An unfamiliar electronic tone from the nightstand next to me came first. I shrugged it off. Another tone, and I noticed the message light on my phone was flashing. The light tap tap tap on my door wouldn’t be dismissed. It got louder.
I was annoyed. It was the last night of my Timeshifter regime to avoid jetlag. A stretch of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep was what I’d counted on to finish with energy and a clear head.
“Ma’m, this is the front desk.” Tap, tap, tap. Knock, knock, knock. “Ma’m!”
What? Who? It was just after midnight on the second and last night of my stay in Qatar. I was in a hotel that predominantly caters to Middle Easterners. I’d called it Hotel Heaven when I first arrived. It wasn’t that now.
I moved swiftly to the peephole and noticed the chain lock was hanging, disconnected from the door post. Was it like that when I came back from dinner?
“Who are you? What do you want?”
He looked like he was wearing a hotel uniform – it was the right color, I saw his name badge, but when a woman traveling alone is asked to open her door in the middle of the night it doesn’t typically end well for her. My response was a hard pass.
“Can you step outside and show us your passport,” the man said.
“Let me go put in my hearing aid,” I stalled, running for my phone. I don’t have a hearing aid.
“Yes, ok,” he said.
The room was still dark and the message light was still flashing. Who to call? The front desk? My friend Ron down the hall? Yes, Ron. I tried to call him at the number I’d messaged him at earlier. The call wouldn’t go through.
I looked out through the peephole again. The guy in the hotel uniform was gone. In his place was another man wearing a black suit coat hanging open, revealing an expanse of white shirt. He was on his phone, gesticulating, and looking down the hall to either side.
I remembered Ron had used an app to call me earlier and phoned him. The phone rang five times before he picked up. It wasn’t a good connection and he had a hard time understanding.
“What? Who?” Exactly, I thought. Between crackles on the line, I understood him to say he’d walk down the hall and check it out. If I’d remembered any of the scenarios I’ve watched on Homeland, he shouldn’t have left his room either, but all I could think was that someone else needed to know about the guy in the black suit before I disappeared into the Doha night.
I went back to the blinking light on my nightstand and picked up the phone. There were no instructions in English (or in Arabic), so I dialed zero and my call went through. The phone rang seven times and then, “Front desk,” said a voice in broken English.
“Yes, I’m in room 218. There’s some guy knocking on my door asking to see my passport.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “That was me. There seems to be some confusion. Can you tell us who you are and show us your passport?”
I was not confused, I was incredulous.
“You know who I am. You have my registration. I’m not opening the door. Can’t we do this in the morning?”
“What is your name,” he asked.
“Teri Murrison!” I hung up.
I heard voices in the hall. All I could think was that if I were to be taken in the middle of the night it shouldn’t be without a bra. Seriously. And then I looked for my flip flops.
Ron messaged me. “I talked to them in the hall. They had double booked the room and were trying to understand who you were. There was a family standing in the hall. They said you are fine.”
What? I was hardly fine. I was awake. But I thanked Ron and told him I’d armed the door-stopper alarm I brought with me (but hadn’t taken out of my suitcase) just in case this thing wasn’t over and he heard a siren.
I laid back down to try to go back to sleep, but I’m still wearing my bra. I guess I’ll have to live with some jetlag in Africa. Hey, it could be worse.
Now, three hours later and still unable to sleep, I’m telling you a Doha story. I’m proud of myself for not opening the door, I feel bad for waking Ron in the middle of the night, but I’m relieved I didn’t need the flip flops after all.