Heartbreak Hotel

Our first view of the Holiday Inn on Federal Highway was impressive. It was 1968, we had just moved to Florida, and would be staying at the hotel for a week or two before moving into an apartment. We opened the drapes to a beautiful vista of palm trees, a pool, and blue Florida skies.

Pop had just been transferred to the new IBM plant that had opened in the “sleepy millionaire’s town” of Boca Raton, FL. Stepping down the old-style ramp from the Eastern Airlines 727 at Ft Lauderdale airport was a bit of a shock. The subtropical humidity and heat enveloped me like a warm blanket. The air was thick with the smells of exotic plants and salty sea air; quite a change from the frigid northern winter we had left 1500 miles behind.

At the hotel, my brother Doug fiddles with the TV. He looks up in excitement: “Hey! Color TV!” Sure enough, a Magnavox 19″ color TV with knobs for adjusting red, green and blue tint. Each of our adjoining suites–Doug and me in one room, our parents in the other–had one on a wheeled TV cart.

Color TVs had just come out, very expensive, but Pop was too cheap to buy one. Lots of shows were starting with the NBC peacock and the grandiose announcement “The following program is brought to you in living color” with the harp and string accompaniment, but we watched everything in black and white. So, man, this was cool…our own room…laying in bed, eating room service hotdogs, and watching our shows in living color.

Lots of hijinks with two brothers in their own hotel room, but one memory stands out vividly. One day, Pop had had a bad day at work, all grouchy, Mom trying to smooth things over with a bourbon and coke and suggesting he go for a swim. We could hear the muffled voices through the door: one irate, one soothing. With exquisite timing, Doug and I decided this would be the perfect moment to get into a wrestling match with the TV cart as we fought over what show to watch.

It happened in slow motion: The cart tipped, the TV teetered for a moment…then fell off the back of the cart. Time seemed to slow down as the Magnavox floated toward the floor. Doug and I locked eyes…I heard “Oh fuuuuuu**” but it was hollow, distant, like someone yelling into a storm drain. We tried to grab it, but our arms were encased in invisible molasses.

Time resumed its normal tempo as the TV landed on the floor. There was a tremendous crash, the plastic back broke and the picture tube imploded with a loud WOOOSH. A faint tinkle of broken glass lasted another second or two.

The connecting door flew open and in comes Pop, breathing fire. It was the face you did not want to see. He immediately sees the carnage on the 1968 Holiday Inn shag carpeting. A shattered grayish-black picture tube…an accusing eye…stared at the popcorn ceiling. An acrid stink filled the air. “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU TWO JACKASSES DO??” he yells. Doug and I babble and point at each other trying not to look at the ruined TV.

I forget what our punishment for this episode was, but my admiration for Pop grew as he slumped his shoulders and went off to tell the Holiday Inn people that his two kids had just busted something worth about $2K in today’s dollars. Not sure what transpired, but we didn’t end up paying any damages…but it did seem that we checked out very soon afterwards.

Sorry, Pop 😎

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