We gathered our belongings and decamped the pool deck, but not without D almost getting leveled by a 200 lb, 14-year-old fish out of water.
In the lobby, we were met with a line so long it belonged at an amusement park. Dozens of guests loaded down with beach chairs and umbrellas snaked from the elevator bank all the way out the back door. Actually, it’s unfair to describe it as an “elevator bank,” because despite the Beaumont Towers housing somewhere around 200 guest suites, there were exactly two elevators.
“What’s happening?” I asked the family closest to the elevators.
“Waitin’ for the elevator,” said the dad. “Looks like someone’s monkeyin’ around with it.”
If the elevator’s floor lights were to be trusted, it appeared Dad’s assessment of the situation was spot on. Both floor indicators would begin to descend, then stop on three or four, then rise to six or seven. The whole lobby stared up at it, audibly sighing each time the cars ascended away from them. It was like watching the world’s shittiest game of tennis.
I didn’t try to find the end of the line. Even if an elevator did eventually arrive, which at this point was not guaranteed, it would’ve taken 20 trips to get all of these people back to their rooms.
I weaved through the line, which was growing in both size and impatience, and headed to the back of the hotel to find a stairway. Climbing six flights of stairs was nothing compared to the hell of that elevator line, I reasoned.
But upon reaching the end of the hallway, I found no stairs, just a couple of offices.
“Excuse me,” I asked a lady sitting behind a desk in one of the rooms. “Is there a stairwell over here?”
“Oh, you have to go outside to use the stairs,” she said. “They’re out the front door and to the right.”
I went outside, Melinda and the kids trailing behind me, but I found no stairwell, only a door marked Emergency Exit: Do Not Enter.
Through the lobby again — still no joy on the elevator situation — and back to the lady in the office.
“I didn’t see a stairwell, just an emergency exit door,” I said.
“That’s the one,” she said. “It’s the door for the stairwell.”
“The one that says ‘Do Not Enter?’ on it?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“To be clear, in order to get to my room, I should enter the door that says ‘Do Not Enter’ on it,” I said.
“Correct,” she said, without a shred of irony.
She wasn’t wrong. The emergency exit was indeed the entrance to the stairwell, and it got us to the sixth floor in a far more efficient manner than the elevator. Now, I’m of a fairly young age and in moderate shape, but hustling up six flights of stairs with a wife and two kids in tow will get anyone’s heart pumping a bit, especially in soupy Virginia humidity. By the end of our journey, I was ready for a beer and a nice sit in the artificial chill of our room.
But upon opening the door to our room, I got the sneaking suspicion that wasn’t going to happen.
“It’s hot in here, right?” Melinda said as we unloaded our pool gear. “Is it hot?”
“Only 82,” I said, checking the thermostat.
“Why is it 82 in our room?” she said.
“Easy,” I said. “The A/C is broken.”
It was Melinda’s turn to go bother the front desk, so she took the stairs and went through the emergency exit, as the elevators had not yet unfucked themselves. The desk clerk told her it happened all the time and she’d send someone up right away.
“The A/C units here break all the time?” I said. “Shocker.”
Fortunately for us, a front was arriving, thickening the already gray skies and sending tendrils of cooler air through our now open balcony door. A storm gathered out at sea, and down on the beach, the crowds gathered their belongings in preparation.
Once the thunderheads flashed on the horizon, the chain of lifeguards chirped messages to each other with their whistles and began to clear the beach of its patrons.
It doesn’t take a meteorologist to know the beach is the last place you want to be in a thunderstorm, but for some people, this seemed to be too intricate of a concept. For the next hour, as the storm arrived and sent down sheets of hard summer rain, the lifeguards took turns running onto the beach and wrangling stray sunbathers, assaulting them with angry whistle blasts that would freeze anyone with even a modicum of intelligence.
The first time a guard ran out was to intercept a pair of teenage girls tossing a volleyball to each other, completely oblivious to the fact they were standing on a deserted beach in a thunderstorm. The lifeguard met them, and they made several confused arm gestures before hanging their heads and returning to the boardwalk.
The next one was a man in a tank top, who somehow made it all the way to the shoreline without detection. He was trying to retrieve his beach furniture and took his sweet ass time folding them up and tucking them under his arm. The lifeguard again made a trip across the sand. She pointed fiercely at him, and he shrugged a couple of times before going back to the task of folding up his chairs.
Twenty minutes and one strong IPA later, I heard a commotion on the boardwalk. It was the lifeguard, arguing with a teen girl, whom I realized with some enjoyment was the ringleader of the Marco Polo gang. Apparently, the group abandoned their beach spread for the comfier confines of the pool, only to get caught in a summer storm.
The teen kept pointing to her gear and shouting as though her intention to collect her property was unclear. The lifeguard responded with sharp hand movements and gestures to the sky.
The process repeated a couple of times — the girl pointing to her chairs, the lifeguard pointing to the sky — before the teen slumped away in a huff, her chubby face twisted in a sneer of disgust.
And the fighter jets screamed overhead.