Retired book title. Not available anymore.
A book based on true life experiences in 2010 in the capital of Germany.
I only just sat down in my room, and I already felt the goose bumps creeping up on my back. A usual eerie feeling ran through the roots of my hair as the telephone rang with such an ear-splitting sound as if an nuclear bomb would be about to explode. My eyes met with Judy´s I immediately saw the traces of suspense reflecting in them. We just stared at each other for about three rings, but the sound of the telephone did not seem to diminish. It screamed aggressively, in a commanding way as if to say pick it up now!
Judy, who was closer to picked it up.
– Hello. – she answered with a tremble in the tone of her voice.
Although I did not hear more from the conversation, I knew already that it was Ingrid the hotel manager on the other side of the phone. I saw from all the vibrations of Judy´s body that she was going to look forward to a tough phone conversation, and this fear resonated from each particle of her skin. I was about to feel a sort of pity for the sunburnt cheeks, which began to fade into the whiteness of the flour, when Judy yelled out so loud that I found the original ringing tone of the phone a small bark compared to hers.
– What? Upon what grounds and how dare you? – screamed out Judy.
I felt the small knot in my throat, which kept telling me trouble is waiting ahead. And sure enough instantly it manifested itself.
– I am coming down right away because this is more than enough! Let’s meet now in front of the reception! – She said with a quivering voice.
I knew from the altered tone of her voice that something really annoyed her, something that drains spiritually as well. I could only make a guess about the nastiness Ingrid has again committed against her. But of course instead of guessing I waited for the end of the phone conversation silently and I just observed without words. I didn’t have to wait too long Judy replaced the phone right away.
– What happened? – I asked the seemingly harmless question.
– That stupid woman, Ingrid has misused my passport. – replied Judy with a trembling voice.
– Did she actually say that? – I asked with much astonishment reflected on my face.
– Yes… – she continued still trembling. – she said she called the embassy in my name and asked for information about us.
I could not leave this without attention. This was the point whereby the hotel had pushed my tolerance to the limit; it was a point of limit that I could not leave anymore without reactions.
In the meantime Judy sat down and reached out for a glass of water with shaking hands.
– Do not worry – I tried to calm her down – Is Ingrid still here?
– Yes, we can meet her downstairs.
– Then let´s go down to find out what has happened exactly and why?
I felt from the tone of Judy´s voice that she had no desire whatsoever to have this meeting again, but there was no other choice since the nature of the issue kept bugging me.
While we took our steps towards the elevator, Judy muttered a few things within herself. I had a certain feeling that each phase forward in the elevator led to a new battle with the hotel´s management. I could feel this tension from Judy as well who was physically even more worn out. Although the slimness suited her, I was sure it was not natural to lose two-three kilograms each day since Ingrid has been generating this situation of stress.
The minutes in the elevator were spent in long silence; I think we both were gathering our strength.
The doors of the elevator have not even opened and I already knew what or rather who was waiting for me on the other side. Even if the doors would have remained shut and the elevator would have just stayed on the ground floor, I would have still smelt on the other side the scent of Ingrid´s cheap perfume. I do not know why but it had an awful smell that always made me feel nauseous.
No sooner than the doors of the elevator slid wide open the first to look through the opening was of course Ingrid. It was obvious from the huge smile on her face that she desperately wanted something; it was a smile for the outside and a planning to cut the strings of the elevator from the inside.
– Good evening. – she called out.
I had no other choice but to approach her.
– Good evening Ingrid – I greeted her back.
– Let´s go to the restaurant area, it´s better to talk there. – she started right away, which made me guess immediately that she was not ready to share her thoughts with the guests waiting in front of the reception. She was certainly aware that Judy would definitely not leave the happenings without a question.
The restaurant was deserted, the only person, the bartender was wiping some glasses. Even the lamps were half shaded, as if Ingrid would have organized this dim mysterious atmosphere for us on purpose just to achieve a dramatic impression.
We took a seat in the red royal chairs and we all forced smiles to our faces.
Ingrid was weighing us even as we sat down and did not dare to speak up first. Judy started the conversation without hesitation and fear.
– Why did you call the embassy using my personal data? – she asked with quite an investigative tone.
– Because I was curious about your backgrounds – replied Ingrid with neutral coldness.
