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July 06, 2008

Can we use your shower?

July 6. Day 6.


On our last day in Sequoia, we decided to forsake the mountain crests and relax by the pool. (I say we, but ok, it was me. Mr. A would have loved another day of hiking, but two out of three was enough for me, and I didn't even have to ask for a change of pace, he gently acquiesced.)

But as I lay on the threadbare hotel towel, airdrying my hair, I decided I'd really like to shower before the six-hour drive home. So when the manager walked up to the pool area, I knew it was my chance.

"Hi. Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure." He was smiling. Good sign?

"We checked out at 11, and I realize that after swimming I'd love to take a shower before the drive back. If the next guests aren't here yet, could we use the shower in one of the empty rooms? Really quick?"

He made a slightly pitying face, like, "Please don't ask that. You know what I'm going to have to say."

And then he said it. "I can't let you do that. All the cabins have been cleared out, and they're almost done cleaning the last one. I can't ask them the stay late and clean another bathroom."

I nodded. Fair enough.

Then he had this suggestion. "But, what I could do, well, there's this spot in the river that's almost like a little waterfall, and I could show you where that is. It's really refreshing, I love going down there. Much better than a shower. Just come to the office when you're done with the pool."

I nodded and thanked him. Mr. A. was sitting next to me, and when the man left we conferred. Icy streams are not my cup of tea, and he wanted to start the long drive home, so we passed.

Gained: Zilch.

Lost: confidence that my bikini-clad body has any persuasive powers over the male psyche.

A takeaway: This is for when I'm on the receiving end of an ask: There's a friendly and an unfriendly way to refuse a request. Terse versus apologetic. Bristly versus sympathetic. Each has its place.

Another takeaway: Instead of flatly refusing, he offered something in exchange, something I didn't want -- so he ultimately let me be the one to refuse. Maybe this wasn't his intention and he really wanted to show us the stream; but maybe it was an elegant way to get out of his refusal. No bad blood, no negative reviews from his customers. It was a genteel -- and smart -- move.

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