The proprietor of a small, old hotel not far from the Continental Divide walks across the lobby of his establishment and greets the only guest, who is also walking through.
They stop and the guest makes a comment about the sky, and how the evening’s coming sunset might be a nice one.
“Hey, you got a little time?” the proprietor asks.
“Time’s the thing I got most of right now,” the guest replies.
The proprietor leads the guest through the hotel’s dining room, the chairs all up on the tables due to the restaurant closure, on account of the global pandemic. They walk toward the bar, the proprietor behind, the guest in front.
“This may or may not be against the law,” the proprietor says. “But the front door’s locked, the sign says, ‘No Vacancy,’ It’s Sunday and, most of all, what the hell.”
The proprietor sets two glasses on the bar.
“What’ll it be, friend?” the proprietor asks.
“Well, whaddya got, whiskey-wise?” the guest asks.
“I’m a little partial to this one,” the proprietor says, holding up a bottle of Early Times, a Kentucky classic. “Work for you?”
In silent approval, the guest pushes his glass closer to the proprietor.
They exchange some pleasantries and the guest says he stopped to “de-compress” in the hotel for a few days to break up a cross-country road trip on the way back from his brother’s funeral.
He says the death was NOT from the coronavirus and then they talk the obligatory bit about “these weird times.”
“How many people right now in this country — this world, even — are able to do what we’re doing right now?” the guest asks, adding they might still be breaking some order or another despite being 8-10 feet apart. “I mean, we’re in a public place, having a drink, contemplating the human condition.”
“And a year ago at this time,” the proprietor says, “this scene was taking place a million times over, in almost every country in the world.”
“Most of those people didn’t give it a second thought,” the guest says. “A lot of them were even wishing they were somewhere else, with someone else or doing something else. A lot of them probably wished they were at home. Now a lot of them would do anything to get out of their home.”
“And some of them were having deep, heart-to-heart conversations,” the proprietor says. “Some were drinking their sorrows away. Some were flirting. And there may have even been a few like us — grateful to be doing what they were doing and appreciating the moment.”
“I’m lucky,” the guest says. “My sister’s a nurse out on the East Coast. She couldn’t leave her job for the funeral. She’s been slammed with work for weeks. Super stressful, and a little dangerous. I retired last year, so I got both the time and the money to wander a bit. To meander, if you will. And this is beautiful meandering country.”
“Yeah, I’m lucky too,” the proprietor says. “Got this place and no debt. Taken advantage of the time to fix up a few things that’d been needing fixing. I know some folks who’ve lost almost everything they have. I got a nephew out of work up in Denver, damn near homeless, with no real prospects after this thing lifts.”
“But for now, you and me,” the guest says, hoisting his glass.
“To right now,” the proprietor says.
“To right now,” the guest says, clinking glasses and momentarily breaking the six-foot rule. “I appreciate your hospitality.”
“You’re quite welcome,” The proprietor says. “I appreciate your business. And your company.”