Perhaps this was possibly the worse answer that Ingrid could have given. Prejudice was one of the things that made Judy lose temper immediately.
– What do you mean by background? And what happened exactly? – she inquired.
The tone of the question implied astonishment, since even the bartender who has been silently wiping the glasses in the background, decided to retreat for a while towards the kitchen. Perhaps he anticipated the imminent storm.
– You are odd to me. – exclaimed Ingrid.
– Could you please explain in details? – I asked back, joining the start of a not very pleasant conversation.
– First I would like to hear what happened at the embassy – cut into my words instantaneously Judy, eliminating my question like a cannonball.
By this time even Ingrid knew it very well, that she is not looking forward to an easy conversation. Most probably she has never met a guest so furious, as much as the eyes of Judy were like flashes of lightning.
– Well – began Ingrid stammering – it all started when I called the embassy, stating that one of our guests has asked us to help them out. I told them that the guest has lost her passport and has asked me to proceed in her name.
Since I prefer to observe and stay in the background, I just examined the facial reactions. Ingrid replied sitting back withdrawn like a school girl, who has just finished reporting her homework.
As to Judy, she was listening with always greater astonishment until this point of conversation, whereby her eyes became wide open as if she was about to interpret a positive pregnancy test.
– And which part of this is true? When have I ever asked for such a thing? When have I given any kind of authorization to proceed in my name? – probed Judy dumbfounded.
– Let´s listen to the end of the story – I calmed Judy and I placed my warm palm on top of her small and cold hands.
– I did not need any type of authorization – continued Ingrid – I can do anything as a hotel manager. By the way I got what I was looking for. – she concluded with arrogance.
This was the moment when I took the lead of the query to avoid an endless argument.
– In short, you called the embassy in Judy´s name.
– Yes. – acknowledged Ingrid.
– And you obtained personal data.
– Yes. – she admitted again. She replied just as a school girl.
– Like for example? – I tried to spin the question, hoping that I will finally get more than one word answers.
– Well, things like when did she request her passport, does she have a local bank account. – replied Ingrid.
– How did you know all the data of my passport? – interrupted Dodo. Of course I would have asked the same but she overtook me.
– I had a copy made of it when you registered in the hotel. This for me is a usual practice, so we can check anyone who is odd. – said Ingrid haughtily.
Since I felt a little arrogance in her words, I could not stand not to go to dangerous waters. I had to understand the real motivation behind her words.
Is this a recognized practice among the hotels? – I asked – According to my knowledge passports are usually not copied.
They are copied if someone is odd! – Ingrid raised her voice.
Ok. Let´s move ahead. – I diverted the conversation to evade a meaningless argument – In short, how did the phone conversation happen?
What is there you cannot understand about this? – Broke out Ingrid – I called the embassy. I verified myself based on the data of the passport and the address provided on the form of registration, and I obtained the data I was looking for. What is there you can´t understand about this?
I stunningly noticed that the skin under Ingrid´s eyes started to turn reddish. As if her veins too would be throbbing from her tension. The moment came to push the limit further and to hope that the strings would give away.
And all this because we are odd? – I asked mockingly.
Yes, because you are from Eastern Europe and she is Jewish! – she pointed her fingers to Judy.
This sentence glued me to the chair more than any type of adhesive would have done so, but this was exactly the end result that I was expecting. I just did not imagine that the answer would come so easily. The answer was clear like the spring-water and at the same time it shook me just as coldly.
The situation was simple and all of a sudden everything became evident. We managed to register into a hotel where we were treated with prejudice although we have payed six-thousand euros, and the root of this was nothing else but discrimination and racism.
Judy´s emotional state by this time was not present anymore and the most unwanted thing occurred. The two women began to face each other and a verbal battle started off.
What do you mean by Jewish? I am not Jewish! – yelled loudly Judy.
But your grandmother is Jewish! – countered Ingrid.
And? – asked Judy? – Even if my grandmother is Jewish I am not. What do I have to do with this? And anyway what do you have against my grandmother? – pinned down the question Dodo.
Just that she is Jewish!
I thought Germany has been over this a long time ago. – remarked Judy puzzled, although I knew that she was looking for the truth in a very bad place – A Nazi camp survivor, who is almost hundred years old should be kept in honour and not pointing fingers at her or insulting her.
