I don’t like mingling with hotel guests or staff. If I run into one I’ll turn on the pleasant smile and say “good morning!” but if I can avoid them I will. Partly because I prefer morning solitude, and partly because the folks who stay at the Fess Parker Doubletree (I had to leave the Santa Barbara Holiday Inn two days ago) tend to be the same kind of people who go on Caribbean cruises and vacation in Cancun and Las Vegas. Middle-aged marrieds, overweight types, elderly folk, tourists with kids…later.

All to say that when I want a cup of Starbucks Instant I’d rather fill the cup with hot water from the bathroom tap than hit the breakfast lounge. It’s not the staff (they’re all gracious and obliging) as much as the riff-raff.

In any event I was up early this morning and not, for a reason I won’t go into, at the Fess Parker but at the Cabrillo Inn. Around 6:45 am I turned on the bathroom tap and waited for the hot water. And waited. It didn’t happen, never even turned warm. So I went downstairs with my day-old paper cup and my Starbucks Instant and strolled into the complimentary-breakfast room. Some 50ish guy (a tourist from Chicago, he later explained) was standing inside and giving me the once-over.

Two women were preparing things; they weren’t quite ready to serve. But all I wanted was some hot water so I asked if I could get some. In a minute or two, they said. So I nodded and waited. It wasn’t worth explaining that tap water would suffice.

The guy from Chicago thought I had overstepped. Chicago guy: “Why don’t you ask the hotel manager?” Me: “What’s he gonna do?” Chicago guy: “That’s what he’s here for.” Me: “What’s he gonna do, push the emergency hot-water button?” Chicago guy: “He could get an engineer to fix the pipes.” Me: “At ten minutes to seven on a Sunday morning? Yeah, that’s a possibility.”

It was obvious this guy was a couple of cards short of a full deck and not worth conversing with, especially after he said, “You’re being a dick.” For asking for some hot water or pointing out that his “ask the manager” idea was ridiculous? Me: “Thank you. In your company, sir, it’s a pleasure.”

Things went downhill from there.

Chicago guy: “Are you attending the film festival?” Me: “None of your business.”  (I’m sorry but Midwestern tourists irritate me, especially when they offer unwarranted opinions and double especially when they’re wearing shorts and sandals and talking with a twang. Chicago guy: “This is my first visit to California.” Me: “Great.” Chicago guy: “Can I take your photo?” Me: “No, you can’t take my photo.”

Then he did the old heh-heh chuckle thing, as if to say it’s all amusing and rolling off his back. So I imitated his chuckle and pretended to be him, accent and all: “Boy, this fella sure is a character and he sure is particular…heh-heh-heh!”

A minute or two later he came over and tried to shake my hand. I declined. “What are you, a Christian?,” I asked. “Convert to Satanism.”

Chicago guy is 50something and this is the first time he’s ever journeyed to California? What a squeaky little mouse.

The breakfast room lady gave me a cup of steaming hot water. I thanked her, grabbed a breakfast roll and left.