I arrived in Karachi with the stomach bug I picked up from the roadside-stand greasy samosas I ate near Lahore. I had trouble in keeping anything down and needed a hotel room fast to get some rest for fear I would collapse on a dusty, busy street in Karachi. My low end budget would not permit me to seek an elegant hotel, so after consulting my guidebook for budget hotels, I decided on a dingy hotel called the “Southern Hotel” in a crowded neighborhood. Leaving my passport at the check-in counter, I wearily ambled behind a lean Pakistani porter to go to my appointed room on the fifth floor.
The elevator shakily rose to between the fourth floor and the fifth, making many squeaking noises as it went, when it suddenly jolted to a halt. The porter pushed a button and I hoped all would be well since my stomach right then felt like it could empty its dysenteric contents at any moment. The elevator did not bulge a bit even as the porter kept pushing the button. In fact, there was not even a small sound made as he punched it. The control panel appeared completely out of order and was useless. Panic struck my inner most thoughts!
“Bang on the wall!” I urged the porter. This he complied with and began banging and also shouting. I was too weak to join in the banging and shouting and could only wait and hope I would not pass out and that help would come to our aid. The actions of the porter went without response. He let up the banging and shouting, and the elevator shaft was silent. My despair heightened. “Bang more!” I managed to say in a weakened voice.
Finally after ten minutes, a voice from above yelled something in Urdu back to the porter, and then ensued a conversation I could not understand. Would help be given to us? Would the elevator finally resume its ascent? Or was I doomed to stay in this wretched elevator booth for an interminable time? Would my stomach hold its sad ingredients any longer?
When the elevator managed to finally jolt upwards to the fifth floor, I had become so panic stricken that I told the porter I did not want to see the room and to take me back to the ground floor. Back at the check-in counter in the lobby, the clerk was insistent that I take the room, and I worried that he would not return my passport. After some argument and a louder voice on my part than I thought my dysentery would permit, I retrieved my passport and hurried out into the hot dusty air of Karachi. No more low end hotel for me, I decided. My health was more important than money. That night my stomach and I reclined in peace on a soft bed in a five-star hotel in a ritzy Karachi neighborhood.