The phone rang
often those last few days, and I began to know my people well. The Judge and
Mr. Dignity and the Well-Traveled Widow wanted assurances of single rooms. Mr.
Efficiency asked for a list of hints to travelers and I knowingly read excerpts
from nine guide books. I grew to hate these guide books because their arbitrary
rating of preferred hotels seemed to imply that all nonlisted hotels were flea
"I don't care
for myself," said Mr. Efficiency, "but my wife can't find that Paris
hotel in Joseph or Fielding."
The tour left San
Francisco in a confusion of goodbys, and once aboard I settled back to worry
about nothing. In New York next morning, I proudly checked in at the home
office of the wholesaler to report my group present and accounted for. He
nervously lit his cigarette on the filtered end and said, " Europe is
crowded. There is a shipping strike in Paris. Hotel reservations have been
affected all over the Continent. Guests aren't checking out." Five of the
10 hotels on our already once revised list had to be changed to "or
similar," as the travel brochures put it. He smiled when he said, "Of
course it should make no difference to your people. One bed is as good as
another." He bore our troubles very well.
As we waited for
our Lisbon-bound plane I told the members of the changes in their
accommodations. I put it as cheerily as I could. Mail would be collected at
every stop—"and," I said, "after all, we're on our way to see
Europe and not to spend our time in hotel rooms, eh, gang?" They looked at
me inscrutably. Our flight was called, and suddenly I realized I had a new and
personal problem. I had been handling so many tickets, manifests and extraneous
papers that I had managed to lose my own passport. Then I remembered I had
checked my raincoat in an airport locker and my passport was in the raincoat
pocket. By the time I recovered it the engines were warming up and my members
were looking more inscrutable than ever.
We arrived in
Lisbon at 7 on a clear, sun-streaked morning, the terraced hills and ancient
towers like an exciting stage set from the plane's windows. At the hotel I went
briskly to the front desk. A bath and a change of clothes were the first item
on everyone's agenda. "It is impossible," the desk clerk, said.
"Check-out time is 12 o'clock. You are much too early. At this moment I can
give you one room, which, of course, I assume you will take for yourself. The
other rooms will be assigned to your group as they become available."
This was shocking
news. The Relatives thought so too. They were peering over my shoulder at the
empty registration pad. Somehow I had had the feeling that the Relatives
expected the best: a corner room, a front seat, an audience with the Pope in
I sent them
sightseeing—at 8 a.m. To my surprise, it worked: this was their first sight of
Europe and they all enjoyed it. And shortly after one o'clock every member had
a room and every Relative a complaint. "My room doesn't have a bath,"
Auntie said. "My room doesn't have a toilet," said Sister-in-law.
We worked it out.
Some rooms were assigned as "connecting baths," though the connection
was across the hall. My wife and I took a room without bath, and a few members
were persuaded to live without conveniences for "just a couple of
nights." By the end of the afternoon I was a bundle of jangling nerves held
together with a fixed stage smile. But early that evening a tremendous spray of
flowers was delivered to our room, and I felt bad about having talked harshly
to the hotel management. It's wonderful what a kind thought can do.
Two days later we
left for Madrid. Mr. Efficiency had collected loose escudos (scooties, we
called them—worth 3�� each) as a donation to the local guide. At the airport
the guide refused. "You will need this money for Spanish landing tax,"
he said. It was really a Portuguese airport tax, but our guide preferred to
blame the Spaniards. I preferred to blame my U.S. advisers who had neglected to
mention that every departure from a country cost an average of $1 per
person—since we were scheduled for seven such exoduses, the total would come to
We arrived in
downtown Madrid at 4 in the afternoon, and once again I found myself arguing
with a hotel employee, this time the assistant manager. "But, se�or,"
he exclaimed, "you have come at a terrible time. In Spain we enjoy the
siesta. Check-out time here is 5 o'clock. Only a few of your rooms are