set up sensitive instruments, and set off buried dynamite in an effort to map the underground reservoirs of undiscovered oil and gas.  This was dangerous and hard work, and the men who made up the crew were well-paid and overworked.

I rented almost every room in the hotel to the oil company, and signed a contract to provide three meals a day for the entire crew.  (By now, I was buying apples by the pickup load.  Not that those guys were gourmands--they would have eaten cinder blocks with ketchup--but no one could match them for the quantity of pie they put away.) 

We had over fifty of these guys in the hotel, and they were just a little on the rough side.  Five nights out of the week, by the time they got back to the hotel, they were too exhausted to do much more than eat dinner and go to bed.  Saturdays were different:  They worked a half-day, then came back to the hotel to eat dinner, and get cleaned up, after which they promptly went wild every Saturday night.  They drank the bar damn near dry, then went out to party as much as anyone could in a border town that boasted one traffic light, and NO night life.  A lot of the activity involved fist fights, shooting craps, and chasing every woman in town.

By Sunday morning, most of the guys were dead broke and dead drunk, and at least half were in jail.  Sunday night would be as quiet as the grave, and then the whole process would begin again on Monday morning.

Not only were the weekends a little…trying, but by Monday, most of restaurant and bar employees had quit.   Harassing the waitresses was the reason about half the roughnecks got arrested each weekend.  So every Monday, I had to start looking for a new crew to train—which is how I hired the Rios sisters.

Guadalupe and Sylvia Rios were two of the hardest-working employees I have ever had.  (Yes, the Guadalupe River is one of the larger rivers in Texas, but don’t blame me--I didn’t name the girls.)  Deeply religious, smart as a whip, and stunningly beautiful, they were two of the best employees ever.  Guadalupe cleaned that kitchen until even I would eat there, and even more important, she took over the pie making responsibilities.  Sylvia waited tables and was so outgoing and charming to the customers that, for the first time, the restaurant was making more money than the bar. 

And that was my biggest problem:  while both of the sisters refused to set foot in the bar, I knew for certain that as soon as the weekend came, those girls would quit after the way they saw the roughnecks run wild.  I couldn’t just give them the weekend off:  we didn’t have enough other employees to cover, but SOMETHING had to be done!  In hindsight, I can only plead youthful exuberance and galloping stupidity for the plan I hatched to keep my two best employees.  The chief of the seismograph crew had already announced that the next week, they would be relocating to the next county, so my plan only had to work one time…

You will remember that we fed those four dozen guys at the hotel Saturday night before they went out to party.  Every Saturday night, we set up the restaurant tables in long rows, then put out platters of food, banquet-style.  That night, each table had a large pots of kidney beans in barbecue sauce thick with chopped onions and peppers—a favorite of the crew.

The beans were especially popular that night:  the guys liked the new, slightly sweeter taste.  (Remember?  No one ever complains about too much sugar.)  The un-named, but key ingredient was a surprisingly large amount of chocolate-flavored Ex-lax—in the kind of quantity one could only obtain if he was the landlord to a pharmacy for which he had a set of keys.)

This was not a terribly clever plan—Effective, but not clever.  When the meal was over, there wasn’t a single bean left in any of the pots.  The men ate, galloped off to get cleaned up….and vanished.  We hardly saw them for the rest of the weekend.  Several phoned the front desk for more toilet paper, but otherwise, it was a peaceful weekend.

A few rugged individuals showed up the next morning for breakfast.  The buffet featured a mercy dish:  grits with cheese.  The rationale was that this was light...but binding. 

Since I was not murdered (with my corpse shoved down a dynamite-packed drill pipe), the crew obviously never caught on to the deliberate nature of my plan.  Within days, they were gone.  When I left the hotel in the fall to start my days at the University of Houston, the Rios sisters were still working there. 

Last I heard, beans were still on the menu.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reformatting Formats

This has been one of those weeks at Enema U, I have spent more time working with people with computer problems than with my students.  I should complain, but Enema U actually pays me more to solve piddling little computer problems than to teach history.  Go figure!
By coincidence, most of the problems this week concerned trying to recover old files from long-dead computers.  Even after the dead had been resurrected, it turned out most of the files were in word processing programs only slightly more advanced than using pointed sticks in clay tablets. 

No one ever calls the lab and says, "Hey, I have this old file, so worthless that I haven't read it since disco, and God knows I never bothered to back it up or even print out a copy, but if you have time, it might be fun to look at it.  Can you help me?"


