“What was it about the rice?” you say.
“Ah yes,” I reply, “the rice was what made me realize this entire situation.”
“The situation?” You have been traveling yourself, and haven’t had time to inspect the surroundings. But you have seen your fair share of hotels, and from what you have seen this one bears no special differences from any other mid-tier hotel you have been in before.
“Yes, the situation,” I reply, “Have you not seen the paintings on the walls?” I motion with my head towards the art on the wall, “Do you see anything off there?”
You turn your gaze in the direction of my nod and see two paintings on the wall. “I see nothing special about those paintings except for the fact that they are unexceptional,” you turn back to meet my eyes and in them you can see that you have missed the point. “Well,” you continue, “perhaps if I look again?”
“Yes,” I reply, “take another look and tell me what you see.” I take a sip of my red wine while waiting for your second inspection. After setting my glass down on the table I twirl the thick stem of the hotel glass in my fingers. The wine has no legs, it’s the kind a hotel provides for free at their evening social.
You look back at the two paintings hung on the wall, trying desperately to see what I am trying to lead you towards. The frames are black, cheap bulk industrial frames no doubt. Between the two paintings is a TV that is blaring tonight’s Wheel of Fortune, but that is just a distraction. What could it be about these paintings? And then you see it.
“The matting!” you shout too loud for this lazy hotel lounge.
“Yes, so you’ve seen it too now,” I lean in closer, “why so much on the bottom? It seems intentionally off doesn’t it?”
The paintings are being dragged visually to the floor by an over-abundance of matting. There is the print, and then as much unused matting under the print as the print is high. Perhaps an artistic choice, or perhaps some frame shop’s idea of a joke. In any case, it’s unattractive and looks annoyingly out of place. Once you see it you cannot stop seeing it, the giant white blank spots of matting scream out at viewers from across the room.
“So,” you ask turning back to me, “that’s the situation?” You give me an incredulous smirk, “that’s why you distracted me from my buffet salad?
I have to think now, how to explain the oddness of this place, how to best explain it, and then I remember what first made me realize the ridiculousness of it all. “No,” I say, “it was the rice.”
“The rice. You mentioned that before but I didn’t know what you meant,” you nervously nudge your glass of white wine a millimeter across the table with your finger.
“It was what I noticed before everything else. This buffet we both ate at tonight, they had rice, cream of mushroom soup, Italian-type sandwich-sized bruschetta things, salad fixings, and more. But two people,” I pause to make sure you’re still with me, “two people just had rice,” my voice trails off as I point out that last detail.
“Just rice?” You’re unsure how to respond except by reiterating my last words in the form of a question.
“Yep, a giant bowl of rice and nothing else. Big mounds of it in a bowl. And they just dug right into it like it was perfectly normal. Like it was the best bowl of Cheerios they ever had!” I can see now that you understand and my own voice has risen above the din of the hotel’s makeshift dining room.
You correct my eagerness by continuing softly, “Well, perhaps it was perfectly normal for them?”
“No, I think it was something else,” I say, “I think they just have no clue how to put food together, as in seriously no idea at all. So instead of risking putting the wrong thing in the wrong place, they just ate an entire bowl of rice because it was safer that way.”
“That sounds horrible,” you say.
“It is!” I stop and point at your plate, “Look, you put salad on top of your rice. Right? And I put the broccoli soup on top of my rice. Both perfectly reasonable things to choose. Something any normal human would know to do.”
“Yes,” you say, an unsure frown forming on your lips.
“Neither of us in our wildest dreams would have thought that filling up a large bowl with plain white rice and eating it was a reasonable thing to do!”
“No, clearly not,” you say.
“So why them? Why would they do that?” I ask, “To say nothing of the pool. Have you seen that yet? That’s even worse.”