It is all the same. The fact is a fact; you are not full-blood. – pinpointed plainly Ingrid.
If this worries you so much Ingrid, then why are you working in the hotel business? Or do you select all the guests? Everyone who is odd?
Listen carefully you little half-breed. – cried out outraged Ingrid.
I feel offended and upset by this. – reacted Judy – I have enough of you intruding into my private sphere. On what grounds do you do this?
I don´t care what makes you offended and what doesn´t. Until you are staying in this hotel I am the one who dictates. You know not so long ago this city was kept in order and everyone was placed where they belonged to.
To the Jewish camps? – came the indignation from Judy´s side.
Where they belonged to. The problem nowdays is that there are too many coloured people around. Black and Eastern European are cleaners, the Chinese are selling their china boxes in every subway station, and the Turkish are everywhere with each step one takes. This city has become decadent and degenerated. We haven´t done a sufficiently thorough job.
Do you mean not all Jewish have been exterminated?
A bunch of them would have deserved it.
I was beginning to feel that this conversation was going into the wrong direction and the tone could only get harsher. And of course I also knew that, although nighttime was approaching it would not be spent with sleeping. I looked out from the window and the weather seemed sticky and cold; as if the winds of December would have been coupled with the coldness of the situation. I sighed and tried to divert the discussion to make an end by finishing off Ingrid´s thoughts. I wanted to cut all strings of her burst of anger with a single definite cut, just as the knife slices the butter. I thought she would calm down if she gives out her fury and emotion just as a panic-stricken child does, following a therapy.
There was of course a question that did not leave me in peace, and although I knew I was about to swim to dangerous waters my curiosity did not leave me silenty. So accordingly I asked my million dollars question:
But if I know well then the owners of the Berlin Hotel and the complete T´GA group have Jewish origins as well. The Vidor family is a Jewish family that escaped from Hungary.
It is a shame for them. – countered instantly Ingrid, a bit even more honestly than I expected. I believe she completely forgot under the spell of her excitement, which corporation she represents and what her position really is. – We are working here while all they only do is count the money. If the world would be in order then they would be working instead of us.
I saw on Judy´s facial expression that she was about to ask another bold question, and so I thought I would precede the conflict.
So you are not in a good relationship with the owners, right Ingrid? – I interrupted diverting the discussion.
Of course I am in a good relationship with them! What else could I do? We have every year the compulsory occasion for smiles. They are false people. They come here; they act as if they live simply. “We want the most moderate room…” – Ingrid imitated them with mockery – Then they keep smiling, always just smiling. They are a survivor family as well, just like your grandmother – she pointed out to Judy.
I grabed Judy´s hands hastily, so she would not respond. Thanks god the warmth of my hands calmed her down and she voted confidence to me to manage the continuation of the discussion.
All that they have achieved is simply by luck. – continued Ingrid – It is destiny´s game that if we would not have chased them away to Australia they would be still struggling bitterly for their every day living. Of course the Jews were the ones even who came out well from all this.
I saw on the face of Ingrid that it was even more reddened than before and also how deep the theme of our discussion has moved her. I thought it was better not to force it further; however the damn little voice in my head was still curious about one more thing.
Indeed. – I affirmed. – And when are they coming to Berlin? – I asked the question with expectation.
In February, but what does this matter now?
It doesn´t count. – I ended the line of thought. I knew more than enough by then.
I sensed that my head was getting heavier. Everything I heard fit exactly into the picture I have created about Ingrid. Although I would have never thought it to be so severe, but there was something smelly from the very beginning about her exaggerated kindness. I found it always unnatural if someone greeted me with ear-to-ear smiles in the very beginning and if they kept looking to grant me favors.
I did not want of course to merge too deep into myself and to play the psychologist, my mind´s little train of thoughts filled up the quietness and the stillness that arose.
The time came to smoke a nice, fat cigar. I did not long for anything else just to smell the smooth aroma of the tobacco and to reflect over the happenings under the clouds of smoke. I had to get over this recapitulation because this was the moment when I decided to join the battle field. I accepted Ingrid´s challenge inside and decided to explore all her little smelly activities and mishandlings.
There was nothing else left but to bring to an end this meeting with a definite and hard cut and to retreat; of course just a silent and little tactical retreat.