It's always, "Oh my God!  It's an emergency.  My only copy of my manuscript is gonna be lost unless you can help me!  I don't remember what the file was called, and I'm not sure where I saved it on this ancient hard drive, but YOU HAVE TO HELP ME!"
I personally have saved the Great American Novel at least a dozen times.  Not that any of them ever got into print.
Safe copies of one’s work have always been a problem: it is not something new to the digital age.  Even with printed records, how many copies were enough?  Libraries burn, copies can get lost, and paper is fragile.  If paper is your only storage medium, then nothing is permanent.  Most of the books printed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were printed on paper with such a high acid content, that nowadays, libraries routinely find that precious volumes have turned into faded confetti.  Even today, some publishers print their hardbacks on such poor quality paper that the expected lifetime of the volumes is less than 20 years.
For a guy who is still angry at the Romans' burning of the library at Alexandria, this situation is entirely unacceptable.  Some of the greatest mystery stories ever were those of The Thinking Machine by Jacques Futrelle.  But none of us will ever be able to read all of them, since several unpublished manuscripts went down with the author when the Titanic sank.

You would think that computers would provide some form of remedy, but they actually have made the problem far worse.  For years, every word processing program went out of its way to make sure that every document saved would be compatible with every other word processing format.  Eventually, public pressure created a need for some forms of open format:  ASCII, RTF, and PDF files being the most popular.

NOTE.  When I just happened to mention in passing to my wife, The Doc, the universal knowledge of ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) she gave me a blank look.  In the twenty-first century, how can anyone NOT understand ASCII?  Incredulous, I asked her, "C'mon!  What is ASCII 65?" 
She didn't know!  Wives are weird.
The fact that some documents could be saved in an almost universal format did not solve the problems, since every computer used a different storage system to save the file.   Simply put, a disk from one computer was unreadable to a computer from a rival manufacturer (sometimes, it could not even be transferred between two models of computer from the same manufacturer--how's THAT for planned obsolescence?).  And it has always been this way.
In 1976, manufacturers and programmers met in Kansas City to agree on a standard format for storing data on cassette tapes.  (Yes, before the floppy disk drive became affordable, early computers stored data on cassette tapes...Badly.)  Everyone at the meeting quickly agreed on a standard--the Kansas City Standard.  And then almost all of them went home and developed their own proprietary standards incompatible with the new standard, in the desire to lock in their own customer bases.

At the same time, the hardware itself was changing constantly.  Computer cards were replaced by paper tape, which was replaced by cassette tape, which was in turn replaced by floppy disks that came in a bewildering assortment of both sizes and capacities.  Which holds more data, a single-sided, single formatted 10" diskette or a double-sided, hard-sectored 5.25" inch disk?   Unfortunately, none of them can be relied on to be readable after resting in a file cabinet for a decade.

I once had a lawyer promise to pay me any sum of money I wished if I could resurrect data stored on Mag Cards from a IBM typewriter system from the 1970's.  And for the amount of work it took me, I was still underpaid.  Even IBM didn't have one of those antique systems in its museum.

Zip drives, CD drives, DVD (single and dual layer), Thumb drives, and Blue-ray disks...while the storage capacity of the new drives keeps increasing dramatically, there is almost no backward compatibility.  (And almost no one remembers to copy data from old devices to the new devices).  There is no such thing as permanent storage.  Whether we like it or not, every day the world loses the last copy of something.
The temporary nature of our collected knowledge reminds me of the old Roman practice of the the triumphal parade of a victorious general.  As he guided his chariot through the crowds of cheering citizens, a slave stood on the rear of the chariot, holding a laurel wreath over the general's head while gently whisperer a reminder.

"All glory is fleeting."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

I Hanker to Hunker

It has rained enough this week that locals are checking their driver’s licenses to see if they still live in New Mexico.  Normally, around here, it is so dry and dusty the children adopt tumbleweeds as pets and the Spanish Doves build their nests out of barbed wire.  Dry is one of the things we do well in New Mexico. 
All this rain is creating a couple of problems with the rock walls surrounding my house:  some of the formerly bone-dry mortar is leaching out of the walls and one or two of them are starting to look a little lazy.  (Rock walls are something else New Mexico does well.  This is a great place to build with rock and adobe because it never rains—at least, until this week.)
Suddenly, I have to patch my own rock walls and masonry is not in my skill set.  I can fly a hot air balloon, I know which end of a hammer fits the hand, and I can even bake you a fair loaf of cheese bread—but working with concrete is a pain in the ass.  (Come to think of it, most of the men I know are pretty good cooks.  Restaurants, unfortunately, are not one of the things Southern New Mexico does well.  The local notion of a seven course meal is a six-pack of Corona beer and a burrito.)
I miss my rock wall guy.  He would know how to patch the mortar, replace a few missing stones, and while he was doing it, I could get him to build a few new walls.   José built all the sturdy rock walls around my house, and he did it fast and incredibly cheaply.  He was by far the best rock guy I have ever met, and at the bargain prices he charged, I could always find a new wall project. 

