Привіт Марія? 20/10/2010Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
Tags: hotel khreschatyk, khreschatyk club, kiev, kyiv, prostitution, socializing, travel, ukraine
Afternoon crawls through the crumbling hallway provoked an unparalleled timidity in us. The cart hugged a stained wall through the hours while our cleaning lady deloused sheets in neighboring rooms. You could tiptoe past, but find eyes raised. The most careful hanging of the ‘do not disturb’ sign caused an awful din. There was no escaping, there was only inventing reasons to abandon our post for an hour so that she could smear the glasses and not replace the mustard-stained box we used as a plate.
Dangling from the edge of a cart cluttered with towels, toilet paper, spray bottles and sheets hung a wastebasket. She was tapping the edge. When I returned to empty our trash she shook her head, flashed a gleaming row of gold teeth, and pointed to our door. Hey, Janice— we gotta go.
The girl who had originally checked us in never returned, leaving us with the one who refused to write street names down so we could find a grocery store. She worked twelve hour shifts and found herself desperately busy whenever we approached the desk looking confused.
Our friendly English-speaking bartender had similarly disappeared, leaving a rotating cast of dour replacements who passed the hours watching Fashion TV. A caged-Siberian tiger trapped in the body of a severe blonde girl emerged to exchange our ashtray. Should some film studio resurrect the famed Ilsa franchise I’ve found the new star peering down at our table of computer bits and notebooks. Do you want something to drink? My heart cracked down the middle, but no thanks.
A man sweating through his business suit tortured the bartender by grappling with his newfound currency. After he finally managed to pay for his extortionately priced bottle of water he found a table near ours and commenced to wrangle with the local cell phone service.
“Hello, Maria? Maria? Hello, Maria? Is Maria there? Hello, Maria? I am in town for a couple of hours. Hello? Maria? Do you speak English? Oh, you don’t speak English. Ok. Well, I am in town for a couple of hours and would like to see you.”
Another man pacing a backpack through the lobby was met by a young girl at the door. Nice to meet you, nice to meet you too. Let’s go.
Websites arrange translation services for your business and touristic needs. Men can be hired by the day for a tidy sum and women avergae 15€ and hour. There was always a blonde woman waiting alone in the lobby. They never looked as ridiculous as the day-glo clad Russian wives teetering on towering heels, pursued by bellhops hauling designer luggage.
Room service dials you into the poker club’s Buddha Bar kitchen which will send a $40 hamburger to your room. If you can imagine a Bob Guccione production of Alice in Wonderland circa 1978, then you can imagine what the room service girl looked like.
I could only convince Janice to fetch me coffee once a breakfast, and despite optimistic staffing levels snaring waitresses could prove difficult. The mop-topped bartender quickly decided to prepare double espressos for me, hoping to curtail my frequent trips across the dining room. He was wrong, much to the amusement of whatever random waitresses had been hired for one shift. Pressure built over the days, boiling over one morning as I stood surrounded by girls gabbing at me in foreign. Cup slammed down, “double espresso” screamed out, and mop-top sprinted through the doors to calm down.
I don’t normally sit in restaurants smoking but after several days of high-velocity stress and limited coffee access the erstwhile policies of Eastern Europe became too novel to ignore. He was waving at my back, gold chains swinging back and forth across his paisley shirt. “Hey, you can’t smoke in here. Do you speak English? Put that out, this is a European city. You can’t smoke in here!”
Atlantic City carefully affected an accent learned from repeat viewings of Goodfellas and exuded the brash manner of a small man accustomed to standing in big shadows. When I had finished sharing with him all evidence suggesting that smoking was something of a national past-time I asked if he would like me to cease and desist. Yes, thank-you. Sure.
One morning we walked into breakfast and found him going from table to table collecting ashtrays to hide. On mornings when packs of suit wearing Russians and Chinese smoldered like forest fires he could not be found. I only chose to smoke one other morning, and according to eyewitness accounts he walked in, saw me, and ran from the room. Later, with Janice at the buffet secreting blintzes into pockets, I hear, “You’re stinking up the place again. You know that right? There should be a shitting table and a smoking table next to you.”
Once again I asked if he would like me to put the cigarette out, but his fury could not be contained by mere civility. Staff intervened with the seasoned grace of people inured to the quirks of their regulars. Atlantic City slipped into Ukrainian with spastic gestures and hair grease flying across the room. The busboy waved his arms, indicating that every other table was smoking and that this was perfectly normal. Atlantic City disappeared leaving a trail of invectives in his wake, and everyone resumed their breakfasts. I went to get my double espresso from the counter.