The following is a composite of calamities that befell several of our group checking into the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg. For purposes of this blog, I have combined the incidents into one story and attributed them to two travel companions.
The Westcliff Hotel cascaded down a hillside, with pool and terrace overlooking the majestic Magaliesberg Mountains and the forests (none native) of the northern suburbs. The brochure we received prior to departure described the Westcliff as having "an understated elegance, holistic spa, palatial marble baths, and individually furnished guest rooms decorated by South Africa's premier designer, Graham Viney."
The brochure failed to mention that the accommodations had previously been apartment units, some smaller than others. In fact, some much, much smaller than others. And some not fully reconditioned.
The fourteen of us arrived via air from Zambia in the late afternoon and checked in. The abundant staff (in uniform) shuttled us up the hillside to our rooms on golf carts. "See you tomorrow morning," Gert yelled to us, as she and best friend Phyllis disembarked. A staff member in the black pants-black jacket-white shirt uniform walked in front with their key.
Phyllis and Gert entered their boxlike room and saw piles of crumpled sheets and towels strewn across the carpet. An open container of lotion and a used razor accessorized the "palatial" marble bathroom. Splashed water darkened the marble floor. At least there were two beds, but no space to walk around them. The "premier" designer Graham Varney had screwed up in this one!
Phyllis, being the more assertive, turned to the black jacket-black pants-white shirt carrying the luggage from the golf cart. "Put those back, please. We don't want this room. We need to go back to the lobby!"
Upon arrival at the front desk, three receptionists (same uniform, skirts, no pants) consulted their computer screen. "You see, ladies, we are booked with two conference groups. There is no other room to give you. We will have yours made up immediately!"
Phyllis was quick on her exhausted feet. "We'll go have an early dinner in the pub," she replied. "Please come get us when the room is ready." Gert nodded in agreement. A drink sounded delightful! The same black pants-black jacket-white shirt that had brought them down the hill carried them back up.
The two ladies enjoyed a leisurely dinner and a couple of frosty pink martinis. Black pants-black jacket-white shirt appeared to escort them back to their room.
This time it was clean. Although the outside temperature had dropped into the fifties, the room still smelled musty. Gert went over to get the air conditioning going. No luck!
Phyllis got right on the phone to the front desk. "Could you have someone come right away to fix the air conditioning? It won't go on!"
They began to unpack. A knock on the door and the air conditioning man appeared (dark pants, white shirt with logo, no jacket). Some fiddling and sometime later, VOILA! Cool air began to circulate.
Gert went into the "palatial" bathroom first. "Phyllis! You're not going to believe this! There are no towels!"
Phyllis jumped back to the phone. This time she asked for the manager. Every inch of her 5'2" frame was rigid, down to the tips of the hairspray on her blond coiffure. Only her voice shook. Soon, another knock on the door and a woman (you guessed it - black skirt, black jacket, white shirt) appeared with towels and washcloths.
"Gert, we'd better not try to get around the side of these beds," Phyllis warned. "We'll get stuck!"
"I don't think I could slide in there soaking wet!" Gert responded. By now, she had a towel around her and was looking forward to a hot, soaking tub. She leaned over, adjusting the water temperature in the spout. Like a statue, she leaned and leaned.
"Phyllis, I can't get any hot water in the bathtub!"
"OH MY GOD!" was the response. "What next??"
Back on the phone with the manager, an enraged voice came from a petite lady. "This is Ms. Gotkin again! This is supposed to be a five-star hotel and we have no hot water. We're exhausted and we need a plumber here immediately! We've run out of patience!"
Another knock on the door (black pants, white shirt with logo, sans jacket). By this time, Gert was fully dressed again.
Eventually, Gert got her long bath. Afterward, she wrapped herself in the warm terrycloth robe hanging on the back of the "palatial" bathroom. She put on her slippers and quietly shuffled between the two beds, so she wouldn't wake up her good friend. "Ahhh!" she sighed, gratefully sliding under the clean sheets.
There was a knock on the door. Gert couldn't believe her ears. She willed her swollen ankles from under the covers and found her slippers. "Who is it??" she asked through the door.
"Something for you from management," was the response.
Gert peered around the chain lock to see another black pants-black jacket-white shirt holding out a tray. On the tray were two bottles of red wine, four wine glasses, and two boxes of chocolates. "Please accept our profuse apologies," the note read. "The management."
"Thank you," she said to the uniform, taking the proffered tray and relocking the door. Gert looked around for a place to put it. Their nightly necessities covered every inch of the small bureau and nightstand. Balancing the tray in one hand, she began to push earrings, watches, and bracelets to one side. A wine glass teetered against the edge of the tray, then toppled over against the hard metal suitcase beneath. Glass shattered around her slippers.
Phyllis sat up. "Pour me a glass," she muttered.