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It wasn't like this the day we paid our visit.

Guest: "A person or persons who patronizes a hotel, restaurant etc., for what it provides. A Guest: someone, provided for or done for. One who receives the hospitality of a hotel or restaurant." To: Manager and Owners of the Dream Inn * in Santa Cruz, California.

My wife and I would like to apologize for arriving at your hotel three hours before your four o’clock check in time. In our defense, we’re older. We go to sleep and wake up early. Lately, planning vacations, destinations, arrival and departures are subject to whimsy and occasional biological considerations. When you reach our age, I suspect all of you will understand the urgency of the latter.

At your Welcome Desk in your lobby, we were welcomed enthusiastically by two women and a man. All were young, smiling and welcoming. We were older, smiling but tired after a long drive, but quickly brought to task for arriving early a direct violation of the Dream Inn’s four o’clock check in time.

“Your room will be ready soon,” your young, welcoming… enthusiastic, conscientious concierge assured us confidently. She further encouraged us to take a walk on the ‘World Famous’ Santa Cruz Board Walk.’ "Or, perhaps a stroll along the ‘World Famous Santa Cruz Pier.’” I explained the fog was thick and the temperature outside was in the low forties. She nodded.

I asked if we could leave our bags at the desk or in our ‘soon to be ready room.’ We got the infamous ‘conspiratorial wink’ as she assured us it would be better to leave our personal items in our vehicle under the watchful eye of the valet attendants.

I tried to explain that we felt it would be more convenient if we could leave our two tiny bags at the check-in desk or even better in our ‘soon to be ready room.’ Then we wouldn’t have to find a valet; and he wouldn’t have to find our vehicle; and we wouldn’t have to tip him again; and we wouldn’t have to retrieve our bags and drag them across the parking lot to the check-in desk a second time and then to our ‘soon to be ready room.’

My explanation was ignored. Your people behind the welcome desk exchanged subtle looks of exasperation. Barb and I realized we were the exasperators. Because we had arrived early the welcoming staff at the Dream Inn was having a difficult time going through the welcoming ceremony.

Maybe if I used a cane and Bobbie pushed a walker there would have been more sympathy.

We left the empty lobby and the warm confines of the Dream Inn Hotel and stepped into the fog and cold. We discovered the ‘World Famous Santa Cruz Board Walk’ was closed for the winter. No strollers strolled on the Board Walk. So, we didn’t either.

Bundled in our parkas, we trudged across the deserted beach to the “World Famous Santa Cruz Pier.” For a while our hands only left our pockets to text the Dream Inn to see if our ‘soon to be ready room’ was ready.

“Not Quite.”

I looked back from the “World Famous Pier” across the ocean, up the beach to the Dream Inn – a magnificent edifice perched on the cliffs above Santa Cruz. I counted the floors – 10 stories high in the tower and four stories in the wing. One hundred and sixty-five rooms. Lovely rooms. Lovely views. Warm baths. Private toilets. Currently enjoyed by the lucky ones whose ‘soon to be ready room’ were already, ready. One hundred and sixty-five rooms and not one was available for an early arrival on a Thursday in November. Business must be good.

Bobbie texted again.

“Not Quite.”

We strolled, as told, to the end of the pier. A bowl of delicious clam chowder, barking seals, and a splash of sunshine brightened the day.

Bobbie texted again.

“Not Quite.”

At least, each passing minute brought us closer to the Dream Inn’s four o’clock check-in time. We returned back down the pier. Again, I looked at the ten-story building with one hundred at sixty-five rooms in mid-November. Business must be quite brisk.

Strange though, because on the beach there were only two people playing keep-away Frisbee with a frantic chocolate Lab . At the Dream Inn pool, only one woman, bundled in a blanket reading a Lee Child book. The Cabana boys were inside the cozy cabana concentrating over a chess board. The beach chairs, chaise lounges and special comfort zones were empty. We took the beach elevator up to the lobby. We unzipped our parkas and arrived at the welcoming desk again.

The enthusiastic woman behind the desk snatched up her cell phone and waved it back and forth in front of our faces. “What a coincidence, I was just about to call you. Your room is ready.”

The clock on the wall behind the welcome desk read 3:43.

*This missive is NOT directed to any member of the staff – who we found, to a person to be delightful.

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