Welcome to Nikkos’ World: A True Story from My Trip To Houston, TX

The scene of the crime: A typical room at the Hilton Americas, Houston, TX

OK, time for a funny story.

I traveled to Houston last weekend for a business trip/trade show. On my last morning in Houston, I was expected in the exhibit hall (trade show) at about 8:00 AM. Having gone out the night before to sample the varied delights of Houston’s night life, I awoke somewhat late. Basically, I needed to get outta bed, hit the shower hard and get my ass in gear. I also had to pack, as I was checking out that day. Realizing I was most likely going to be late no matter what I did, I opted to lounge in bed for a leisurely cigarette before jumping in the shower.

When I travel, I always get a non-smoking room and then smoke in it. Smoking rooms smell nasty. I have no idea why; it’s just something I’ve noticed. Anyways, I’ve never been fined, billed extra, pilloried or jailed for smoking in a non-smoking room. I take it as a suggestion from hotel management that I not smoke in the room, rather than a binding legal edict.

So I struck a match, turned on CNN and got ready to psych myself up for another day. And there I was, quite literally about to touch match flame to cigarette, when the “EVACUATE THE BUILDING!!!!!” pre-recorded message of doom BLASTS through the hotel, the steely, robotic voice accompanied by the bleating of a pre-recorded siren. “PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING. DO NOT USE THE ELEVATORS. PROCEED TO THE NEAREST STAIRWELL AND LISTEN FOR INSTRUCTIONS. PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING. DO NOT…”

“HOLY SHIT!” I thought to myself, “They finally got me!” For a brief, paranoid second, the thought that my room might be under some sort of surveillance flashed through my brain. Was the match being lit enough to set off the alarm? But I’d been smoking in the room the previous day without issue. so WTF? Was the hotel under terrorist attack? Was this just a false alarm? A thousand scenarios raced through my mind. I pondered simply ignoring the alarm and getting in the shower. I then dismissed that as idiocy- who wants to be the guy that got incinerated because he couldn’t follow simple, pre-recorded instructions?- and threw on some clothes and raced down the hall. I was joined by hotel guests in various states of undress scurrying towards the stairwell. Now, I was staying on the 18th floor. That’s a lot of flights to descend. As we went, I poked my head into the hallways of floors we passed- and there was no alarm being sounded on their floors, nor anyone running for their lives. This convinced me that I was not in the midst of a full-scale hotel disaster, however, it did rekindle my fear that maybe I was somehow, someway responsible for the alarm and evacuation.

So down and down we went, finally arriving in the hotel lobby, where businessmen and women were going about their morning without a worry in the world, obviously perplexed by the sudden influx of half-dressed and bathrobed strangers into the lobby. We must have looked like some sort of demented pajama party. Of course, there was no hotel staff around to provide instructions, to sound the all-clear or anything. We were just standing there looking like idiots. One of the evacuees went to the check-in desk and was informed “Somebody was smoking in a non-smoking room and that’s what set the alarm off.” Grrrrreat, I’m gonna start my day by being late AND busted. I went to another hotel rep. at the check-in desk and was informed that no, somebody burned their toast in the Executive Lounge on the 19th floor and THAT’S what set off the alarm. Hmmmm…at this point I wasn’t sure what to think, but the all-clear was given and we proceeded back to our rooms (via the elevators, thank god).

Upon exiting the elevator, I rounded the corner to my room and who is standing about halfway down the hall, right in front of my hotel room door but, yes, you guessed it: HOTEL SECURITY. This particular security apparatchik was by herself, in uniform, talking rather authoritatively into walkie-talkie. Wanna look more authoritative? Invest in a walkie-talkie. Anyways, at this point, I had no options. I couldn’t just run: my clothes and luggage were in the room and I wasn’t even dressed in my work attire yet. I couldn’t stall for time and wait for security to leave- I was already late. So, I had only one option- pure chutzpah. I decided I would walk right past the security lady and go straight into my room, brimming with the confidence of an innocent man, without making eye contact, but without looking too squirelley either, if at all possible.

Each step towards my hotel room- and a possible confrontation with hotel security, a confrontation I can ill afford and which would probably cost me my job- each step forward took an effort of will. As I got closer, I could hear the squawking voices on the other end of her walkie-talkie, unintelligibly relaying information to the woman who would soon have me cuffed and thrown into the hotel dungeon. Closer I walked, ears straining to pick up any hint of the walkie-talkie transmissions, eyes straining, trying to detect any hint malice in her face, eyes or body language, quickly glancing to her hip to determine what make and model of piece she was packing, making quick mental calculations as to how many rounds her 9mm held and how many I was likely to dodge before one was lodged in my cold, black smoker’s lung should I attempt to resist or escape.

Just one foot in front of the other, I told myself. Look up, not at her, but not at the floor either. That makes you look guilty. Watch your body language. Look innocent. Walk straight and upright. Just like any other upright citizen.

