In October of 1998 I attended a conference in Philadelphia. When I travel, especially in the bigger cities, I like to stay in a B&B or guesthouse so I can experience what it is really like to live in that city. For this stay I had worked with a reservation service to book a B&B in a neighborhood within walking distance of the conference I was attending.
I arrived on a Saturday afternoon, and my conference didn't start until Monday afternoon. I thought it would be a good time to see the city and get together with some friends who live in the Philadelphia area.
I have had pretty good luck staying in B&Bs, but as I met the owner of this particular one, it seemed as if I might not be so lucky this time. There was nothing specific I can say about the hostess, except that she gave me the creeps. (A feeling shared with my friend Tonya when she picked me up the next day.) The hostess talked a lot about her "companion" that lived with her, but in the 4 days I was there, I never saw or heard another person in the house.
The B&B was a brownstone on a quiet street. I had the second floor all to myself--bedroom, sitting room and bathroom. There was a large walk-in closet where she had a coffee maker and a small refrigerator stocked with drinks. As the hostess was showing me around she asked if I would be drinking coffee in the morning so she could show me how to start the coffee maker.
"No, thanks. I don't usually drink coffee in the morning."
"What do you mean, you don't drink coffee?"
"I don't usually drink coffee in the morning."
She gave me an incredulous look and was speechless for several seconds. Then she said, "Oh, you're from The West. They're healthy in The West."
She left me rather quickly (like I was the freak). I could hear her walking around downstairs muttering to herself.
"She doesn't drink coffee! She's from The West. She doesn't drink coffee!"
Sunday afternoon I spent with my friend Tonya, but she had to be to work at the hospital on Sunday evening. I had seen a quiet little pizza place near the house where I was staying, so I decided to have dinner there. I took a magazine with me and walked into the restaurant. After standing inside the door for several minutes, a young male waiter finally walked up to me.
"Can I help you?"
"Yes, I'd like to have dinner."
"Would you like that to go?"
"No, I want to eat it here."
It's not like the place was packed or anything. He seated me and gave me a menu. I ordered a pizza and read my magazine. Before I had even finished eating, the waiter brought me my bill and said thanks.
"I'm not finished. I'd like some dessert."
"Okay, would you like that to go?"
"Fine. I'll take it to go. And I'll take a cappuccino to go too."
He brought me the cappuccino to stay and the dessert to go. Oh well.
I walked back to the B&B and chatted with the hostess for a while. She mentioned that she had run into a man who had lived there a few weeks while he looked for an apartment. She said she told him she had this "Little Girl from the West" staying with her (I was 34). He mentioned that the "Little Girl" was probably not used to all the black people they had in Philadelphia. She agreed and so asked him to come and sit with me that night!
ABSOLUTELY NOT! She had to call the man and tell him not to come.
My conference didn't start until noon on Monday, so I thought I'd take the bus and go down to the historic district and look around. My hostess told me she had a bus schedule and some tokens. There was a bus stop right outside the door and she told me which bus to take. Great, no problem.
She must have stayed up all night worrying about me, because when I got up the next morning there was a long, handwritten note listing every possible bus I could take to get to the historic district. She then came upstairs to tell me that she had decided it would probably be better if I walked about 8 blocks to catch a different bus because it would drop me off right in the middle of the historic district. The bus stop right outside the door would drop me off a few blocks away and I'd have to walk into the historic district. (What's the difference if I walk at the beginning or walk at the end?) Then she told me to get on the bus and sit right behind the driver so I could tell him I was a visitor and he could help me get off at the right stop. (No way!) I got down there just fine and had a relaxing morning.