People think they know what the Parker Spruce Hotel holds, but a night in a room there provides a clearer view.
Over my shoulder, I can hear the hotel's manager in conversation with a tenant. "She's out tomorrow," he says. "At 12 o'clock."
I'm waiting in line for a room at the Parker Spruce Hotel, a longtime fixture at the corner of 13th and Spruce, when I look back over my shoulder to get a better view of the people speaking.
The manager Ed Jervis is big, and as he speaks he rocks back and forth on his heels as if to find better leverage against his own weight. The woman is dressed in faded jeans and a dusty-looking windbreaker.
"You're throwing her out," she says. "Why?"
"Hey," replies Jervis, "when Philly PD comes in here and tells me I'm gonna lose my license 'cause she's out tricking--with her kid--at 2 a.m.? She's got to go. That's it."
Jervis could be intimidating--broad and bald, with round forearms covered in tattoos. But his tone is even and matter of fact, and the woman responds in kind.
"Really?" she asks. "Is that what happened?"
"Last night," says the manager. "She's been a problem since she got here."
The conversation recedes behind me as the pair lower their voices, and I advance toward the counter. At the desk a woman with an impassive face stares up at me in silence by way of greeting.
"I need a room," I say.
She pulls out some paperwork.
"Do you need an ID?" I ask.
"You paying with a credit card or cash?"
"Then I don't need to see an ID."
She starts writing on the form. "Your name?" she asks.
Without having to give her any identification, I could tell her anything.
"Address?" she asks.
I pause. When she looks up at me, I open my mouth, but no sound comes out. She looks back down at her paperwork.
Being Black: It's not the skin color