It was winter 2008 and the Family Day weekend was fast approaching. My husband Rob and I decided taking a road trip with our two young children was a good idea. I’m not sure which one of us suggested it, but after weighing our options of feasible cities, we soon settled on Cleveland. I guess our decision was based loosely in part to our perceived connection to Ohio. You see, Pelee Island has a long-standing relationship with Americans, especially from Michigan and Ohio. Many have owned property on the Island for generations and the smaller ferry, the Pelee Islander, still makes voyages back and forth to Sandusky.
So with this new-found connection to our neighbours to the South, we thought, Why not? There seemed to be plenty to do for a family of four over the course of a three day long weekend; The Christmas Story House, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and of course, a hotel with a pool to entertain the kids. We did our research. Things should have gone smoothly.
After a five hour drive and promising our kids a dip in the pool when we get there, we parked the car, unloaded our luggage and proceeded to stand in line at the counter with the other patrons. Sweating in our winter wear we waited amongst the throng of families all waiting to check in, the sound of crying babies and screaming children grating on our travel weary nerves. Why are there so many people visiting Cleveland in February? we wondered, not realizing until much later that our Family Day coincided with the American Presidents’ Day.
We were almost at the front of the line when Rob leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Uh-oh – that’s not good!”
I looked in the direction he was gesturing. There, upon an easel, a sign indicated the pool’s closure due to scheduled maintenance.
“Oh no, the kids aren’t going to be happy about that.” I whispered back.
We inched our way up to the counter, where the hotel employees were trying to placate all the disgruntled visitors.
“Let me handle this.” I said to my husband as our turn at the counter quickly approached.
We were greeted by a young attendant, smiling stiffly, a line of perspiration above her lip.
“Name?” she asked, in a business as usual voice.
Once the formalities were dispensed with, I proceeded to voice my displeasure at having no access to a pool.
“It was clearly noted on our website.” she justified.
“I didn’t book through your website.” I answered. “I actually picked up a phone and spoke with a real live person who failed to mention anything about scheduled maintenance on the pool.” I could hear my voice rising.
“I’ll get the manager.”
We waited until the kindly manager made her way over to us. She explained they were offering a shuttle bus over to a neighbouring hotel to use their facilities.Yeah, just what we wanted; to be shuttled, on a crowded bus, to use a pool, in the dead of winter.
“Go have dinner on us” she offered “and when you’re ready, head on over.”
We were soon soothed into reluctant acceptance. Funny what no other options and a free steak dinner will do.
“Watch, we’ll probably get there and find THAT pool is closed too.” my husband predicted as we packed up our bathing suits and flip flops, water wings and goggles, and made our way out to the shuttle bus at -12 degrees.
After a short drive in the hotel’s packed mini-bus, we made our way into the surrogate hotel and onto the mirror paneled elevator. As the doors opened we let the smell of chlorine guide us down the long corridor, our young children tired but in tow. We stood before the pool entrance, Rob’s hand on the door handle. We were almost there! Suddenly, a long and steady stream of people began to exit the pool and file past us.
“What’s going on?” Rob asked no one in particular.
“Someone just pooped in the pool.” a small boy answered matter of fact as he pushed past us, bare foot and still dripping wet from his hasty exit.
Disheartened, we reversed our steps down the hall and into the elevator to the ground floor to catch the shuttle bus back to our hotel. The four of us stood outside the hotel lobby shivering, waiting for its return.
“This is crazy!” I lamented. “I can see our hotel from here. I’m walking back!” And with that definitive statement I marched off. Rob and the kids followed.
Later, Rob would tell me he had worried for our safety. It was dark and he’d heard the stats on Cleveland’s crime rate. Perhaps that’s why we didn’t pass any other people on the downtown streets or perhaps everyone had the good sense to stay indoors on such a frigid night.
The hotel manager happened to be standing in the lobby, as if there to greet us, just as we pushed through the revolving door, huffing and puffing from our chilly walk. Our eyes met and in an instant her smile flattened out.
“Your stay’s on the house.” she generously offered before I could express my frustration. Satisfied with that at least, we rented a movie back in our room and called it a night.
“I just want to put my head down and have a good night’s sleep.” I expressed to my husband, pulling back the sheets and climbing into bed.
Early the next morning we were awoken by banging down the hall. Bang, bang, bang a furious fist pounded on a neighbouring hotel room door.Rob and I jumped out of bed and raced to the door. We took turns pressing an eye to the peephole to see if we could witness the commotion down the hall but the fracas was out of viewing range.That’s when the shouting started.
“Are you bleeping kidding me?! Are you bleeping kidding me?!” A woman’s shrill voice screamed at the occupant of the room who had presumably opened the door and was now face to face with the irate woman.
“Are you bleeping kidding me?! Are you bleeping kidding me?!” she repeated.
The response came in hushed tones so we could only hear one side of the argument. But we were able to piece together, with very little dialogue and absolutely no visuals, the reason for the spat. We surmised a woman had found her significant other cheating on her with another woman.
Rob and I looked at each other and I’m sure he saw that look in my eye because the next words out of his mouth were,“Don’t open that door Rose.”
I looked at him. I so wanted to see those responsible for waking us at such an ungodly hour, and he knew it. This weekend was supposed to be a fun get-away, and so far it had only been one annoyance after another. I wanted to open that door, shake my fist and yell,“Are you bleeping kidding ME?!”
It was at that point we decided to find another hotel for our second night in Cleveland. We waited until the commotion down the hall cleared before vacating our room and heading downstairs to check out. There, a new frontline of hotel workers lined the lobby desk. We were greeted by a young, fresh faced blonde.
“Good morning,” she chirped. “Did you enjoy your stay?”
I looked up at Rob. He squeezed my hand.
Are you bleeping kidding me?!
And yes, if you were wondering, we did get to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and The Christmas Story House!