Halloween, 31st October 2012
I’m not opposed to giant pumpkins. I don’t have a problem with people dressing up in costume, as long as I’m not expected to don a witch’s costume to go with my chin (I was once told by a six-year-old patient that my chin is “long and pointy like a witch”, and I’ve had a chin complex ever since).
I just object to being dragged into yet other Americanised opportunity to promote childhood obesity and tooth decay.
Mind you, Halloween doesn’t seem keen on me either. This 31 October, I was travelling to Melbourne, via Sydney, heading for the RACGP to workshop the new vocational training standards. The meeting was a treat but I was tricked en route. I arrived at Sydney airport. My wallet didn’t.
I’d had it at Ballina airport when I paid for parking, but somehow I found myself in Sydney with no ID, cash or credit cards. Thanks to a kind friend who made a mercy dash to the airport with some cash, I made it to Melbourne with at least the means of getting to my accommodation.
Alas, the hotel clerk was not accommodating. Having missed my connecting flight in Sydney, I ended up arriving after midnight, and was in no mood to be told that they couldn’t give me my prepaid room without a credit card imprint and ID.
“I know my credit card details; can’t I just give you the numbers?”
“No. I have no way of verifying who you are.”
“But you take credit card bookings over the phone.”
“Yes, but that’s different.”
“It’s over the phone.”
“Well, how about I go outside and call you on my mobile?”
“We will accept a $500 cash bond in lieu of a card, but we still need ID to give you the room.”
“I don’t have $500 or ID.”
“Then I’m sorry, I can’t help you. My hands are tied.”
I was ready to tie him up myself and steal a room key but sanity prevailed. The duty manager was called, and I eventually got a bed on which to rest my weary head.
I have a new appreciation of some of the many challenges faced by the homeless, dispossessed and utterly disorganised. For me, thankfully, it was just a blip — Halloween deja vu.
This wasn’t the first time I’d spent Halloween trying to prove my identity. In 2010, I landed at Los Angeles airport with a stolen passport, according to US Customs. I was ignominiously thrust into detention with an assortment of would-be immigrants while they “processed my case”, and released seven hours later with a curt “You can go now. Administrative error”.
Again, a missed connecting flight, which meant arriving late in Las Vegas, and an after-midnight hotel fight. They’d given away my prepaid room and claimed the hotel was full. Being Halloween in Vegas, I almost believed them, but wandering the streets at 2am with inebriated, costumed revellers didn’t seem like a good option, so I stood my ground.
They eventually found me a “special” room, which came with a full-mirrored ceiling, an enormous “love tub” set into the carpeted floor, and a bed with various attachments. I tried to convince myself it was a Vegas-style birthing suite that had been properly cleaned after last use, but the stains and lingering odours suggested otherwise. I mightn’t have minded so much if it’d come with a pool table and naked prince.
Next year I’ll try to get back into Halloween’s good books by staying at home and treating any callers to tooth-rotting ‘candy’, with my wallet and passport safely tucked away.
First published in Australian Doctor on 21st November, 2012: On Halloween