Kish and I are back in Poughkeepsie for Russell’s show, and because there is a Vassar Board of Trustees meeting this weekend we were not able to stay at our normal lodging of choice, the Vassar Alumni House. Instead, we were forced to return to the “Buddy Inn.”
The “Buddy Inn” is really the Poughkeepsie Days’ Inn. In the Webner family we call it the “Buddy Inn” because of a notorious incident that occurred when Russell was still at Academy and we took a trip east to look at colleges. On that trip, Vassar was our first destination. As the trip started, Russell was in a surly mood, groaning about wasting his days looking at schools rather than having fun with his Academy classmates. We got to Poughkeepsie around the dinner hour, checked in to the Days’ Inn, and walked to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner. We then went back to the hotel and went to bed. At about 2:30 a.m. the “Buddy incident” began.
A fire alarm directly over the headboard of our bed went off, screeching loudly and waking us out of a sound sleep. At first, I thought it was the clock-radio alarm in the room that a prior guest had set and left cranked to full volume. After a few seconds, however, I realized it was the fire alarm. Kish bolted out of the room to make sure that Russell was up and okay. She left the door to our room open as I got dressed.
When I walked to the door, I noticed that I strange overweight man, about 50-something, was standing there, wearing only dingy jockey underwear and a t-shirt. He was wild-eyed and his hair was askew; he was very agitated and saying something I couldn’t make out. I thought he was a fellow guest who had been rudely awakened and said something like: “Don’t worry, I’m sure it is just a false alarm.”
I quickly realized,however, that something was definitely “off” about the guy. He came into our room and started wandering around, looking at our luggage and clothing. He sat on the bed and started to pick up and examine things on the nightstand. By then, I stopping caring about the possible fire and started to focus on how I could get this guy out of the room. He weighed about 350 pounds and reeked of body odor and cigarette smoke. I started to say things like “C’mon buddy, you need to go.” He was unmoved by such entreaties. He wandered to our bathroom and started to pick up things like toothpaste tubes and aspirin bottles. In the meantime, the screeching fire alarm was continuing at ear-splitting volume, and Kish was outside, saying: “Just leave him, we need to leave the building.” Russell, our strapping offensive tackle who could have helped me wrestle the guy out of the room, also stood outside, chuckling at my predicament. He wisely decided to have nothing to do with “Buddy.”
Finally, I just grabbed “Buddy” and shoved him out of our room. Pushing him was disgusting, like having your hand sink into the spongy material they sometimes use for packing where your handprint stays visible for a few seconds after you take your hand away. By the time I had locked the door, Buddy was nowhere to be seen. I went outside, met up with Kish and Russell, and waited for the fire crew that had by then arrived to make sure that it was, indeed, a false alarm. It turned out the “Buddy” had set off the alarm and also had visited other rooms during the early morning incident. He was a developmentally disabled guy who had escaped his companion traveler.
When we got back to our room I wanted to do nothing but wash my hands. The next morning the Days’ Inn comped us on our rooms, and I noticed that Russell’s mood had changed remarkably, from glum surliness to barely disguised glee at my interaction with “Buddy.” He quickly called Richard and recounted the “Buddy incident” in blow-by-blow detail, and remained cheerful for the rest of the trip. He also ended up selecting Vassar for college notwithstanding the night’s events — which is why we are back at the “Buddy Inn” today.