- Tuesday, 21 November 2006 22:07 Africa
By Ngugi Wa Thiong'o
I checked into Hotel Vitale on Thursday, 9th November in room 640.
The following morning, Friday 10th, I went for a brunch and a walk at the water front and then came back into the hotel, at around 1pm, lunch time, took a newspaper, San Francisco Chronicle, at Concierge's desk and went into a nice porch in the Americano, the hotel's restraunt, where I sat and read while also enjoying a nice view of the ferry and waterfront
from the window. I was all alone in the porch. A white man, about 5' 4", dressed in a gray suit stood in front of me.
"This place is for guests of the hotel. You have to leave, " he said.
At first I was intrigued by his words: how did he arrive at the conclusion that I was Not a
guest of the hotel? So I asked him:
"How do you know that I am not a guest of the hotel?"
"You have to leave. This is for guests of the hotel."
"But how do you know that I am not a guest?" I asked him again.
"You have to leave."
"But you have not even asked me if I am staying in the hotel"
'Okay. Are you staying at the hotel?'
The tone and demeanor was of a man who had made up his mind that I could not have been
"Let's us go to the reception desk," I told him.
"It is not necessary," he said. "Just leave."
"Who are you? What is your name?"
I now asked remembering that the man had not even identified himself.
"It is not necessary," He replied curtly. "Just leave."
"This is sheer harassment. You find me reading a newspaper peacefully. You don't identify
yourself. You don't ask if I am a guest. And you refuse to identify yourself. And now you afraid of going to the Reception desk?
After a few more exchanges, repeating the things, he says:
"Okay, let's go."
By this time, I am fuming with rage, The man strides towards the reception desk. I also get
there and ask the staff to check whether or not I was the occupant of room 640. Even before any of the aghast staff had said anything, the man had started apologizing. But I kept on asking him: How could he do what he did? Find me reading a newspaper that the Concierge had given me, and proceed with such emotional violence on my person?
The lobby manager, a David (?) recognized me as the Random House guest, and started apologizing for the behaviour of the man, whom I assumed by now to be the Restaurant Manager, and who by then had had left the scene. No explanation about his conduct. The Lobby manager went to get the Hotel Manager who came down and apologized for what he termed as some misunderstanding.
"But it was not a misunderstanding," I said. "I was quietly reading a newspaper when he accosted me."
"Okay, for his behaviour. David will get you a room,"
"But I have got a room. Room 640. I checked in last night."
"Oh! I am sorry! Is there anything we can do to make up?"
"You need to talk to your man, not me."
"Yes, I shall, but are you sure there is nothing we can do to make up? A massage? A whiskey?"
It was clear to me that even the Hotel Manager did not understand the depth of the emotional violence on me by a member of his staff.
I went back to my room called Katherine Freeman and asked to change the hotel. I moved to St Francis Westin.
Words alone cannot describe the horror of the occasion, the emotional violation I experienced but time will heal it.