I asked to speak to the manager of the hotel in Krakow, Poland where I am visiting. The young woman working the reception desk said he wasn’t available. She asked me what I needed.
There wasn’t anyone else around who was wearing a mask. For sure I was the only one who was double masked. “I am sick…” I started.
She interrupted me. “Yes. We know.”
“I have Covid.”
“Yes. We know.”
I couldn’t tell if she understood or if she was “yessing” me.
I continued, “I am worried about…”
She jumped in again. “Nothing to worry for we know.”
Well, what about the cleaner who would clean my room? There was no way to prop the door open or let air in through the sealed window to freshen the room. We all know that Covid is an airborne illness. The air in that room had to be Covid-heavy.
I’d been at the hotel for a week and never saw them clear the air in any room with spray machines or anything.
I didn’t want staff to get sick because I was sick. Think of how this could ricochet. I left the cleaner a $10 bill in US dollars because I was out of Zlotys. It was sort of like leaving a forty dollar tip. It was guilt money.
“Sorry. So sorry. I seriously hope you don’t get sick because of me.”
I left the “Sleeping” sign on the door when I left, hoping that it would buy a little bit of time before the room had to be changed over. And who would sleep there next? That poor person. Or people. Maybe even an entire family.
I know. I know. Maybe that’s how I got it to begin with. Note to self: no more hotels with windows that don’t open.
This is a Hilton hotel. I wanted to demand that this American hotel clean my room by American standards.
I lowered my voice. “You must clean my room…”
“Yes. We know.”
I tried again and again. Later I would worry I didn’t try enough.
I exhaled and paid my bill. The room was paid for at check in. I owed forty two cents for buying an apple from their snack store. It was an old, beat up apple. Honestly, they should have paid me forty two cents for eating it.
I signed the receipt.
“I like you name.” the girl said without smiling.
Polish people rarely smile.
I thanked her and didn’t smile under my mask, which is one of my superpowers: when mask-less, I smile nonstop. In a mask, my voice smiles but my face stays straight.
“A good name.” she continued.
At home if we want to compliment a stranger, we comment on her shoes. Here they complement your name. Normally I play nice, but this morning I didn’t have the energy to discuss names. It feels like a teenage girl thing,
“No, you’re great!”
“No, you’re greater!”
I told her she was very kind and found my way to my Uber driver who would drive me to the center of town and my new hotel.
Today was easier than yesterday. No more bloody noses. No more coughing up blood. My cough was still there but my fever waited till night to reappear. And I suffered no more nacho dreams. That’s all I needed in a day: improvement.
I had messaged the owner of the hotel that I was on my way which sent her into a tizzy: I had originally said I would arrive at the end of the day, but now that I was sick…
The room wasn’t ready. She needed more time. She begged me to sit on the couch in the Hilton for a few hours while they finished preparing my room.
No way. I couldn’t stand to be surrounded by beige for one minute longer.
I dropped my luggage off with the owner’s husband and told him I would walk around for a while until my room was ready. I even gave him my computer to hold for me.
In Holly-Speak, handing him my computer was like asking him to hold the lease to the United States of America.
I was too tired and fuzzy to think of the consequences of handing off my most valuable asset to a stranger. Once he took it off my hands, I thought how lucky it would be if he lost it: damn thing is heavy.
These are Covid thoughts.
The church across the street was open; that would be a great place to rest for a bit.
I walked in and was startled by the harmony inside the church. Had I ever felt harmony in a place before? I stumbled for a moment; it felt like I was being assaulted by beauty. Hand carved pews in a dark, rich wood. Hand-carved statues perched on hand-carved pedestals. Gold designs. Stained glass windows. Hand painted murals that were still darkened with age – original.
The alter was a magnificent combination of ornate beauty with statues, murals, gold and small paintings all put together. I have a soft spot for old churches and this one was a magnificent discovery.
I sat at a pew and closed my eyes for a moment.
This is one of the most beautiful spaces I’ve ever seen in my life. Time to be here. I had a new neighborhood. Time for a new attitude. Present. Awake. Aware. Present.
When sitting in such beauty, one doesn’t think about being sick. It was impossible to think about illness and beauty at the same time.
I chose beauty.
I opened my eyes. It felt like my body was being filled with light. I inhaled slowly, basking in this moment. It felt like I was drinking beauty.
I had no idea how thirsty I was.
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