Clueless in any language

There’s something very disquieting about Sunday morning in a hotel. Sunday is the day most guests go home. Checking out is not the hassle it used to be, now that you can take care of everything via menu screens on the TV monitor, or over the internet via your smartphone, so there’s no longer a long line of people at the front desk in the lobby. But the staff at concierge are busy arranging cabs, or stowing luggage for people who have checked out, but will not be leaving for several hours more — and everyone seems rather wound up.

The dining room is usually very quiet for Sunday breakfast — unless there’s a buffet which includes complimentary Mimosas and Bloody Marys. Often, half of the dining room will be roped off. But — no matter where in the world I am — there’s a genteel German family at breakfast — or perhaps it’s just one German family following me around — always needing replenishment of sugar lumps for the coffee and butter/jam for the breakfast rolls.

When I am one of the guests not leaving, I can enjoy the tranquility of the dining room and dally over the newspaper — even if it’s not in English. My buddy Allen has an incurable newspaper habit. He reads the Seattle Times each day from cover to cover. And when he travels with me, he always buys the local newspaper regardless of the language. He says he can make sense of the sports pages and the weather forecast — but I think he needs the tactile satisfaction of turning the pages of a newspaper. He also does the crossword puzzle if there is one. It doesn’t matter that he can’t read the clues — he usually can’t solve them even if they are in English. He just starts at 1-across (or 1-down) and fills in a word. Then he writes a word in the spaces that cross it — and so on. It’s harder than you might think — sometimes you can’t come up with a word to fill out 18-across — clue or no clue! But he’s been doing the crossword puzzle in the Seattle Times every day for over forty years this way. After completing it, he likes to leave that section of the paper behind on a coffee shop table to confuse the next person!

I’d love to see him complete the crossword puzzle in a German-language newspaper and leave it behind for the German family to wonder about.


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