Thank you for the encounter Ingrid. – I started – I think this was was a bit full of emotions for all of us. I think we need to digest this now.
I saw immediately that Ingrid wished to continue her rush of emotions, so I swiftly continued with my thoughts not leaving her to talk.
By all means I need to let you know in advance Ingrid that we are not happy about the misuse of the passport and we are going to investigate this.
You can do whatever you wish, I am the one who decides who is staying in our hotel and who is not!
Ingrid rotated her eyes and it was clear she did not understand why we did not want to go further with the argument. During the many years Judy and I have learned well that it is meaningless to fight back when sailing on the sea of emotions. There will always be a counter attack from the other side and it is best to wait for the stormy sea to silence down. I quickly calmed her down, by playing the good psychologist and ignoring her hassle, and ended the conversation.
Don´t worry Ingrid. – I soothed her – Thank you again for your time to talk over the things, even if they were just touched on the surface. Let´s meet tomorrow evening to talk over the developments.
As soon as I finished Judy´s desperate dear-like pair of eyes flashed at me. I understood instantly the question even without words: “Why do we have to meet tomorrow evening?”
I grasped her small and fragile hands the third time signaling this way to have confidence in me. The plan was ready and I was prepared for the battle. The location was not appropriate and there was a negative atmosphere that was caused by Ingrid´s presence.
We politely said goodbye, forced a smile on our faces as if we were the best friends in the world, and everyone took directions toward their own rooms.
I hardly stepped into the room but Judy already fixed the question to me.
Why did you leave her to talk this way? – she asked reprovingly, with strong wrinkles above her beautiful eyes.
Why would I have argued with her? – I replied objectively – She has her own opinion and so do I, this does not change anything.
Of course it does, it changes everything! She called me a Jew! She is picking on us since a week; on us who are apparently the paying guests of the big four star Berlin Hotel. – she burst out again.
You are basically right about this, but you forgot the main point. – I comforted her although without much success.
And what would that be? – she asked mockingly.
Let´s sit down on the balcony and I will tell you.
The truth was that I longed for easing up a bit after the long day, and so I found that sitting outside on the balcony was an easier terrain to do so. I could feast my eyes upon the beauty of the magical stars and at the same time I could smoke a good, fat Cuban cigar as well. I could hardly wait for the fat ambassador to be finally smoked. And of course I knew that while smoking the cigar, Judy would ease up as well, letting out the accumulated tensions.
I poured into a glass some oak barrel scented, amber coloured cognac for Judy and a triple Chivas for myself in another one; simply straight not to ruin the tastes. The purer a distillate is the more it can be enjoyed, just as life; the more you can see through things, the more you become self confident. I began to feel at the end of the day that I was playing a poker of life and I have sat down at a con-artist´s table. But a challenge is a challenge and this evening I have accepted Ingrid´s not too kind invitation.
So dear Judy – I began to suupply the facts gently – it might be that you registered into one of the four star hotels of Berlin but you have forgotten the circumstances.
What kind of circumstances? – came the confused question from Judy, while she also smoked a cigar and sent up gentle rings of smoke into the chilly air.
Well let´s see. First sign you were robbed last week. Next the hotel management did not help you but misused the data of your credit card. Second sign when you asked them to send a fax for you they tried to attain a credit card number from the person you sent the fax to. Let´s see until now. This is credit card fraud and thus a crime.
But I have payed in advance six-thousand euros. – she said naively.
I know my dear, but since you have been robbed, they stopped trusting you. You have become instantly unreliable in their eyes as if you would be the only one to be blamed for being robbed.
This is so unfair. – Judy rejoined.
I also took a smoke from my fat Cuban ambassador and I carried on.
The second mistake you made was that you talked about your life and your aims to the hotel manager.
But what should I have said? – asked Judy as if accused – I told all this to Ingrid with pleasure.
You are right about this but as you see, you are odd in her eyes.
Well, you know if every guest would be odd who stays at a hotel for two months, then the Berlin group of hotels would be broke by now.
You understood the point but do not forget that this is Berlin. – I saw the puzzle on her face and so I sipped from the Chivas and I continued instantly. – Everything here was under the Nazi rule not more than sixtyfive years ago; do not forget that the end of the Second World War was only in 1945. This means that Ingrid´s parents were the children of precisely this era. What do you think what type of background did she receive?
