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  • Writer's pictureKathy Coudle-King

We Need Our Ears to See

A few weeks ago, Alan and I went to pick up my daughter Kelly at the Minneapolis airport. She was returning from a 6-month stint in AmeriCorps, working in low-income schools in Tucson. We arrived in Bloomington, checked into a Holiday Inn Express, and went to get Kelly at the airport. The drive to “The Cities” takes 5 hours from home, so we figured having dinner and driving home the next day would be easiest.

We waited for Kelly at the baggage claim terminal, immediately recognizing our 24-year old, despite the newly dyed, black hair and the tropical-themed mask covering the lower half of her face. Covid-19 be damned; we gave her big hugs.

After gathering her enormous pink and polka dot bags, we decided to go out for dinner. We’d heard there was a nearby restaurant where we’d feel like we were eating in Tuscany. We wore our masks, as did the hostess and the servers, and seating was so spread out it was as if we had rented out the restaurant for our party of three. We enjoyed catching up over the endless salad and breadsticks and ordered a couple of cocktails. I downed two whiskey sours, my latest libation of choice. Alan had his regular Jack and Coke. And our daughter, all grown-up, had some sort of lemonade, no alcohol. Once dinner was over, and the tab paid, we headed back to the hotel.

Now, one thing you should know about Alan and me is we have faulty internal GPS. Mine doesn’t work at all. When confronted with a left or right turn, I ALWAYS go the wrong way. Even when I remember that I ALWAYS go the wrong way and go the OTHER way, I go the WRONG way. Alan’s internal GPS is better, unless he gets distracted by a conversation or song on the radio. Then he has been known to miss an exit or -- a MILLION. (“There goes the Best Buy building! Oops, there it goes again! Oh, and there it is again!”) So, we got in the van and started to pull out of the parking lot when we began wondering how to get to the hotel. I said, “Oh, look, it’s right over there, across the highway!” Perfect, we had imbibed two drinks a piece, not excessive, but it was great we could be in our room in a couple of minutes and relax for the evening.

We zipped around Highway 494, pulled into the parking lot, unloaded Kelly’s bags, and headed into the hotel. The first thing I noticed was that next to the front doors – the automatic kind that slide open – there was a key box – the kind you wave your card key in front of – but it looked broken. When we’d checked in less than 3 hours earlier it was fine. The doors were locked, but the desk clerk had buzzed us in from inside the lobby. Odd.

The second thing that struck me inside the lobby was that the registration desk was on the opposite side than I’d remembered. Huh. Otherwise the décor was the same. Same bright green branding – Holiday Inn Express. But something was off - very, very off.

When we walked into the lobby pulling Kelly’s enormous rolling bags behind us, four to five people, including the desk clerk, whipped their heads around and started shouting at us – “You’re in the wrong place!” I took a step back because the desk WAS on the wrong side, and it felt like some freaky parallel universe. Alan, however, waved his room key and said, “No, we have a room!”

The people shook their heads, actually waving their arms and pointing to the exit. “No, you’re in the wrong place!” and "Turn around!” and something else I didn’t quite catch. But Kelly caught it, and she was running back to the van, polka dot suitcase banging behind her. “Come on!” she yelled. I continued to slowly back up.

Alan argued, “I checked in three hours ago! I have a key!”

I left Alan and followed Kelly outside. Her blue eyes were huge over her face mask. “It’s a Covid hotel!”

“A what?” I looked around and then – across the highway -- I saw it: Holiday Inn Express. Oh, shit.

Alan came storming out of the hotel. “What the hell is going on?!”

“It’s a Covid hotel!” Kelly and I shouted in unison. “A what?! Oh, my God, we – “

Then, as if on fast forward, he popped the trunk, tossed in the bags, and we all jumped in the van. CLICK went the locks. It was as if we were in a horror movie and had just ditched the zombies. (“They’re coming to get you, Baar-bara! )

We took a breath and then we were laughing -- laughing so hard we were crying. Only we would insist we had a room at a Covid hotel.

A silly story, and I mean no disrespect to those who are currently in a Covid hotel at the moment (I do not think of you as zombies), but as they say – “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.”

In our family there are many silly mix-ups. Consider that this wasn’t the first time we went to the wrong hotel room. In Medora, we almost called the police because we thought our hotel room had been robbed. Why, the robbers even made the bed and took the diapers! It took us awhile before we figured out that our room key fit other room locks. That’s my whacky family. I will never run out of writing material.

While our visit to the Covid hotel happened a month ago, I woke up this morning thinking about it after going to bed watching the news from Kenosha – and all across America.

One group of people sees an angry, black man resisting arrest and that group defends the use of deadly force, while another group sees a black man getting shot in the back – 7 times – while 3 of his children watch from the back of a car.

One group of people sees people exercising their 1st Amendment right, another group of people sees anarchists.

One group sees a white 17-year old walking around with an AK-15 protecting his community as exercising his 2nd amendment, and another group sees him as a terrorist from Illinois who shot and killed 2 people, injured a third in the midst of extensive police presence, and now has crowdfunding for his legal defense.

What do we need to do so we can all agree we see the same thing?

Let's back up. How did Kelly know we were at a Covid hotel? “Someone said it.”

Alan and I didn’t hear. He had a room key, by golly, and I was trying to figure out why the desk was on the wrong side of the lobby. But Kelly heard. Kelly listened.

Maybe seeing what others see involves not our eyes but our ears. Maybe we need to listen instead of organizing our rebuttal as the other speaks.

Maybe we need to slow down and press pause instead of trying to shout over the other.

Maybe we need to ask questions instead of insisting that we’re right and they're wrong.

Maybe if we stopped shouting at each other, maybe, maybe we could hear.

Maybe. Maybe not. But the stakes are high, so we might just want to try.

Writing challenge: Can you think of a situation where you were absolutely sure about something and then realized you were wrong? Take a few minutes and write about it. What factors influenced your original position?

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