Not that there weren’t a few problems working with José.  First off….well, let’s just say he was of questionable citizenship.  Donald Trump would either deport him or have him rebuild Trump Tower in stone. 
It was not even remotely possible that José was from New Mexico.  Quite a few people born locally either learn English as a second language, or not infrequently, never learn it.  In José’s case, he could speak neither English nor Spanish.  José spoke only a dialect of Nahuatl. 
For those of you who have not studied Pre-Columbian Mexican History in my class (and you are welcome—Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:20), Nahuatl is the language of the Aztecs, and roughly 1.5 million people still use it—almost all of whom live in Central and Southern Mexico.  New Mexico has 19 pueblos and 3 reservations, but none of them are for the Aztecs.  While a lot of Spanish words have made their way into the Nahuatl vocabulary (and a lot of the really good Spanish profanity has its roots in Nahuatl) it is not the same language.
Luckily, whenever José came to my house to build a new wall, he brought his grandson with him.  His grandson, about 7, had a fair working vocabulary in Spanish, Nahuatl, and English.  His skill in English was about even—poor—with my skill in Spanish (minus the interesting profanity).  So, every time I needed a new rock wall, the three of us would gather in my front yard and enact our own little private version of the UN.  There was a lot of waving of hands and hunkering and drawing in the dirt. 

Since my prodigious hate mail indicates that my readership includes a large number of Yankees, I should explain about hunkering and drawing in the dirt.  In Texas, this is an art form as respected as fiddle playing, bass fishing, or playing dominoes. 

The hunker and draw is a skill honed over eons of time that got its start with primitive man who hunkered down around his fire and drew crude figures in the dirt as he lied about that day’s hunt.  Even today, a good hunker damn near requires a stick in the hand to draw in the dirt.  If two Texans spend more than thirty seconds discussing a deer hunt, they’ll both get down on their haunches and start to draw in the dirt.

After thousands of years of technological improvement, the only real improvement in education is that we have exchanged ‘the hunker and draw’ for PowerPoint.  Socrates described a classroom as a log with a teacher on one end and a student on the other.  If Socrates had been a Texan, he’d have held school without the log.

One of the built-in advantages of hunker and draw is that there is an automatic time limit.  After about half an hour, the newcomer will need a crane to stand up, and as his legs develop a Charley Horse that could run the Kentucky Derby, he may find himself readily consenting to proposals that he might find objectionable standing upright.  If the United Nations building had been erected in Fort Worth, by now we would have achieved world peace.

I would try to get my department head to hold the next faculty meeting outside so we could all gather under a tree for a good hunker, but the damn Yankee, bless his heart, probably can’t tell the difference between a good hunker and a squat.

Even with the best of dirt drawings, communication was difficult.  There is only so much information that you can pass through the vocabulary of a 7 year old.  I learned that the word rock—piedra in Spanish—is teti in Nahuatl.  And flat stone—piedra plana in Spanish—is tepatiachtli in Nahuatl.  Don’t try to pronounce that, it will make your throat hurt worse than speaking German.  (That will probably piss off Professor Grumbles, the German professor.  But, maybe he won’t read this.  He recently retired and opened a Bavarian bistro he calls the Wurst Bar.)

Occasionally, mistakes were discovered in our design.  If you drive by my house, you will notice that the front wall has a definite slant as it runs east.  I have no idea why, but maybe the “blueprints” needed a sharper stick.  I blame it on the 7 year old—it’s hard to teach construction to children.
That front wall was the last job José did for me, since he seems to have vanished.  I haven’t been able to find him for years, and I have really tried.  When he did that last job for me, he laboriously asked—through our translator—if he could deliver the necessary rocks in the cool of the evening, and then start the job the next day.  Naturally, I agreed to the plan.

That night, when I went to bed, the rocks had not been delivered.  I wasn’t particularly worried as doing jobs on schedule is another thing that New Mexico doesn’t do particularly well.  I was certain that in a day or two, José would finish the job. 

The next morning, I was surprised to see a mountain of stone in front of my house.  (So were my neighbors, for José had stacked them in the street, not in my yard!)  How he had managed to put so many large rocks in front of my house without waking me is still a mystery.  By the time I left for work, José had arrived and happily begun assembly of my new wall.

When I arrived at Enema U, there was something of a traffic jam in front of the new Sports Chalet, still under construction, at the end of the football field.  It looked like every policeman on campus was gathered around where they were building a new….rock….wall….around….the parking lot.

