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Embarrassmonth: What Not To Do If You Sleepwalk Out of Your Motel Room

The birds were chirping and the sun was shining. At least it felt like it was shining. So I opened my eyes. My hands were on an iron post. My bare feet were on concrete. I was outside and just then a door shut behind me.

I turned around to see a black door with gold numbers on it. I reached for the handle and turned it, and sure enough it was locked.

“Oh, no!” I said, coming to my senses. I was a 17-year-old standing outside a motel room in Atlanta, Georgia. It was sunrise and I had just woken. Thankfully I had shorts on. I checked the pockets, no keys.

I was at a Lutheran teen convention with my church youth group and inside were three of my peers and our chaperone. I checked the doorknob again. Still locked. Thoughts passed through my mind of what I should do. I pulled back to knock but stopped myself. It would be embarrassing beyond belief. “Rennels did what!?” all the guys would say. “Sleep walked? Out of the room? Oh man, what a tool!”

I also couldn’t stand to wake my poor chaperone. He was too nice to me, it would crush me to see a disappointed look on his face. So I stood there a few more moments with my fist in the air. I even touched the door with it,  but then let it down and started for the front desk.

Front desks always have spare keys. I would go there to explain my story and they’d hand me a key, then I’d slip into bed and sleep a few more hours. No one being the wiser. Genius.

I walked into the lobby and approached the counter. Behind it was a towering man with a shaved head. He looked like Bull, the bailiff from the sitcom ‘Night Court.’ He asked how he could help and I muttered and stammered my way through an explanation. And just then a short old manager wheeled around the corner.

“Well, let’s just go ahead and give a call to the room to have someone come get you,” the little pip squeak said as he picked up a phone. “What’s the room number?”

He totally threw me off. I looked blankly for a few moments, wishing he’d just hand me a key. Meanwhile my mind started to panic, flipping over mental couch cushions to find that room number. The only number in my head was 257. Seemed good enough. So I said it out loud. And he dialed it. And someone answered.

“They said to go on up, they’re holding the door for you,” he said.

I shuffled towards the room, my stomach sick with unease about seeing my chaperone. But with it was relief that I would be back in my room and laying on a bed. But as I finally approached my room I saw the door was closed. Another door, about five rooms down, was open and a girl I’d met a few days earlier was holding it open. She was also fighting to keep her eyes open. “Hey, remember me? I said, talking with her a moment and discovering she did receive a call from the front desk and it was an ironic mix-up because she had a brother named Matt who was also on the trip. We cleared things up and she closed the door. As I returned to my room and pulled my arm back to knock, around the corner came the pip squeak manager.

“Hey! Hold on there! Just hold on!” I heard him yell. He had his head down and was charging towards me. I stood still and when he reached me he grabbing my arm. “All right, come with me. We just need to head down to the office to straighten this whole thing out.”

It was hard saying what we were straightening out, but I was too young, naive and drowsy to refuse. He took me down to the lobby and put me in a small room with a file cabinet and under a bad fluorescent light. He and Bull drilled me with questions and I started to sweat. I felt guilty and surely would have flunked a lie detector test. Even though I didn’t do anything wrong.

I found it also hard to focus with an intimidating bald man towering over me. Words then came out jumbled and mashed. Sentences cut off halfway through and I name dropped every adult I knew on the trip. One by one he said he couldn’t find them in the system. Finally, though, I must have hit a right note, because my chaperone came down after about a half hour.

And he said to me, “why didn’t you just knock?”