Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The trials of an oblivious Israeli abroad
I got back to my hotel a couple of hours ago from a long business meeting here in a rural area of south India. I had my dinner of tuna, cup-o-noodles and a diet coke on the room's patio (it's actually more of a cottage than a room) while watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean.
Once it was completely dark out, I went back into the room, closed the sliding glass doors... making sure to draw the curtains so I wouldn't wake up in the morning to find monkeys staring in at me from the patio (something that happened on a previous visit to this place).
No sooner had I settled in at the desk to start typing up my report of the day's meeting, when I suddenly heard a series of loud pops from not too far away. There was a brief pause, and then more pops - bangs, actually - and then a series of loud explosions that were close enough to change the air pressure slightly; each one feeling as though someone had elbowed me gently in the stomach.
Then the power went out, and I found myself sitting in the dark staring at the glowing screen of my iPad, which was the only thing in the room emitting light.
Although less than 10 seconds had passed since the first pops had caught my attention, it felt like I had been sitting with my mind stuck in neutral for the better part of an hour... vaguely aware that something was not right, but not mentally engaged enough to sort out what, if anything, to do about it.
Finally, when the lights went out, my mind clanked into gear and I started to run through a checklist I had heard in dozens of briefings but had never believed I would ever need to employ:
- Run to check that door is locked, latched and dead bolted: check.
- Turn off light switches so that my room wouldn't appear occupied should the power go back on: check
- Check lock on patio doors: check
- Push dresser against door: check
- Sit on floor on the side of the bed away from patio doors so nobody outside the room can see there is anyone inside the room: check
- Take out cell phone and card with my list of emergency numbers and start dialing security officer at the nearest Israeli diplomatic mission (Mumbai): ch...
As I was about to hit send on the cell phone, a new series of pops and explosions shattered the silence... but from my new vantage point sitting in the dark on the floor, I could clearly see through the sheer curtains that the sky over the beach was lit up with a multi-colored fireworks display.
I dropped the phone onto the floor, leaned my forehead against the bed and sucked in a ragged breath... suddenly aware that I hadn't been breathing.
And then the power came back on, accompanied by the various beeps and boops of my various electronic gadgets starting to charge again.
As I climbed shakily back into the desk chair, I noticed the hotel activities flyer sitting next to the desk blotter.
And there at the end of the day's planned activities... after the yoga and meditation classes... after the spa and health club hours, treatments and sessions... after the list of restaurants and the hours that meals would be served... was an invitation to come to the beachside bar to enjoy a complimentary cocktail while watching a special fireworks display.
Holy crap, I really need to pay closer attention to the hotel activities flyer.
It turns out the short power outage was simply a case of unfortunate timing, but not that uncommon an occurrence in a resort that is situated in the midst of tropical jungle.
For the first time that I can remember... I treated myself to a couple of little airline bottles of overpriced hooch from the room's minibar. Let my company accounts manager try to argue with me over the expense. Have I got a story for him!