It was a warm, early February afternoon in 1987. It was Friday, I had the rest of the day off. So I had an idea: Why not see if the hotel where I was staying had a rooftop deck? Wouldn't it be nice to get some sun?
I took the elevator to the top floor of the Hotel Diva in San Francisco. I found an entrance to the roof, opened the door, and peeked out. It was just a bare, flat roof, with no formal sunbathing area. A sign on the door told me the roof was not for guests.
I returned to my room, grabbed one of those plastic laundry bags, and stuffed in it a couple of towels, some sunscreen, and the local newspaper. I changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and off I went to the rooftop, energized by mischief.
Onto the roof I ventured for a delightful two hours. Whenever I grew restless, I'd walk over to the edge of the roof and look down on busy Geary Street below, with the Curran Theatre across the street. The theatre had me thinking that I'd like to see a play soon. Or maybe I'd go to a movie that night. I'd just seen Woody Allen's latest, Radio Days, and was hungry for another good film.
Then it hit me. Radio Days! There's a scene in the film in which Mia Farrow and a man venture onto a rooftop and later discover the door has locked behind them! So I rush to the door, pull its handle. It's locked.
Since this event happened 26 years ago, I had no cell phone in my possession. I banged on the door and yelled, but no one came. The sun was starting to slip behind some of the nearby highrises. On one side of the building, which fronted an alley, there was a rickety fire escape. Relieved, I gathered my stuff and began my descent. The first hallway window I came to, directly off the fire escape, was locked. So was the next. And the next. When I reached the bottom of the fire escape, I discovered a two-story drop. There was a ladder built into the fire escape that would presumably stretch down to the street level, but I couldn't get the ladder to release. It looked as if I had a big jump to take.
By now it was dusk. I climbed back up the fire escape, looking for windows off to the side that might possibly be open. I traveled up what must have been six floors until, at last, I found one window open.
The window led into a hotel room. I called into the room, to see if there were someone who might help me. No answer. I listened closely, but heard no sounds coming from the room. It was difficult to be sure, however, because of the street noises below. I took a chance, creeping into the room as silently as possible.
About midway from the window to the door, I heard sounds coming from the bathroom. How shall I put this? The bathroom occupant had explosive diarrhea. I inched my way to the door, hoping to not make a sound. It was then I noticed my plastic hotel laundry bag had developed a hole in the bottom; my room key had fallen out.
I looked around and spotted the key, on the floor back towards the window. The man experiencing gastrointestinal distress went silent, experiencing a lull in his operatic evacuations. I froze for what felt like ten minutes but in reality was probably ten seconds. His stomach gurgled and rumbled, a signal that another wave was arriving, and when it hit, I quietly went back to retrieve my key and make my way to the door. Just as I opened it, the man in the bathroom experienced an explosion that made the Krakatoa volcano sound like a July 4th fireworks show.
As I hurried into the hall and back to my room, I felt a thrill. This had been the end of my first week in San Francisco, and my new life here promised to be full of adventure.