notes from a man who spends too much time playing video games

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A Few Points Shy of the High Score
Tuesday, August 07, 2007  
Was in Orlando recently on business. Stayed at a cavernous Sheraton.

Rain fell constantly, blurring the view from my room of the parking lot.

I went downstairs to look for something to eat. The girl in Guest Services informed me that the hotel's restaurant was closed at the moment. "Is there anything close by?" I asked.

"Applebees," she said. She was a small-boned blonde with a pink barrette holding her hair back behind her left ear. "Across the street."

I peered through the front glass doors. There, in the distance, through the drizzle, I could see the neon Applebees sign.

Between me and the Applebees stood six lanes of busy traffic. People in Florida always drove like maniacs. And I noticed that there was no concrete island in the middle of the road.

Lightning flashed. Rain came down harder. It was only four o'clock in the afternoon, but already the parking lot lights were on.

"The hell with this," I said.

I went back to my room and decided to take a nap while waiting for the hotel restaurant to open for dinner. Not feeling especially sleepy, naturally, I turned on the television. And, naturally, this led me to peruse the hotel's porno channels.

It's truly amazing the amount of porno that hotels have now. A mere 20 years ago, people had to drive to ADULT WORLD-type places to watch a scratchy film loop inside a dark, not to mention beyond unsanitary, bleach-soaked booth to get some titillation. Now, press two or three buttons on your hotel room's remote, and you've got hardcore. It's beautiful.

I scrolled through the countless pages, noting the abundance of titles that featured the word "secretary." Secretary Nights. Secret Secretary Sex. Sexy Secretaries: Unleashed. Secretary Hardcore Hotties. Asian Secretary Sluts Of The Orient. Honey, I Banged My Secretary!

I settled on a movie called The Best Of Secret Secretary Sex. I hit the big green ORDER button on the remote.


Thunder rumbled overhead.

I hit the OK button, agreeing to spend the exorbitant price of $19.95 for a movie that was, at most, 120 minutes long.

And of the 120 minutes, if history has taught me anything, I would most likely only need about four of those minutes.

Which averages out to be about $5 per minute.

I lowered my pants and waited anxiously for the show to start.

Music started coming out of the TV's speakers. I noted the fact that porno music has improved remarkably over the years. It's not good by any stretch, but it's not as obtrusive as it once was, back when it was made on Casio keyboards by "musicians" who sounded like they were born without fingers.

"Mr. Johnson's office," a woman's voice said. "I'm sorry, he can't take your call right now. He's in meetings all morning. Call back later. Bye."

A picture appeared on screen, but it was all skewed and blurry. I thought I saw part of a leg. Then a fish-net stocking. But then it vanished.

"Ms. Cox," a man's voice said. "Would you come into my office please?"

A wristwatch. A phone. Another leg.

I got up and shuffled over to the TV, pants still around my ankles. "The fuck is going on?" I said as I slapped my open palm on the side of the TV several times. "Fuck!"

A zipper. Something that might have been a leg. Or a wrist.

"Fuck! Fucking shit hell!" I shouted. I pulled up my pants. I sat on the end of the bed, fuming, still watching the $19.95 jarbled-up porno I'd just bought myself.

"Well, this is just fucking great," I said.

I spent about five minutes fuming, hoping the TV would miraculously clear up. Then I did something that surprised me: I called Guest Services.

While the phone rang downstairs, I thought, I'm 38 years old. The fuck do I care if these total strangers, who I will never again see in my life, know that I ordered a porno?

"Guest services, Shari speaking," a voice said. I pictured the pink barrette, the lock of yellow hair pushed behind her ear.

"Hi," I said, suddenly feeling nervous. "I just ordered a movie? Here, in my room? And it's not really working."

Silence. I heard keystrokes on a keyboard.

"What exactly is wrong with it?" the woman asked.

"It's jarbled," I said.

"It's what?"

"Jarbled up. I can't see what's going on? On the screen?"

More keystrokes. Silence. I imagined the words THE BEST OF SECRET SECRETARY SEX appearing on her monitor in big, bold letters. "Well," she said. "Everything looks fine down here. Why don't you cancel out of that particular movie. And then reorder it. If you're still having problems, let us know."

"So, I won't be charged twice?" My brain was involuntarily doing the math: $40 for a four minute wank worked out to be $10 per minute, etc.

"No, I'll remove it from your bill."

