The open-air mezzanine overlooking the parking lot called to mind a beachside motel from the '40's, which was exactly what the place was. North Beach was full of these, except these days they all were being converted into resorts. And unlike the brand new luxury high-rises that formed the coastal palisade, these boutique resorts were always in some stage of repair or another.
The TV hanging in the poolside bar buzzed to life. It was an old TV, a CRT unit with a big square back and bubble screen. Its display was faded, shadows burnt into it from years of running the same advertisements for hotel services. Onscreen, a lady in a polka-dot one-piece and pompadour hairstyle took a dip in the hotel hot tub, contentedly smoking a cigarette all the while. If at all her look was fashionable, then it was decades before I was born. That gave some clue as to how long the TV had been running those ads.
The sign by the hot tub read "temporarily out of service", which was a half-truth. Out of service it was -- the only water in the pool was the six inches of rain that had collected at its bottom. The "temporarily" part was questionable. The hot tub looked like it hadn't been used in ages. And seeing as the other pool patrons out today were well into their seventies, I'd have wagered the last time anybody had enjoyed the hot tub was when they were young.
My wife climbed the steps out of the pool. In her arms was our one-year-old daughter, her poutiest face on for leaving the pool. My wife deposited our child in the basket of a shopping cart from "Cashway", a supermarket up the road. We'd forgotten to pack a baby carriage, and this was the model the hotel was so eager to rent us.
An advertisement for the resort's steakhouse restaurant flickered on the pool bar's TV. Onscreen, women in ballroom gowns dined with tuxedoed men. The scene had a grainy filmreel effect and was slicked over in a thick sepia veneer. It was altogether too much and came off as ridiculous. My wife didn't seem to think so. In fact, she was thrilled with the idea of a steak dinner. We left the pool and headed upstairs to our room, her leading the way and me struggling to get the shopping cart up the steps.
Once at the top of the stairway, I followed the walkway overlooking the car park and rounded the corner of the building. Suddenly my foot missed the floor. The shopping cart pitched forward into the gap of open air where the walkway had been shorn away. The cart's basket snagged on some exposed reinforcing bars, breaking its fall. I pitched over the cart's handle and hung half-in, half-out of the cart, some forty feet from the concrete below. My daughter shrieked.
My cries for help were cut short by the roar of diesel heavy machinery. A man in a lift bucket coasted into view by my left shoulder. He lifted his hardhat and scratched his head, looking about as perplexed to see me as I was to see him. Then he yanked a lever and a series of pulleys whirred to life, hauling a heavy load of splintered two-by-four planks over the balcony railing. The planks settled onto my back, threatening to crush the wind out of me. I screamed at the man to stop, but he only shook his head. The construction crew was on a tight schedule and they couldn't afford any holdups.
The diesel engines roared as the pulleys went for another load. Jagged wood crashed onto my back, punched through the shopping cart basket. One particularly nasty plank with a serrated edge slid closer to my daughter. It was inches from her face. I scooped her up in one arm and held her to my chest. Eyes shut, all I could do was wish I were somewhere else as the next load of materials crushed me flat.