Have you ever noticed that front desks at hotels are almost always an ungodly height? For a desk, at least. And only on the outside – the attendant’s side is usually pretty normal. You might think this is just an aesthetics or security thing (it’s much harder to jump over something tall), but I think the reason is much simpler: elbows. I rarely walk into a hotel in a state other than complete exhaustion, so I’ve always appreciated being able to prop up my arms and lean on the front desk as I hand over my credit card “for incidentals” and await my room key.
I struck this pose in December of 2018 on the second night of our stay at a Holiday Inn in Phoenix. It had been another long day, complete with hiking 1,300-foot Camelback Mountain on an empty stomach and then loading a van full of film equipment, so I was ready to get back to the room, eat dinner, and go to bed. That plan had been foiled when my key wouldn’t work, so there I was, patiently awaiting a new one.
The gentleman behind the desk checked my ID, scrolled through the guest list, and began programming a new card. As he went about his business, I scanned him languidly. The plain white tag on his mint green vest told me his name was Shawn. He was clean-shaven, wore thick-rimmed glasses, and sported a unique tattoo on the bridge between the thumb and index finger of his left hand. I looked more closely, but couldn’t quite make out the design.
“What is it?” I asked, gesturing.
“The three crosses at Calvary,” Shawn replied. “When I was 10 years old, I gave myself this tattoo because I knew that I would eventually get out of the gang life, and I didn’t want any gang marks on my body.”(more…)