Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Once More into the Valley of Death

Do you guys remember when I went to Death Valley? Amynah did. Having been intrigued by my ravings about its beauty (a sample of which are here) she suggested that we take a couple of days over our break to bring ourselves and our two children to a scrap of desert in which the animals are poisonous so that they are able to kill you before you’re too dehydrated to be edible.

Sana counting flowers on our lunch break in Shoshone: ", eight, nine, ten, eleven.... eight!"
Given the nighttime temperatures are below zero in the park, we had no intention of camping out, and so I had to make a reservation in a hotel across the state border, in Pahrump, Nevada.

The number I called to do so connected me to a chaotic-sounding call center in what I believe was the Phillipines. The young woman on the other end of the phone was, as far as I could tell, as new to her job as she was to speaking English. What she lacked in assurance and efficiency, she made up for in diligence: booking my room with her took 45 minutes where normally it would have taken five, largely because she repeated every piece of information at her disposal several times, at arbitrary points in our conversation.

She asked me to spell my name: “M-A-R-K-R-E-Y-N-O-L-D-S” I said.

“So that is ‘M’ as in ‘Mike,’ ‘A’ as in ‘Alpha’ ‘R’ as in….” she would repeat back to me, inform me they had a continental breakfast, and then ask me my email.

“M-A-R-K-R-E-Y-N-O-L-D-S, the number 3 at etc…” I said.

“So that is ‘M’ as in Mike, 'A' as in 'Alpha'….” she doggedly started again, before repeating for the third time that there were two beds and a crib. Then she asked me the name on my credit card.


“So that is ‘M’ as in ‘Mike’…” she commenced the grim march through the 12 letters of my name, finishing once more with a triumphal flourish of the continental breakfast reminder.

It was a painfully slow process, but I was nonetheless confident that my reservation had been well and truly taken, and that if nothing else in this fallen world could be counted upon, I could be certain of breakfast. Imagine my surprise, after a long day’s drive and wander around the more southern wonders of Death Valley, to find on my arrival at the reservations desk of my hotel that they did not, in fact, have any record of me for that night.

Given that my careful Filipina friend had checked and reconfirmed every last detail, this was surprising to say the least. Until the manager was called in, who reminded me of the one piece of information I had neither clarified nor had confirmed: my reservation, it turns out, had been made for December 30, 2012.

From this, I learned two things: it pays to be careful, and that before I book another hotel I must change my name to Mike.