Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Room for the Night

My first hotel stay in Philadelphia was totally unplanned and memorable, to say the least.

The journey to the Hotel Adelphia began, oddly enough, in Boston. My brother’s girl friend attended college in the area, and occasionally I trekked up from eastern Pennsylvania to spend a weekend. She would find dates for me, which is how I met the wonderful Connie (we reconnected via Facebook 42 years later). During a spring trip, one of her friends introduced us to two friends visiting from Philadelphia, one of them a tall and very pretty Temple University student.

Although not particularly aggressive, I nonetheless tried something totally out of character. Inquiries found her name – Randy – and phone number and the fact that she remembered who I was and would be amenable to a date. Back then, long-distance phone calls were a big deal, especially since we freshman weren’t allowed telephones in the dorm rooms. I filled my pocket with change and called from a booth in the University Center. The conversation went well, and we arranged to meet in Philadelphia two weekends later. I neglected one important detail: to find a place to stay in a men’s dorm that night, which I’d done each time in Boston.

We spent a very pleasant spring evening together. Another couple – the guy was a year ahead of me at Lehigh – joined us. We saw “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and dined near Rittenhouse Square, which I would revisit for the first time last summer. We parted ways at her dorm, after which the guy drove to his parents’ house in the suburbs without asking my plans. So here I was, a white kid in a sport coat and tie, on North Broad Street around midnight. Frugal as I was (and still am), I opted to take a bus downtown, sleep in the bus terminal and take the 6 a.m. Penn Stage bus back to Bethlehem. 

Rittenhouse Square, 2010

A bus finally arrived in approximately 20 minutes. After the door opened, the woman next to me began screaming at the bus driver about her perceived long wait, telling him somebody had been mugged in the interim. Great, I thought, but now being on the bus negated that worry. Unfortunately, I forgot the location of the bus terminal after getting off at City Hall. The City Hall courtyard was deserted as I cut through south to Chestnut Street, passing only a lone black GI, who looked at me like I was nuts. At 13th Street, I spotted the Hotel Adelphia and figured this had better be my accommodation for the night.

Hotel Adelphia

My anxiety increased when while checking in, two women came out of the bar in identical dresses and tipsily informed the deskman they’d just been up to one of their rooms and found a man in the bed. House rules required a bellman to take me to the room (I didn’t tip him because I didn’t have any luggage), which was stiflingly hot. After opening a window, my next stop was the bathroom – or what I thought was the bathroom. The light revealed only a sink and shower in the tiny room. You can guess the rest.

I slept well enough to make the 8 a.m. bus back to school. The 60-mile trip didn't end fast enough.  I transferred to college in Boston the following year, so I never called, wrote or otherwise communicated with Randy again. Her Facebook page is gone (she seems to have led a good life with a nice Jewish boy from Penn), so I can't send her the link to this post. The Hotel Adelphia is now the Adelphia House, a rental apartment building.  Reviewers give it low marks; why am I not surprised?

Adelphia House

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