Day 25. My nose is still stuffy, too.
The good living didn’t end in Switzerland. Even in England I managed pretty well.
Most of the time.
Liverpool was pretty good. There were some pretty funny missteps, but there were also some wonderful home-cooked meals, good bacon-buttys (grilled ham & cheese on thick farmer’s bread) at the local pub, and there was always the Chinese restaurant at Fiveways.
London could be tricky.
Lots of late nights at the office. Lots of meals missed, lots of meals out. Some of them were ok.
Or on good nights, crispy duck (or garlic prawns) at the Tradewinds on Baker Street with a favorite colleague.
If I was lucky.
Another nine rounds with the room service chef at the hotel, if I was not.
I lived in that hotel for six months. And later stayed, off and on, for another two or three years. A very nice hotel, with—very unfortunately, and very typical of British hotels, even really nice ones—a SHORT room service menu.
That led to frequent and frustrating battles with the Room Service Chef.
I’d order roast chicken, with green beans, and wild rice.
No, he’d say. The wild rice comes with the lamb (smothered in mint jelly—YUCK! What a horrible thing to do to perfectly innocent lamb.) and overcooked carrots and mushy peas. The chicken comes with runny mashed potatoes, greasy gravy and drowned green beans.
I get that.
What I’d LIKE is the CHICKEN (no potatoes, no gravy), with wild rice and green beans.
Not possible. The chicken comes with..
After two or three rounds of this (Who’s on first?) I’d inevitably, over and over again (I’m not kidding about this) be forced to order the lamb—WITHOUT THE LAMB, WITHOUT the overcooked carrots and mushy peas,
AND order the CHICKEN, WITHOUT the GRAVY, WITHOUT the potatoes.
And he would send up two plates:
One with the wild rice (hold the lamb, hold the…).
And one, with the chicken and green beans…
And charge me for two meals.
(It’s not like he didn’t get it, either. After three or four weeks he started sending just one place setting, instead of two. Still charged me for two meals, though. For being “difficult.”)
And then occasionally communications would break down entirely.
I once asked for a cheese pizza. I was really tired of all the strange toppings (tuna?!!) and weird ingredients and just wanted a plain, cheese pizza.
I didn’t think it was an unreasonable request.
It certainly didn’t seem like a difficult concept.
Wrong again, Sherlock.
First of all, cheese pizza was not on the menu. If it isn’t on the menu, it’s a PROBLEM.
I’m an American. The “If it isn’t on the menu…” attitude is INCOMPREHENSIBLE to me.
Make me a damn pizza. Refrain from polluting it with corn, leeks, aubergine, mashed potatoes, and any other of the strange and inappropriate toppings you have listed. Leave it PLAIN. Bake it. And then send it up here before I start gnawing on the furniture.
We went around and around: JUST cheese. Nothing else. No, not even onions. JUST cheese. No, nothing else. JUST cheese. Yes, CHEESE. Just like normal. Whatever cheese you usually use. Just don’t put anything ELSE on it. No, JUST cheese…
Ten minutes later, the furniture was starting to look pretty good. Or maybe some of the flowers might be edible?
I resolved to duck out of an all-day meeting with Nintendo the next day (the Japanese appreciate fine food—they’d understand) for an hour and go grocery shopping. If I took all the booze, the salted peanuts, and the jar of candied grapefruit slices (?!) out of the teeny, weeny mini-bar, there’d be enough room to wedge in something.
The man next door called down to Reception to complain about the loud growling noises coming from my room.
(It was just my stomach, I swear.)
Then there was a knock at the door.
I looked out the peephole first (I’m no dummy) and was relieved to see that it was just a liveried room service waiter with a cart.
Not hotel security.
He wheeled it in, waited impatiently for his signature and tip (to add insult to injury) and bolted.
Like he was a little afraid.
I grabbed a thick linen napkin and carefully raised the domed cover…
What was revealed underneath looked like a pizza—mostly—and smelled like a pizza—mostly.
Except for five large, evenly-spaced, blue-ish gray, slightly lumpy, toxic-looking puddles floating on top.
I think one of them was moving.
I know of no naturally-occurring edible substance that color.
But it was late. I was really tired, frustrated, and starving. The company at that time had a large insurance policy on me—I figured if I was poisoned to death in this London hotel room the rest of my family would be set for life.
And that chef would get his.
It was not that big of a pizza to begin with, but I carefully cut around the pulsating puddles—leaving a WIDE margin of safety—and ate the little that was left.
By the time I’d finished, the puddles had congealed into a soft, blue-gray, slightly lumpy porridge–like substance. Darker streaks, like veins, were becoming visible.
And vaguely threatening.
I trapped them back under the dome before they could spring to life and make a break for it, pushed the cart out the door into the hall, shut the door and locked it behind me.
Went for a bath, and a book, and bed.
And an hour later, just as I was falling asleep, it occurred to me.
He’d topped it with bleu cheese.