Three Gothic Tales from Austin, Texas
by Amie and Clancy Martin
The Hotel San Jose
“I’ve stayed in this hotel at least 15 times. Trust me, you’ll love it.”
Clancy had shown me the video tour of our suite at the San Jose Hotel. It looked like The Hermosa in Scottsdale (except at The Hermosa, each guest has her own adobe casita). It looked like the Altis Belem in Lisbon (except the oceanfront Altis Belem is fancier and I prefer the San Jose’s APC.-style simplicity). It looked like Philip Stark’s hotel in Hong Kong, except the suites there are bigger, cleaner, and more stylish, with individual touches, like a beaded rocking chair from Africa, and the Stark boutique hotel has free breakfast, free snacks downstairs all day, and cocktails and cake in the afternoon.
When we checked in the staff was strangely surly. They acted like clerks used to act at cool record stores in the 90s.
“That’s the only problem with this place,” Clancy apologized. “They’ve always acted like that. But otherwise it’s great.”
We were in the largest suite but they couldn’t check us in for several hours. “Check-in,” they said, “is at three.” Apparently there is a great demand in Austin, Texas for $700-a-night suites. All four had been booked the previous night, according to the clerk in a newsboy hat, and none had been cleaned. He offered to hold our bags.
Things went from inauspicious to bad. It may come as a surprise, but when I get angry I go crazy. We were finally checked into our room at around five. That night, Clancy and I had the worst fight we’ve ever had. I broke the bottle of “Rainwater” that was provided free of charge. I shouted.
Two bearded, hipster security guards arrived. These two young men in black were in over their heads. Not knowing how to handle noise complaints (one said there had been four, and one said there had been six), they seemed to have come to our door thinking, “What would the officers on Cops do?” One had a Maglite. I sensed they were frustrated they couldn’t arrest me. I felt like they wanted to award Clancy, who gets quiet and—in his own words—exaggeratedly polite when he is angry, a Man of the Year Award.
The next morning a hotel manager called the room. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Clancy said that was fine, but that she would have to credit us for the second night’s stay. She said, “No, I won’t be able to do that.” He was firm. They met in the courtyard, next to a tiny black-slate wading pool and the little boutique where the Hotel San Jose sells Toms shoes and $25 neon-green flip-flops.
“I’ve had complaints. You’re going to have to leave,” she said.
Clancy said, “That’s the business you’re in. I’m sure we’re not the first couple to have a fight in this hotel. Are you married?”
She shook her head.
“Well, one day you will be, and then you’ll understand that married couples fight, and you can’t decide when and where you’re going to have a fight with your spouse.”
He returned to the room. “We’re staying.”
Things went from bad to worse. The entire staff had been gossiping about us. That was understandable, but the strange thing was that they wanted us to know it. No one would look us in the eye, except to express contempt.
“This is fun,” Clancy said. “I feel like the unpopular kid in high school again.”
The next morning we sat at Joe’s, the pleasant coffee shop owned by the hotel, located on the other side of the parking lot. We debated about whether or not we should write this review.
What can I say? It’s a boutique hotel, like any other. We behaved badly. But there’s a reason The Four Seasons, The Rosewood, The Mandarin, and my little places such as the ones mentioned at the opening send their future managers to The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. While there, future managers work for a year, starting in housekeeping, or as busboys. It is because for a hotel to be good—let alone great—only one thing is required: courtesy.