The Garden Street Inn, one of the quaint 19th century hotels in San Luis Obispo, has become a charming B and B. After a strange night, we welcomed the scent of breakfast. We joined an international group of guests for a Central California coastal morning menu. A Japanese family on our left, an Australian group of women to the right, a San Francisco mother and two daughters on a weekend outing in the bay window, an English couple straight ahead, and we two California couples near the door.
All are talking softly as a collective group about the midnight disturbance.
“Did you hear all that profanity? I was shocked!” asks the late 80s mother. It was hardly what she had expected in this tony place on her weekend jaunt with her daughters. “It was so awful.”
“What the problem?” asked the Japanese father.
Someone explains about the two girls screaming in the hallway because neither was able to fit key in lock because of alcohol or chemistry unknown. “They were…” someone began.
The two girls in question are descending the staircase. All forks freeze in midair. Total attention, although everyone is avoiding eye contact. Not even the sound of hurried swallowing of the last bite of omelet with fine herbs, or the whisper of chewing of a fresh hot biscuit.
Everything is on hold.
The startling event that was being discussed, took place at about 1:45 am long after all known guests had retired to their quaint rooms. Ours was on the second floor where a dozen rooms circled a massive grand 24 step central staircase.
Exhausted after the road trip along the Santa Barbara coast and north through the lush vineyards, with a few stops for fragrant wine tasting, we had dropped off into peaceful slumber.
It was the screaming that jolted one suddenly awake, “Help me you M—–f—–, Oh s—, Don’t touch me you a——.” The argument and colorful language increasing in volume as they neared the upper floor.
Leann is out of bed, cracking the door, whispering her report.
“Two twenty-something girls, halfway up the stairs, struggling. One is dragging the other, both are turning the air blue. There, they are on top, one is flat on the floor, cursing madly, the other is dragging her. Now they are in front of the door just across the stair well, the one on her feet is stabbing with a key, but can’t find the lock.”
I peak over her shoulder. The most vocal one, now prostrate on the floor, is moaning, swearing at full operatic volume, then mumbling incoherently. The other, after failing to open the door proceeds from door to door around the hall trying to open other doors. We close our door to let her pass. Going to rescue people who are high on meth, or stoned on heroin, or drunk… no, they seem to be holding onto their dinners if they had such. So it is not alcohol but their drug of choice. Rushing to help does not seem wise.
After three quarters of an hour, the manager, summoned from blocks away, helps them into their room. The closed door muffles the final sounds before mercifully, they fall silent.
Now, here they are, descending the grand staircase. The one, obviously suffering most from the half-life of the potion, heads straight out the lobby and into the street. The other is forced to thread her way among the tables to the counter by the kitchen to return her key.
Foreboding silence fills the room. Will it explode with the grandmother’s shrill censure? Or will someone else find a way to put her down?
She returns, downcast, her whole posture an embodied expression of embarrassment, perhaps the bent neck is an enacted word of regret? No one has spoken. Is there no way to say or do something redemptive?
As she passes the last table, ours, one person speaks.
“Perhaps you would like to offer an apology to your fellow guests for the disturbance in the early morning?”
“Oh.” (pause) “Yes, I am sorry, so sorry for what we did to disturb you all.”
“Thank you, but one more word. Don’t do it again. You deserve better. We are not the real concern here, it’s you. You are worth so much more than all that. Go live a better life.”
“Uh, OK, uh, yes.”
She hurries out. The silence holds, then breaks with an explosion of air from breath held much too long.
“Good,” says the Japanese father. “Good.”
“Thank you, oh thank you,” says the 80s mother, “we all needed that.”
“Yes, we did,” someone says.
Drama ended, the breakfast continues with each table resuming its own conversations.
At our table, we are reviewing the intervention. “Did you see how she entered the room, like she needed to say something but had no words?” Marlin asked. “And the posture, like a sheep dog who has just been caught stealing sheep.”
“Like someone who was caught stealing sleep,” Robin corrects him. We smile in release.
Leann is squeezing my hand.
“You just did another ‘David’,” she says.