Towelgate 2015

For radiation exposure control, guests to the zone can only stay for 4 consecutive days and then must leave for at least one night, but then are permitted to return the following day for another 4 consecutive days tops and then must depart again. Check-out time from Hotel 10 is noon; no late check outs, but Arek negotiated with the hotel staff for us to leave our bags in the room while we spent our last day with the DJI team shooting some critical locations. We returned at 4 pm sharp to throw everything into the van and peel out of the DITAKE zone checkpoint by 5 pm. 

On our way out of the front door, Arek was accosted by the hotel manager. He translated for us - 2 of the 4 weirdest color, thinnest, and least absorbent looking towels known to man from our room were missing. What did we do with them? Where were they? She thought we had stolen them. I insisted we did not. We had brought our own towels from home; I have been here once before and was aware of the towel situation. Not a chance I wanted to bring one of theirs back as a souvenir. I explained that the faux wood linoleum bathroom floor was extremely slick from the leaking shower (and I didn’t want to fall and kill myself), so I used one as a bathmat and left it in the bathroom - neatly folded, mind you, beside the shower in case someone else needed it. I was, in fact, sharing a bathroom with 5 men. Anyway, that was not a good enough excuse. Since we were on our way back to Kiev, I offered to bring her 2 new towels upon our return to the zone the following day, but she didn’t want new towels because they would not have matched the others. Hotel manager - 1. Elizabeth - 0.

You must complete an epic portion of paperwork for permits to enter the zone. The hotel has our passport numbers, addresses, birthdates, you name it. I just figured that soon enough, my identity would be stolen because I had (not) stolen these towels!

Tomorrow is our last day in the zone and it is also the hotel manager’s last day of work. She is required to retire and receive her pension. She was crying out front when Arek saw her earlier and she told him she found the missing towels. What a relief! But we will still leave our own extra towels here, along with flip flops purchased for the sole use of walking to and from the bathroom, extra granola bars, several packets of travel size tissues, a roll of Charmin, a small fan that Philip made me from a computer, so I could feel more comfortable at night (there’s no air conditioning here), and whatever miscellaneous items that will put our bags into the over-weight, extra fee handling section. Retired hotel manager - 1. Elizabeth - 1. Even Steven!