We were in Cape Town for a conference at one of those four-star hotels on the Foreshore.
That day I had quietly distinguished myself from my conference peers with my intelligence and wit. Which is to say, I asked two questions and came up with a funny tweet during the one bizarre presentation.
So I was pretty chuffed with myself that evening and we had a few celebratory drinks in the hotel bar to toast the stellar heights my career was no doubt headed for.
I retired to my room just before midnight, determined to remain on top form for the next day’s conferencing. It was a warm evening, so I slept in the manly buff.
Now, those hotel rooms have heavy curtains. When those suckers are drawn, not a particle-wave of light will penetrate the space. You sleep in a vault of inky blackness, alone with your beer breath and dreams of conference glory.
So it was in absolute pitch dark that I stirred an hour later, when my bladder started pulsing like a due foetus. I urgently needed a pee.
At least that’s what must have happened, I had to piece this together later. I must have got up in the pitch dark, knyping for a pee, and felt my way to the toilet.
In the dark, a hotel-room door is easily mistaken for a toilet door. And those room doors have those self-closing mechanisms on them.
When you go for a pee, you’re pretty much sleepwalking.
So this is how I wake up: bang! Door closes behind me. I’m standing, naked, in the blinding light of the hotel passage. Locked out! And I’m dying for a piss!
What am I doing here? How? Am I… Oh my god, I’m naked. NAKED!
It was like one of those childhood nightmares where you forget to put on your uniform and go to school naked. Except I’m a grown-up, and it’s real.
I’m naked in the hotel passage. And locked out of my room.
I need to formulate a plan. But first I need to pee.
Covering my shame, I scurry to the end of the passage, where I find a window and I’m able to relieve myself out of that. My bladder’s full, so it’s one of those long pees, the longest forty seconds of my life. And the whole time I’m peering over my shoulder in case my boss comes back from late drinks just then.
Eventually I get that done, but now, how to get into my room? I need to go down to reception.
At the lifts my courage fails me, and I decide to rather creep down the fire escape. It is an emergency after all.
At ground level, I come to the back of the kitchen. I peer around the door and see a lady cleaning the sink. “Sisi! Tssst! Sisi!
Have you ever whispered so loud you almost popped a tonsil? That was me, peering around the sink, naked, in the hotel kitchen.
“Sisi! I’m naked! I need to get into my room.”
Permitting herself only the slightest of smirks, she leads me through the kitchen, into the lobby and hands me over to the front desk.
“Room number?” the reception guy asks, like he’s seen this one a million times. Code Pink at the front desk.
I tell him, he runs me up an access card and I scarper. This time I take the lifts, armed with my access card, which offers a bit more to hide my embarrassment. Okay, not much more, but I was coming from a pretty low base!
I should have kept this to myself, but the next morning I tell everybody, becoming the talk of the conference for all the wrong reasons.
What still amazes me, though, is that reception clerk. A naked guy comes up to the front desk demanding the key to room 412, and he gives it him! I mean look, I’m glad he did, but I could’ve been anybody!