I thanked her and hung up.

Cancel button. Back out to the main menu. Back into the porno menu. The Best Of Secret Secretary Sex. ORDER. Warning. OK. Pants lowered.

Music. Dialogue. And again, a jarbled picture.

"Fuck! Fucking hell!" I shouted, buckling my pants.

I stared at the phone. Thought, Well, I've carried things this far. I suppose I have to see this through to the end now.

"Guest services, Shari speaking."

"Hi Shari. I just called a minute ago."

"Jarbled picture?"

"That's me. I reordered my movie, as you suggested, and it's still jarbled."

Silence. Keystrokes. More silence. A sigh. Did I just hear some degree of judgement in that sigh? Because it sounded judgemental to me...

"At this point," she said, "all we can do is send up a technician."

She waited. I was sure that she was sure I'd decline. That I'd cut my losses here. Hang onto whatever shred of dignity I had left.

Well, fuck that, I thought. I imagined that this porno had been out of order for years, that hundreds, maybe thousands, of business men interested in watching The Best Of Secret Secretary Sex had gotten duped by this jarbled porno, but had been too sheepish to do anything about it.

Well, the fucking buck stops here, I thought. "All right, send him up," I said.

"You sure?" she asked.

I looked at the screen. The hem of a skirt. An ankle. A rolodex. Something hair-covered that could have been a man's armpit or a woman's crotch.

"Oh yeah. Send him."

About 45 minutes later there was a polite tap on the door. "Maintenance!" a voice shouted.

I opened the door. A bald black man with a massive keyring on his belt carried a toolbox into the room. He set it down on the bed. "I'm in room 237 now, over," he said into a walkie-talkie. "What's the problem?"

I pointed at the TV. A wrist. A necklace. A woman's mouth. The back of a hand. "I've got sound, but no picture," I said.

The man put his hands on his hips. He furrowed his brow.

"See?" I said. "Jarbled."

"Hmm," he said. "Quit out of this movie. Go to another one. Let's see if you get the same problem. Could just be a bad movie in the system."

I fumbled with the remote. I felt awkward having this stranger in my space. I wished I'd picked up a little, put some of my personal things away. Stray sections from USA Today were scattered around the toilet after a dump I'd taken earlier. My suitcase was on the bed, opened, my Hanes briefs on display.

Cancel button. Main menu. Porno menu. I started aimlessly scrolling through the titles. Secretary Ass Fest. My Secretary Loves Cock. Cocked-Up Secretaries From Barcelona.

I could hear the man breathing through his nose. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.

Rain pounded against the room's air conditioning unit.

I thought, Do I just pick anything? Or, do I pick something that I want to actually watch?

I scrolled through the list, faster and faster, picking up speed.

Finally, as if reading my mind, the man sighed then said, "Pick something. Anything. It doesn't matter."

I landed on something called Secretaries In Da Hood. Or something to that effect.

The WARNING screen came up.

"Hit the 'OK' button," the man said.

I did.

Sound came from the TV. And then, miraculously, a picture appeared. A light-skinned black girl was on her knees fellating a man with a cock the size of a Subway foot-long.

Me and the Sheraton maintenance man stood there together, watching the TV screen.

Inhale. Exhale.

"Well," the man finally said, "it looks like it's working now."

"It does," I said.

He grabbed his toolbox. Said something unintelligible into his walkie-talkie. Headed towards the door.

"So I guess that other one was a bad movie?" I said.

"Guess so," he said.

"It could have been out of order for a long time," I said. I thought of all those business men before, eating that $19.95 charge.

"Who knows, really," the man said.

He stopped in the doorway. Took one look back at the TV. "Don't worry about the movie," the man said. "I'll tell them downstairs to take it off your bill."

I thanked him, shut the door, then locked it.

I stood in the room's entryway, listening hard, my ears straining for the slightest sound. I could hear the hum of the hotel around me. The cooling systems. The inner workings. The elevators going up and down. Rain falling outside.

I was listening for something beyond the hotel's machinery--listening for something human. A snicker maybe. A chorus of snickers, even. The whispers through the place that the man in 237 enjoys a wank on occasion.

Then I thought, Man, what the fuck do I fucking care. Fuck Orlando. Fuck Florida. Fuck these people.

And then I lowered my pants and enjoyed four glorious minutes of the fine piece of cinema known as Secretaries In Da Hood.

9:18 AM

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