You are probably right – nodded approvingly Judy.
Unfortunately she was raised in an environment where every Jewish person was either killed or sent to camps. A Jewish person was worth less than an animal. Ingrid inherited exactly this mentality and she was brought up in the center of racism.
Ok. But what do I have to do with all this?
Well, with your beautiful story of your grandmother you flared up her emotions. – I declared directly and openly.
By telling her that my grandmother will be hundred years old next year? That sounds really bad. – she said ironically narrowing her eyebrows.
Yes, you did say something bad for her, naturally subconsciously. – I continued – The fact that your grandmother will be hundred years old does not count. What really counts is that she has survived two world wars and she escaped the nazi camp, and we all know that very few had the chance to survive it.
But this is an amazing thing and shows a strong character.
Yes, a strong character to you and a failure to Ingrid. You must understand that in those times they were the ones who lost. Berlin was the cruel center of a bloody and strongly racist war. Every nazi camp survivor reminds the elder generations of Berlin that they have lost a war and an ideology has fallen for which they have fought for.
What kind of ideology? The Holocaust?
This is insignificant now. What counts is that the thorn is still there since many players of the German war are still alive. And this belief in Berlin has still its effects on many upbringings.
You probably are right about this. – said briefly Judy.
Yes, I am right. The new generation is already here, but the effects and stories of the parents and great parents still influence the new generation powerfully.
I sipped again from the Chivas while I noticed with interest that the content of Judy´s glass was disappearing.
I quickly poured some more into her glass. The sparkle in her eyes told me that I did the right thing.
Ingrid had a good reason to freak out from what you told her about your grandmother. This did not happen against you personally, but it brought out a hidden sentiment from Ingrid´s inner world.
What could I have done differently?
Nothing. – I said stating the truth.
Ok. Let´s say this is the truth, but still what rights does she have to check me?
Rights? She has no rights, only based on personal intent. – I saw she was about to ask but I quickly acknowledged her. – Do not worry, tomorrow we start first thing in the embassy and we will look into exactly what data were asked by Ingrid.
Do you think they will give this information to us? – asked Judy with a suppressed voice.
If they have provided information to a stranger through the phone then why wouldn´t they give it to you if you personally verify yourself? I hope they have even recorded the phone conversations.
By this time Judy was nodding calmly and it was obvious that the tension has transformed within her into curiosity.
I still do not understand what the goal of Ingrid is.
To put you out. – I indicated with simplicity.
Because of my grandmother? – she asked, but in that instant she already switched conversation because I think the answer came into her mind as well. – So, what do you think, should we change hotel?
If you give up, then yes. – I replied, while I blew towards the sky a huge smoke of cigar.
No, I am not giving up! – came the confident answer.
Perfect. Then we will get to know what happened actually and we will not let ourselves.
Of course not, I never accepeted in my life to be oppressed, especially that someone would invade so much my private sphere. I am going to examine what stands all behind this! – said Judy without doubt.
Well then let´s drink for tomorrow! – I raised my glass towards her.
The upcoming minutes were spent with the exciting cigar´s cloud of smoke and the tasty aroma of the Chivas, relaxing a bit from the tensions of the past hours.
Judy was relaxing as well; she was immersed in her thoughts. She looked at me occasionally but her gazes were not anymore stormy rather they reflected the silence following a storm. I was only missing the rainbow.
The next hours were quiet and pleasant, until there was a sudden knock on the door. This broke the harmony.
I placed down the fat ambassador with much effort but I promised to smoke it until the very end. I emptied my glass of whiskey and I set off towards the door. On my way we looked at each other with Judy, who had again the fear in her eyes, so I stroked her shoulders and gave a kiss on the top of her head so she wouldn´t get agitated and would know that everything is well.
As I opened the door I saw surprised that there wasn´t a single soul on the corridor. My astonishment was even more enhanced when I found a big white envelope at the door-step.
I picked up the envelope, looked around again and stepped back to the room.
What happened? – asked Judy with anxiety.
Nothing has happened. – I soothed her.
Of course I knew that if the question started with what happened instead of who knocked on the door, then a very deep fear has grown there.
I just got another envelope. – I continued with confident interest in my voice.
