I did not stop at the reception desk but walked straight towards the staircase leading up to the first floor. I felt confident, no adrenalin rush this time.
A demanding voice stopped me: “And where do you think you are going, Miss?” I stopped dead in my track. This was not supposed to happen. I turned around slowly and walked over to the reception desk. A no-nonsense woman, maybe in her mid-fifties, observed my progress critically. When I had reached the desk, I put on my nicest smile and stated: “ I have an appointment with Prof. H. I can just walk straight up, thank you.” “Prof. H.?” the woman inquired. The buttons of her starched and ironed shirt strained against her quivering bust. “Yes,” I answered, leaning over the polished desk a bit, lowering my voice, “I have been working on an assignment she gave me.” That did not seem to impress her much. I waited. “Feeling a bit funny, aren’t we” she answered without any expression. I changed my tactic: “Please, M’am, why don’t you just call and ask her,” I suggested. “Her office is on the first floor.” We stared at each other. She slowly turned red. “Where do you think you are,” she finally hissed, “a fancy hotel? Wall Street?” She exhaled deeply, then inhaled again, as if she was practicing her yoga breath. The shirt buttons were getting a good work-out which I noticed as a detail despite my growing annoyance. Why wouldn’t she just let me find my way as was custom in the building or at least call up? I was certain that Prof. H. wanted to see me just about as urgently as I wanted to see her. But the reception desk lady behaved like a dragon in front of a lair. I thought I could even smell her foul breath. “Listen, missy,” she snarled “I don’t know what you intend by walking straight into a men’s homeless shelter and I am sure I don’t want to know. I do not care whether you are looking for your daddy or grandpa, you have to wait until they come out. What I want, right now, is for you to leave this building through the front door and not bother me any further.” I took a step back. Men’s homeless shelter? I looked around. This was unmistakably the same lobby I had crossed through the last time. “Now. Missy,” commanded the voice of the dragon lady “… or I will call the police to see you out.”