How many Nights?

CEF English language level: B2

A $10 million new hotel opens in Ribrock, Tennesee. Ribrock resident, Leola Starling is very pleased. 'It's good for our town,' she tells friends. 'It will bring us jobs and business.'

Then Leola's phone starts ringing.

‘Is that the Plaza Hotel?’

‘I’m sorry,' Leola says politely. 'You have the wrong number.’

She puts the phone down. Immediately it starts ringing again. 'I'd like a double room please.'

This time Leola is a little less polite. 'You’ve got the wrong number.'

'No, I don't,' said the caller, and he’s right. The problem is the telephone number of the new hotel. It’s almost exactly the same as Leola’s.

Same number?

The calls keep coming. Many are late at night. Leola finds it very stressful.

She contacts the hotel. 'Could you please change your number?' she asks. 'I'm getting all your calls.'

But the hotel refuses to co-operate. 'That number is on all our stationery,' they complain. 'It’ll cost too much to replace. Why don't you change your number?'

The phone company is not helpful, either. 'A number is a number,' they say. 'It's not our fault if people dial the wrong one.'


Leola is now very angry. She decides to take action.

The next call is from Memphis. 'Can I have a room for Tuesday?' the man asked.

'No problem,’ says Leola. ‘How many nights?'

Then a secretary wants a suite with two bedrooms for a week.

'We have the Presidential Suite on the 10th floor,' she says. 'It’s $600 a night.'

'That's perfect,' says the secretary.

The next day Leola takes many more bookings. One lady wants a hall for her daughter's wedding in June. ‘Will the hotel arrange the flowers?’ she asks.

'Of course!'


Very soon there is total confusion at the Ribrock Plaza Motel. ‘But we phoned you,’ angry clients tell the receptionists. ‘You confirmed our reservation!’

The hotel loses business and is about to close. Then one day Leola’s phone rings. It’s the head of a big hotel chain. ‘We're prepared to offer you $200,000 for the motel,’ he says.

‘Okay,’ says Leola. ‘But only if you change the telephone number.’

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First published in
Ming Pao Daily. Illustrations by Iris Tsoi.