Suddenly, I understood how José could build the cheapest rock walls in town.  I have no idea if this had anything to do with his sudden disappearance. 
I think of José every time I drive by the Enema U stadium.  I hope he comes back to town before they finish building the new art building.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Door

Previously, I have written about the old Jack Tar Hotel in Galveston, which unfortunately isn't there anymore. As far as I know, the largest remaining piece of that hotel is a single weathered brick sitting on a shelf in a bookcase in my office.  Several hurricanes ate the rest of the old hotel, taking a bite or two from me in the process.

This is just about the end of the hurricane season, so I have been thinking about the old hotel lately.  Every hurricane gnawed at the hotel (in some cases the damage was spectacular), but even the smallest tropical depression brought wind damage and flooding--this is the inevitable fate of anything built directly on a beach.  An oceanographer once told me that the ocean eventually either buries or washes away everything it touches, and a little of both eventually destroyed the hotel.

Not all the hotel's destruction was caused by nature, however:  It suffered through a few man-made storms, too.  Some of the "storm damage" was caused by the exuberant application of the law by the off-duty police officers I employed as hotel security.  Someday, I really should record a few stories about "Too Cold" Taylor and "Colonel Klink”.  (I'll have to check on the statute of limitations first).

The worst man-made storm damage, however, was caused by conventioneers.  The only safe way to attend a convention of the Telephone Workers of America is from inside an Abrams battle tank--And keep the hatch firmly dogged!  It still mystifies me how such a group of harmless-looking people could hold such a wild drunken convention and it was simply amazing how many of them ended up in either the county hospital or the county jail! 

One convention that stands out in my memory is a convention that started out fairly mildly, anyway.  The Mattress Tax Tag Collectors of Texas (the name has been changed to protect the guilty) was the kind of mild-mannered group that could be counted on to arrive with a dirty t-shirt and a five dollar bill...and by the time the convention was over and they had left the island, they wouldn't have changed either one.

So it was something of a surprise when the front desk got a call about 3:00 AM, from a guest in one of the of the lanai rooms, complaining about the noise from a room occupied by one of the Mattress Tax Tag Collectors.. 

It was standard policy at the hotel that in the advent of anything really weird, the front desk was to call a manager instead of security, who would then make the decision about whether to call security.

The lanai rooms were strange, two-story bungalows, scattered around the pool; each one was comprised of only two rooms, with the upper room accessed by a flight of stairs.  This shows the age of the hotel:  not only would this kind of room fail to meet current ADA compliance, but cleaning these rooms would be far too labor-intensive for today's wages.

When I got to the room in question, sure enough, there were loud sounds of a man's moaning and sighing.  I couldn't make out all the words, but I could occasionally hear what sounded like someone saying, "Help!  Help me!"

When no one answered my knock on the door, I used my passkey let myself into the room.  The television was on, the room was obviously occupied, no one was in sight, but there was loud moaning coming from the bathroom.

As I moved into the bathroom, I found the source:  A very large--and very naked--man was lying on the floor, covered in splintered pieces of wood, lying half across what had once been a sliding pocket door separating the shower from the rest of the bathroom.  His badly scraped and slightly bleeding body was half in one room, and half in the other, and the remains of the door had a large man-shaped hole right through it.

Note.  When Rene Magritte painted the picture to the right, I doubt that he had this use in mind, but it did sort of look like this.

The man was all but unconscious and incoherent, and it took almost an hour to get the poor man to calm down, to stop crying, to remove most of the tiny splinters of wood, to get him covered with a towel, and to be relaxed enough to tell me what had happened.  For the record, there is an awful lot of naked on a large panicky, semi-conscious, naked, (Did I already mention that he was NAKED?) man!

The story unfolded like this:  Despite being somewhat claustrophobic, and alone, the guest had locked the door while taking a shower, but when he tried to unlock the door, it had become jammed.  Before long, according to him, he had "run out of air", had begun choking, and had passed out.  The next thing he knew, I was helping him up and he had absolutely no memory of crashing through the door.

Now, this had been a standard pocket door that slid in and out of the wall.  There was no way it could actually jam:  the latch could be flipped open with a hard stare, so it was rather obvious that the man had just freaked out and in a blind panic had simply crashed through the door.

Eventually, I got the man reoriented and calmed down, and with the help of a bellboy, moved him to another lanai room.  I wasn't too worried about the destroyed door since maintenance could replace it the next day, then housekeeping could vacuum up the remaining wood splinters, and the room would be ready for occupancy the next night.   I wasn’t even going to try and get the guest to pay for the damages, I figured the poor guy had suffered enough embarrassment.

The next morning, as I was making the rounds of the hotel, I passed the room with the destroyed door and saw a note taped on the front door.  Curious, I walked over and read it:

"Jerry, I've moved to 233.  I had a little trouble with the bathroom door in this room.  I had to get tough and use karate on it.  Steve."