Hampton Inn Room 306
“It is as if we were to say that a book on a shelf will of its own accord jump upward. This, in fact, can occur and if we wait long enough it will occur. We need only the patience to wait for the random vibrations of all the molecules from which the paper is composed to align in the upward direction. This might occur once in the myriad of a billion years and therefore that rare occurrence might occur right now, but it won’t. Although in theory an event may occur, statistics have told us that in reality when the probability of an event occurring is very, very small, then there is essentially zero chance of it occurring.”
— Gerald L. Schroeder, P.h.D.
Samm felt soggy. Sitting in a stale conference room at the back of the First Security Bank of Waunaukee Wisconsin working on an audit for the State Bank Examiners office he looked at his watch. The time was ten forty-five in the A.M. Samm noted this on a piece of scrap paper along with the word “northbound”. Less than three hours into a four-day job Sam was ninety percent finished with the work and his boredom had reached such a pitch that he was now noting the times and directions of the Wisconsin Central-Canadian Northern freight trains as they rumbled along the tracks behind the bank.
Samm wondered how his life got this way, recollecting vaguely a time when life seemed exciting, full of possibility, promise even. He remembered when he’d felt inspired, even though he couldn’t quite remember what being inspired felt like. Maybe that’s life though, he thought, maybe you leave the naïve optimism of youth behind you and settle for what you can get, which in his case was a shitty job and lonely nights in one-horse towns throughout southern Wisconsin.
Samm winced while watching his partner Gary, across the table, perspiring over his work, craning his red, irritated neck inside his collar and making grunting and snorting noises that sounded like he was moving his bowels, or god forbid, having sex. A cold sweat washed over Samm’s entire body and he looked out the window at the wobbling grain train cars grinding past.
At lunch Samm ate at a sandwich shop a couple blocks up Main street from the bank, and dumped three quarters of a foot-long sub and some corn chips into the trash. Always trying, with wasteful results, to pack a little meat on to his gaunt, six-five frame, food just seemed to make him nauseous anymore.
Outside on Main street it was a beautiful day in Waunaukee. Samm strolled down the street somewhere between depressed and indifferent. He watched girls flit in and out of cars and Main street shops like watching butterflies in a garden; soft, colorful and unattainable. He wondered if maybe one of those girls was ‘the one’ and all he had to do was talk to her and she would tell him that she was lonely too and her life had lost its meaning, and together everything would change about their world, but he doubted it.
He turned into a shop that sold used CDs and riffled through the stacks. There was a pretty girl working the counter who Samm could not keep from stealing glances at as he searched through the rows of discs. He wondered what her name was, if she was married or had a boyfriend. He wondered what the odds were of her saying ‘yes’ if he asked her to go out with him tonight. A couple times she’d looked over in his direction and once smiled before looking away. Was she smiling at him or had a happy memory just happened to have crossed her mind as she indiscriminately gazed back to this far corner of the store? Did she think he was good looking, maybe she was just being friendly, maybe she was laughing at him.
Samm searched for something to buy so he could have an excuse to approach the counter and talk to her. He saw about a dozen albums he thought he might like to have, but he knew in his heart that after two or three listens they’d all end up in the leather bound carrying case in his car with a hundred others he never listened to anymore. What’s the point? He wondered.
By the counter on the way out he stopped to look through the discount rack and try one last ditch effort to summon up the courage to ask this girl out. While racking his brain for something charismatic to say to her he came across the album “Necktie Second” by Pete Droge. After about ten seconds of searching his memory for where the name Pete Droge sounded familiar, he remembered that he had once seen him perform live as the opening act for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He couldn’t remember anything about that show specifically, but he thought he had liked it pretty well. The list of tracks didn’t ring any bells, but titles like Northbound Train, and If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself) piqued his interest. It was only $1.99, and if nothing else it gave him the excuse he’d wanted to talk to the girl behind the counter, so he took it up to her and laid it on the glass.
“Is this all?” she asked him, with a smile.