Again anonymously? – asked Judy with excitement in her voice.
Yes. I guess again from our secret collaborator.
This is already the third one, right? What is inside it? – she asked as she came in from the balcony.
Yes, it´s the third one. – I confirmed – I am going to open it.
The envelope held a bunch of invoices, financial balances, accounting data and one or more circled items.
What is that? What is inside? – kept Judy asking uneasily.
They are accounting data. – I replied.
Let me see them. – she jumped to me agitated, and then she shrieked out – Wow, this is our room as well.
Yes, it is. – I indicated that I have also noticed it.
But why is it indicated four times? What does this mean? – she asked impatiently.
I see you have a good ability to observe. – I complimented her and then I continued. – This means that the attached two books of accounts do not match. In one of them the room is let out for a shorter period than in the official one.
At this point Judy began to walk up and down in the room with anxiety, and she signaled with the movement of her hands that she understood the importance of the documents given to us by our secret collaborator.
Is Berlin playing with the accounting?
Oh definitely they are. – and I pointed to a combination. – Just look at this, our room is indicated in four separate places and the amount is totally different than what we have on our invoices.
But we have payed much more than this.
And she was already running to the table to pick our invoices out from the drawer. She quickly flipped through them and then, judging by the murmurs of her lips, she made a little mental counting.
We have payed three times more than this. – she repeated again.
Yes, but it seems like Ingrid does not report it to the head office.
Are they putting money away? – questioned Judy.
It seems very much so.
At this point Judy looked deep into my eyes and I knew that the flame of combat has lightened up in her as well.
Look, here is another room as well.
And above it another one. – I shook my head.
It seems that the sub invoices appear when the guests stay for long periods of time.
Especially on those who lengthen their stay.
I was tired to look over the whole material and I could not call myself an accountant, but what I saw was a crystal clear picture how the Berlin group cheated in their accounting and how the balance sheets painted a different picture toward the central office.
I did not know how deep the problem was, whether it was local or not but I knew for sure that Ingrid´s hotel was falsifying their accounting, since the balance sheet made for the center presented very different items.
Suddenly I thought I did not see well. Judy´s eyes whitened out and she fainted unexpectedly.
Oh my God! What happened? – I jumped over to her.
But by then I did not receive any answer. Judy was lying unconsciously in my arms. The place of the glow of her green eyes was replaced by her eyeballs; this was not the beautiful pair of eyes that I so much liked.
I gathered all my strength to stir up the life in her. I felt her pulse, she was breathing evenly but this did not help on the intense impact she has received. An unconscious body was lying there in my arms, and it was the body of a person who perhaps means more than anything to me in this world.
Luckily I knew what to do because this was not the first time that Judy has fainted. So I put her legs high up so the blood would flow into her head, I opened the doors of the balcony wide so she would get some more fresh air, and I gently tried to wake her up.
I knew she was strained by this day, by the whole week. She was typically the person who can hardly tolerate the emotional shocks and the unjust offensives. Unfortunately she took this too much to her heart.
I stroked her for a few moments until she finally came to her senses. She looked up at me with her drowsy eyes and I knew from her gaze how thankful she was.
Lay back my dear, just rest calmly. – I soothed her.
She lay in my arms for half an hour, while breathing randomly. The whole negative impact that she had gone through could be sensed on her. She had to pull together all her energies before she could ask again.
Where am I?
In the room, in my arms. – I provided her the exact location.
I felt that she wanted to stand up and so I accompanied her to the bed. I took care that she would not collapse or bump herself into anything. She was a little bit unstable but she lay into bed unquestioningly.
There was nothing else to do but to go back to my good old, fat Cuban friend, who in the meantime took a break. I thought nevertheless he would be happy for my company so I relighted him. His smoke was flying so high, he was so joyful to be again together. I must admit I was also glad for the good company. I included again to my relaxation a glass of Chivas and was ready to face the battle of the next day. I had quite a lot of things to do, embassy, invoices, accountings, and a huge background investigation. Of course I was not worried, since I always received support in the most appropriate time during my life. This is how it was now as well. My secret hotel collaborator has been delivering me already the third package, each one of which could be suitable to shake the hotel group.
I was looking ahead to the morning with the good belief that each new day holds in itslef a new challenge and a new chance for victory.