Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2115158-Stranded
by Espero
Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2115158
A winter storm strands seven people.
All seven of them gathered in the hotel lobby after their flight was cancelled due to a massive snowstorm.

The receptionist observed the crowd, took a deep breath, and raised her hand to silence the people who all seemed to be talking at once. “Please, we will take care of each of you as soon as we can but you will have to form an orderly line so that I can deal with you individually. Your patience is appreciated. Thank you.”

“I arrived here first,” shouted a pompous elderly man. I should be first in line.”

“I did see the gentleman arrive first. Could all of you move aside and let him go to the front, please.”

With a smug look of satisfaction, the gentleman grabbed his suitcase and marched to the front.

The elderly lady in back of the line said in a rather loud voice, “Sir, you are no gentleman. In my time, the men would have been courteous enough to let the women go to the front.”

Nonplussed, the elderly gentleman rolled his eyes at her. “Excuse me, Madam. Ladies wanted women's lib, and now they have it.”

“Sir, if I could have your attention. We have a shortage of rooms. Would you be willing to share a room?”

“Absolutely not! As I stated before, I was first in line and I expect to have a room of my own. I do not care to share a room with someone I do not know.”

“I understand sir. Perhaps someone else will be willing to share. Let me finish your registration and you can proceed to your room.”

“Is there a restaurant in this establishment?” he asked.

“Yes sir, but it doesn't open until 4:00 PM. However, there is a cafe a block down the street that is open now and we do provide a continental breakfast in the morning. The café offers a 10% discount for hotel guests that you can take advantage of."

“I'll wait. I'm not in the mood to take a jaunt down the street in this weather. You would think the hotel would have better accommodations."

“I apologize sir, if you change your mind we can arrange to have a car take you there. Here is your key card. I hope you enjoy your stay.”

“Enjoy my stay! Do you realize how much business I am losing right now?”

“Pardon me sir, hopefully the storm will subside and you can be on your way tomorrow. Just ring the desk if you need anything.”

Next in line was a good looking young man. “Welcome sir. As you know, we have a room shortage. The rest of the guests are women so you will be getting a room of your own also.”

With a cocky smile, the young man turned and pointed at the young lady. “I'm willing to share my room with her.”

The young lady gasped, gave him a dirty look, and said, “I don't think so."

The young man smiled. “Can't blame a fellow for trying, can you. A drink later, perhaps?”

“I'm engaged and not in the habit of drinking with strangers.”

“That's too bad for me, your finance is a lucky fellow."

Next were a mother and her children. “I'm willing to share my room. The children and I can sleep in one bed, we've done it before.”

“That's kind of you,” smiled the receptionist, looking at the two remaining women. “Would either of you be willing to share a room with this lady and her children?”

The elderly lady said, “I do not wish to share a room. I'm sure the children are well behaved but I need complete quiet to sleep. Children are too noisy for me, I'm not used to them.”

Now in a pickle, with only one room left, the receptionist looked at the young lady. “I can offer both of you a reduced room rate and dinner if you are willing to share. I don't have anything else available, I'm sorry.”

“It's OK,” smiled the young lady. “I grew up with two younger brothers and a sister. I'm accustomed to children and sleep like a log. We are fortunate to find lodging in a small town like this.”

“Thank you,” said the receptionist, heaving a big sigh of relief.

The mother touched her on the arm. “My name is Joan. This is Darla, Tim, and John. We'll stay out of your way as much as possible. I agree with you, we are lucky to find a room at all."

“Not a problem. I'm Nancy. Your children are adorable and well behaved. I'm getting married in two months and we want children. It must be hard to travel with them in this weather.”

“Yes, a little. My mother is gravely ill and she wanted to see them so we made the trip. My husband couldn't get off work or he would have accompanied us.”

“I'm so sorry to hear about your Mother, it must be difficult to live so far from her."

“I have two brothers who live close by so that's some comfort for her. Their wives have been extremely helpful, I don't know what we would have done without them. Listen, I'd be happy to have you sit with us for dinner. It would be nice to have some adult company for a while and I'd love to hear about your wedding. If you prefer your privacy, I completely understand.”

“No, not at all. I hate eating alone. When I see someone dining alone I can't help but feel sorry for them."

That evening, all seven guests were in the dining room. The pompous man and the older lady sat alone. He seemed to be quite busy with a notebook and telephone. Nancy supposed that he was they type of person who couldn't put work aside. Nancy and Joan had invited the older lady to dine with them but she graciously declined the invitation. Nancy wondered why she would prefer to eat alone, she looked so sad by herself.

The elderly pompous man was first to leave. On his way out he dropped his credit card on the floor. One of Joan's children picked it up and ran after him. “Sir, you dropped your card.”

With a sheepish look, he replied, “Thank you son, I would have been frantic trying to find it. Hold on a minute." The child stood there while the man dug around in his pockets finally fishing out a $10 bill. "Here, maybe you can treat your sister and brother to an ice cream later. Thank you again!"

Beaming, the child returned to the table, flashing his $10 bill.

"See," his mother said. "He really appreciated what you did for him and I know that you did not do it for the money either."

Although crowded in their room, Nancy and Joan did enjoy getting to know each other. Nancy felt that she had made a new friend and invited Joan and her family to the wedding. She expressed the hope that they could make it.

"I'd love to," Joan replied, "it will depend on Bill's work schedule."

Next day, the storm was over and the guests left their rooms. Nancy met the elderly lady in the hallway and offered to carry her bags down to the breakfast room for her. “Here, let me help you,” she said. "Maybe we could sit together for breakfast, I feel like I didn't get to know you."

“Thank you,” the woman replied gratefully, "I would enjoy getting to know you too. I apologize for my attitude yesterday. I have anxiety. When the flight was cancelled, I was a nervous wreck. I apologize."

"There's no need to apologize, it was a stressful day, that's for sure."

As they sat enjoying their coffee, the pompous man entered the room. With a big smile, he walked over to the children's table and greeted them good morning.

Now, all gathered in the lobby waiting for their taxis. Nancy couldn't help but compare the personalities of the people she had met in the last 24 hours. They appeared to be pompous, brash, selfish, lonely, and kind; but were they? Each of them, finding themselves in the same situation, had reacted differently. It seemed a stressful situation brought out either the worst or best in people. She thought, 'how easy it is to judge someone in the moment without having time to really get to know them at all' and made a mental note to try and avoid doing that in the future. After all, what would life be if all of us were exactly the same!

1st Prize Winner in Contest
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