Now I am mere feet from the security lady. I am taking my hotel room keycard out of my pocket. I am sliding it in the door. She has not acknowledged my presence. I am half-expecting to be tackled from behind. Wait! Maybe her back-up is already in my room, ready to tackle me as I step in- the old hammer and anvil maneuver. And I was about to walk right into it. Well, nowhere to go but straight ahead. What would Jack Bauer do? No, I can’t punch her in the face, knock her ass out and steal her gun, radio and security clearance. Life is most certainly not an episode of “24.”

My keycard activates, the little green lights flash and the door opens with a soft “click.” I’m steps away from freedom.

Just then, her radio crackles to life: “Yeah, we got that toaster fixed. Fucking big shot puts bread in the toaster in the Executive Lounge on the 19th floor and walks away. Over.”

With tragedy averted, I shut my hotel room door behind me, and breathed a sigh of relief.

I plopped down on the bed, put the TV back on CNN, and, with a furtive glance towards the smoke detector, I lit a cigarette.

15 Comments so far

  1. Marty (unregistered) on March 9th, 2006 @ 11:41 pm

    Always ask the question: WWJ(B)D.

    Great story!

  2. bassaholic (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 1:02 am

    Great story Nikkos! I was in a similar situation not too long ago with a “tobacco-like” substance. I was quite literally freaking out when I saw security marching around my floor. Most likely the real culprits were once again those “fucking bigshots”.

  3. Eric Scalf (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 1:09 am

    Oh, that’s great. heh.
    I love it when those alarms sound only on specific floors. This is one of the few times when I count myself fortunate that I can not afford four and five star hotels. The three and under ones in which I stay, usually active the alarm building-wide, so everyone is in the same boat as I, when things go awry.

    Score one for being poor. heh.

  4. steven (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 8:51 am

    So you’re the reason I sometimes need to move out of my non-smoking room into a different non-smoking room because of the nasty smell. Now I know who to blame.

  5. nikkos (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 8:55 am

    Blaming nikkos is always a safe bet.

  6. steven (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 10:01 am

    Funny story though.
    I think from now on that’s going to be my standard response to any question….”blame it on nikkos”.

    Why is the sky blue?
    Blame it on Nikkos.

    Where do babies come from?
    Blame it on Nikkos.

    Why is ‘Charmed’ still on the air?
    Blame it on Nikkos.

  7. nikkos (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    “Charmed?” Let’s not get carried away.

  8. Gabe (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 10:27 am

    It’s not Bush’s fault; it’s nikkos. ;)

  9. EJ (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 11:02 am

    Gabe that was a good one! Ha. Nick. I was laughing out loud especially at the phrase, “pre-recorded message of doom”. Nice post. well written my friend.

  10. nikkos (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 11:03 am

    Thanks EJ and to everyone else that enjoyed the story!

  11. Alana (unregistered) on March 10th, 2006 @ 7:28 pm

    LMAO! Oh what an excellent story. Guilty? Hmm.

    There’s nothing like committing a tiny sin and thinking that the big stink is all about you.

  12. Lauren Liss (unregistered) on March 11th, 2006 @ 12:19 am

    On a side note, I love the top google ad that showed up as I was reading this comment thread – those boys over in mechasearchville are on to you

    screen grab of the ad

  13. nikkos (unregistered) on March 13th, 2006 @ 8:58 am

    Lauren: Ha! And now it’s “Smoker’s Breath,” “Second Hand Smoke Test” and so on.

    Alana: Guilty? Never! Vindicated! After the alarm went off, I had an EXCUSE for being late to work ha ha haha!

  14. Darby (unregistered) on March 13th, 2006 @ 10:49 pm

    Definately a funny story.
    In keeping with the topic with a nod to Bassaholic, I had a similar event happen in the dorms in college.

    We were smoking a “tobacco like substance” when the alarm went off. Unfortunately, the alarms there were by individual room, so we were busted on that respect. Luckilly, the detectors were “smoke detectors” rather than “specific type of smoke” detectors, so by the time anybody came up to check on it, there was nothing to be seen.
    The RA on duty turned out to be like 9 feet tall 6 hundred pounds and looked like a lumberjack. Like the type of lumberjack who could have killed us all without breaking a sweat.

    So he proceeds to tell us that these detectors are pretty sensitive, and once they go off it takes them a while to clear so this guy…did I mention he’s like 17 feet tall and easily 6 tons?…he grabs a hankie out of his pocket and starts waving it at the smoke detector.

    So here’s this room full of stoners all blowing up and laughing uproariously right when he starts doing it, the whole floor was already up because of the alarm, they all got in on it; totally a hilarious situation.

    Too bad you have to be so paranoid and stuff now ;-)

  15. The Mishkal (unregistered) on March 14th, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

    Hilarious story Nikkos. My favorite parts-the bullet lodged in your cold, black smoker’s lung and the fact that you knew what an apparatchik was (I had to look it up-great descriptor). I swear only you would know that shit.

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