A blind weekend at the Godfrey Hotel

The bus lurches to one lane and the other as my driver and I plow down the highway like we are on a heist.

“Where you go again?” the driver asks as he screeches to a halt before the light flashes red ahead of us. When my head springs back onto my neck I give him a smile, wondering if any other riders of this short bus understand that we’re in captivity with a very radical driver, who’s possibly a dog lover and republican.

“I’m going to The Godfrey, sir.”

“oh! is that hotel?” the driver asks sincerely. I retract my statement about being a dog lover. He’s definitely asexual.

I am on my way to The Godfrey in Chicago, a place I am sure, that’s packed with people who know how to be fancy and high class, whereas I know how to be lower middle class. Before this trip, I even looked up classy in the dictionary so that way I could have all the knowledge I’d need to blend into this wholesome environment.

I am staying at The Godfrey thanks to the wonderful folks in the PR department. Their emails were shiny and it didn’t include anything about going libertarian so I accepted the days that they chose for me.

Bouncing along the cold Chicago streets, I wonder what a fancy hotel will have. I’m sure it will have room service and a host of ebony men who I can’t flirt with because they are on the job. I wonder how much accessibility features this hotel will have though. I don’t know. I have saved all of the links the PR department gave me a few days ago to look at after the stay, to see if everything adds up, as if I am the singular soul who can judge accessibility. I know I can’t be that singular person, however, simply because I don’t have the best looking hair and the disability community needs excellent hair to represent them.

Finally, after a few more lurches and tire squeals, the spunky driver tells me that we have, indeed, arrived at The Godfrey hotel. My heart doesn’t understand this yet because it begins to pump even faster, as if I am facing immediate death.

As soon as the driver opens the door to the short bus, a bellman materializes out of thin air, sticks his head in and asks for a Mr Kingett. I spring up like I am in a drill line and ready my bags, a backpack and a short suitcase. The bellman helps me down the steps and I tap alongside him to the entrance of the hotel, where I’d be housed for two days. He’s exceptionally friendly. I wonder if he knows that I eat meat.

We’re very chatty going to the front desk, where I am checked in by a man named Frank. When my stay is confirmed, I am taken to my room.

The Godfrey is a hotel, not of mystery and intrigue, but comfort. Even though my good eye is swiveling to the left and the right, as I am wondering where we’re going, unable to see in the dim hall lighting, the carpet is so fluffy and soft that I don’t even hear our footfalls as we step towards an elevator that doesn’t talk. The elevator whisks me up to my floor. Soon, I am marveling at how easy it is to slide the key card in and I am soon in my sanctuary.

Once I am in my room, the adventure begins. Tapping my way along the carpeted floor, I pass by a small counter with empty wine glasses on it. A pitcher of water rests beside the glasses, begging to be sipped. I am utterly amazed that I haven’t done anything radical, like dance around my plush room.

Naturally, I want to find the most important arsenal in a travelers toolkit. The thermostat. This proves to be quite the challenge, as I don’t have any knowledge of what the thermostat looks like. It also, doesn’t talk, so I can’t quite just randomly mash buttons I find on panels around my apartment, for fear that I will cause the hotel to be on the evening news.

For some reason, my quest takes me into a brightly lit bathroom, where, I am very pleased to see that there’s epic smelling shampoo resting in a tidy beaker on the sink. The floor is a dark mahogany, which provides wicked contrast, all the more better when I am hunting for my sock I am sure I will lose when I get out of the shower tonight. This bathroom has everything I’d expect to see in a bathroom for the disabled. Bars that look as if this is a training Dojo rather than a place to read books, an easy to open shower door, and isolation for when tone deaf people start singing.

I exit the bathroom again and browse for the thermostat in my plush room. It has to be here somewhere, it just has to be in here somewhere.

Though I don’t find it, I set my mind to checking out the hotel after connecting to their wireless network. I am amazed that I don’t have to squint too much walking down the hallways. The halls stretch and curve, with speckled dots of tiny bulbs just above my head. While they don’t light up the hall enough to where I can navigate by sight, there are big patches of light near the elevator. This definitely helps in navigating.

My stay at the hotel is quiet. As I rest in my room, walk around the hotel, and meet some very interesting people without life insurance, it is soon Sunday morning and I have to leave. I am even more amazed at how lost I became resting in the bed, and dining in their open restaurant.

The restaurant, I am proud to say, is delicious. I didn’t make it to breakfast, but I did make it to lunch and dinner, where I feasted on every type of burger from the traditional cheese burger to a delicious French burger with blue-cheese that made me moan aloud, making people wonder if I have life insurance.

Sunday rolls around sooner than I’d like, and I soon have to pack up and leave my epic room, complete with a crafty thermostat. As I approach the elevators, ready to depart, I thwack a woman in sandles who smells as if she took a dip in chocolate.

“oh. Excuse me.” I say. “I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get on the elevator.”

“yeah. You and the rest of us kid.”

“what do you mean the rest of us?” as soon as I ask that question, I look around to see that the hall is filled with people. We’re stuck on the tenth floor.

We stand there for twenty minutes more, me wishing I had life insurance, before I address the crowd.

“I have an idea! Why don’t we take the stairs!” even though my CP will kill me as a thank you for walking down stairs, I don’t want to stay rooted in this hallway forever. Luckily, everyone agrees with my logic and soon, we are off to the stairs.

The stairs are what freaks me out. They are very thin, and small, and everywhere is white. The sun streams in flooding our skin with a wash of light as we descend. Behind me, a black guy watches me like a hawk in case I fall down or look like I will fall down.

Finally, we reach the bottom.

“alright dudes!” a black guy says as he readies his key card. “this should work!” with a flourish, he swipes the key card against the machine. Nothing happens.

“what’s going on?” I inquire.

Looks like my card don’t work!” he exclaims sounding as if he’s surprised the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist. A blonde woman tries. Nothing. I try. Nothing. Now, we’re stuck in a stairwell.

We whip out our cells and try to get signal. I don’t know about anybody else, but I don’t have any signal, nor life insurance. The few who do manage to get signals place a futile call to the managers of the hotel, asking for a rescue and why none of our keys work. As it turns out, keys only work on our floor we’re assigned.

It’s a good twenty minutes before we are rescued. As the time passes, I chat with Jake, the black guy who stood behind me going down the stairs. He is a music agent. There’s woman who thinks I am adorable, and she makes me blush. There’s another black guy who flirts with me in the stairwell and I exchange emails with him. There’s a woman who’s hysterical and believes we’re locked in here permanently. She has life insurance.

When all of us are rescued, we race to the brightly lit circular lobby. I admit, compared to getting good life insurance, and meeting epic people in a stairwell, I am glad I chose the latter this weekend. The accessibility is something to behold, certainly, but the adventure is much better. Better than the dashing food and striking black managers who work there.

I think the hotel should change it’s motto to “stairs are but an adventure.” it would be accurate, and better still, it would be a clever hint to the fun someone could have at the Godfrey hotel;.

About Robert Kingett

Robert Kingett is a journalist and author who writes and speaks about many subjects including LGBT and disability rights. His journalism work has appeared in several magazines, websites, and anthologies. He is the creator of Gaming Glimpse Magazine, a monthly publication that explores diversity in the gaming community as well as the founder of the Accessible Netflix Project. His memoir, entitled Off the Grid, is an account of living blindly without the Internet. You can find him on his personal blog at https://blindjournalist.wordpress.com/
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