I was out with my uncle on a family visitation on our last night in San Francisco and I already felt like I had been pulled away from my new family. Little did I know that I would soon have quite the bonding experience with my roommates.
I arrived back to the hotel after curfew so everyone was already in their rooms. When I got to the door and knocked there was a lot of commotion. The door opened slowly as my roommate Matt peered through the crack. "Oh, it's you," he said, then calling to the other "It's just Paul!"
He pulled me into the room and slammed the door. The other two guys sat nervously at the foot of one of the beds looking as if they just got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Before I could ask what was going on, David pressed the power button on the television and there it was. The reason they were so jump and that Matt opened the door so cautiously appeared on the screen. Two giant palm trees. When the camera panned down to reveal two sweaty naked people, the truth hit me like a rush of blood to the head: my roommates had ordered an adult movie.
The rules of the trip stated that nobody was allowed to order any hotel amenities. No room service, no dry cleaning, no movies - especially the adult ones. We'd all joke about it, going so far as to see what the choices were. It was an X-rated game of chicken. The first guy would check the menu, the next would read off the list, then read a description and so on. If someone felt particularly daring they would attempt to watch the preview which showed roughly 30 seconds of footage.
This time around Matt came back to the room and decided to peruse the selections. As the other two guys opened the door, Matt was startled, and instead of hitting the menu return button, he hit the purchase button. Once he realized what he had done, the panic began to set in. What kind of trouble would Matt be in? Would he be yelled at? Would his parents get called? The worst case scenarios danced through his head and before the opening credits were over Matt was out the door, full speed towards the front desk.
"I didn't mean to, I swear," he pleaded with the reception desk. "I accidentally ordered a movie and I didn't do it on purpose. I'm going to get in huge trouble, please, you've got to believe me." The clerk typed on her computer, pulling up the room account.
"Here's the charge, $9.95 for one movie," she said, peering up at him, eyes full of doubt. After glaring at him she realized that he was legitimately freaking out - sweating and breathing hard. She removed the charge from the room. Before he could thank her she continued, "Just so you know, I removed the charge, but the movie can't be stopped once it starts." The gears in Matt's head began turning, leading him to choose his next words carefully.
"So you're telling me, the movie is on in my room. I won't be charged for it and you can't shut it off." The hotel woman nodded. "Then what am I doing talking to you?" He took off down the long hallway back to the room at twice the speed he traveled to get to the desk in the first place and broke the news to the other roommates.
Up until this point I was still out with my uncle for dinner. Here we were, four sixteen year old boys with a free pornographic movie. We watched for a while before there was a knock on the door. Shit, staff doing bed check. The same commotion that happened when I had originally knocked came out for an encore. We scrambled to shut off the television and one of us ran to the door, while the rest sat innocently on the bed. As we opened it, our staff member Lowell could instantly tell that something was up.
"What was that?" he asked.
"What was what?"
"The noises I heard from the hallway."
I thought about the best possible cover and gave it a shot. "It was one of those shampoo commercials where the women really, really like the way their hair feels." Clearly not buying it, he made his way over to the television and turned it on, There in glorious color was two overly tanned people participating in something I would later learn was called "reverse cowgirl".
We all feigned surprise, another act that Lowell didn't buy for a second. Matt frantically told the whole front desk tale again and the only thing that upset Lowell was that he had left his room after curfew. He looked at the screen, looked at us and then back to his check list. "One-two-three-four. Everyone is here. Have a good night guys and don't stay up too late."
With that, he left. We were free. Immediately we called the other guys to brag. You see, this was no ordinary movie. Matt was a very thrifty consumer - he had ordered something called "Sex in Hawaii - Parts 1 & 2". This was a double feature which ran nearly three hours and didn't even bother with plot, characters or any dialogue at all. If there is one thing to say about porn, guys don't have a long attention span when it comes to watching it - a couple of minutes max. So a three hour feature was far more than anyone could handle.
As our interest wained, we left it on in the background. We began a game of cards on one of the beds. One of us wrote postcards home. Matt took a couple of photos of the screen with his camera. The night passed and when the movie ended we were actually pretty relieved. In the morning nobody called Matt by his name anymore, they all called him "Porno," a name that I coined due to the alliteration with his last name. The nickname stuck for the rest of the summer and way longer.
After the trip ended, Porno was showing photos to his dad. He had forgotten that he took pictures of the television screen that night in San Francisco, when suddenly he got to them. This was back in the days of sending film away and getting it mailed back, so there was no delete button. Thankfully the first one came out blurred and when his father asked what it was, he told him it was "a cave." The next one however, came out crystal clear and his dad glared at him and muttered something about the trip being "money well spent."