“Yeah,” Samm said hoarsely. Apparently he’d forgotten to swallow as he approached the counter so now he was taking big, Adams apple convulsing gulps trying to get a little moisture to his burning throat.
“It’ll be two-ten.” she said. Samm handed her a five, still unable to speak. “Two-ninety’s your change. Have a nice one,” she said, smiling.
“Thanks, you too.” Samm whispered on his way out the door.
At the bank Samm replayed the scene at the music store over in his head repeatedly. Sometimes he would say all the right things, funny, witty things and the girl across the counter would laugh and her eyes would sparkle and they would fall in love right there. Other times he would recall it with embarrassment and self-loathing, exactly as it had gone down and wish that he had never gone into that stupid store. He wrung his hands and clenched his jaw envisioning the night he wouldn’t be spending with a beautiful girl discovering Waunaukee but would be spending alone in a hotel room watching ESPN and eating dinner in. Samm was consumed with a melancholy despair, foreseeing with a sickening grief the next three days spent in this god-forsaken town.
At five o’clock Samm called it a day, tossing his papers with the times and directions of railroad activity into his briefcase and checking his itinerary to find out what hotel he was checked into for the week.
The Hampton Inn, on Canadian Northern blvd.
Where else had he read something about the Hampton Inn today? Samm stood over his brief case staring at it dumbly as the day’s myriad of thoughts rewound in his head, searching for the words Hampton Inn. Then his eyes came into focus on the Pete Droge album he’d purchased at the music store. Dusting off the bad karma, he flipped it over and read the track listing on back. Track eleven was titled Hampton Inn Room 306.
Driving across town Samm wondered casually what the odds were of getting room 306. They couldn’t be very good. A hotel that size probably has close to a hundred and fifty rooms, he figured, which would make it less than one percent, in the first place. Furthermore, the very fact that today he happened to buy an obscure CD with a track titled Hampton Inn Room 306 on it seemed to make it that much more remote. But still, for some unnameable reason he couldn’t dismiss it from his mind, as a matter of fact, he was almost sure he was going to get room 306.
“Hi,” Samm said, setting his suitcase down in front of the desk in the Hampton Inn lobby, “I have a reservation here with State of Wisconsin Bank Examiners Office.”
“Okay,” said a young, dark haired man, behind the desk. “What’s the name on that reservation?”
“Should be Blankenship.” Said Samm Blankenship. The young man produced some papers and Samm signed on the (x).
“Okay, here’s your key. You can take the elevator up to the third floor, take a left and it’ll be your fourth door on the right side of the hall. You’re in room three o’six.”
Samm paced around Hampton Inn room 306, in a sort of enthusiastic state of shock. Here was something, he thought, something different! Nothing like this had ever happened to him before and he felt it saturated with meaning, it was in the air in the room making his skin goose up.
What are the odds?! he wondered, desperately now. He tried to rationalize it scientifically, to pass it off as a coincidence. What was that old saying, a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters would eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare? He knew all this, he was an accountant, he was aware of statistics and probability and all of that, but that was just exactly why he couldn’t pass it off. The truth of it is that a trillion monkeys on a zillion typewriters never would make Shakespeare because things like this don’t just happen, they happen for a reason. Samm had never been a religious man, but he believed in things unseen and unknown. He believed in things like signs, that there could be times when the unknown shows a glimpse of itself to mankind. He believed that things had meaning and purpose, and he was haunted by the question, what purpose? What is the meaning of Hampton Inn Room 306?
Samm laid down on his bed and then stood up. He walked to the window and looked out at the cars in the parking lot behind the Hampton Inn, beyond that some railroad tracks with a freight train gliding silently northbound, followed by a small airport way off on the horizon beyond a corn field. He sat down in the chair by the bed stand. He took the Gideon’s bible from the top drawer, opened it, leafed through it, closed it, put it back in the drawer. He turned on the television, then turned it off. He walked across the room, then came back. He lay back down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. What do you do when the universe gives you a sign? Samm laid still and waited for something to happen.
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