Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Get Outta Here: Look Ma! No Air-Conditioning!

Just came back from a 16-hour road trip to Kansas City, where I attended the ASBPE convention. (If you’re bored today, try to figure out what that stands for. Or rather, should stand for.) I picked up a colleague at the Indy airport to ride shotgun with me … someone I’ve chatted with for more than two years by email but had never met in person.

Now I also roomed with someone with that same status, so I was either brave or a glutton for punishment. Turns out, reality was a little bit of both. My roommate hit all my buttons: snored all night and wanted a light on to see around the room if she woke up. Those two alone meant I functioned on less than 5 good hours of sleep over a three-day stretch.

She was also the highly opinionated type, as in I would never open my laptop where she could see it because I didn’t want her to discover my screensaver is a repeated photo of George W. Bush in a cowboy hat. Those would have been grounds for locking me in the shower or stealing all my clothes. Heck, she had already switched the ringer on my cell phone to vibrate because it rang while she was in the room and I wasn’t.

But the passenger? I already knew she was an expert at football and baseball. I knew she enjoys singing in her choir. And I knew she once said that she likes the heat and prefers not to have the air-conditioning on in a car. Unfortunately, I never dreamed she has to have it pitch black in a room before she can sleep. Or that she is unpolitically correct enough to laugh at the way someone’s dog died – not because she dislikes animals but because the situation was stupid and called for the giggles.

I learned that she is honest enough to admit to the same monthly income goals I have.

And get outta here: She wasn’t kidding about the air-conditioning. For the first few hours we flew (uh, drove, Mom) across I-70, I thought for sure she’d reach over and hit the snowflake button on my dash. It never happened. For the first time in my life, I took a trip across the Midwest without shivering, wrapped in blankets, and sneezing to clear my clogged sinuses.

I think I need to learn the art of more meaningful email conversations. And to confess to my new traveling buddy that I have W on my computer so we can laugh about it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Get Outta Here: A Comfortable Hell

Even travel agents pick the wrong hotel at times. I pulled into the Glen Capri Inn and Suites in Glendale, California, Friday afternoon and immediately began thinking up a reason I couldn’t stay the second night. Now I’m not a hotel snob, but there’s something about outside doors with crooked number plates that don’t inspire safety feelings among women.

You also get a strike against you when the Internet connection you promised isn’t working, and your hotel clerk can’t speak English enough to understand the phrase “The Internet is not working.” You are not my kind of hotel if the toilet is so close to the tub, my knees touch it while I’m sitting there. I’m thinking about leaving if you’re so cheap you don’t offer a pad of paper on the desk or a box of Kleenex anywhere. (Blowing my nose on toilet paper – THAT, I’ll be a snob about.)

So I slept like a baby for close to 10 hours, no doubt because there was nothing else to do in that room. Last night, I arrived at a Ramada Inn with those coveted inside doors, and Internet connection that works great, a large bathroom, a king-size bed. It was heaven … until I needed to sleep.

Not 20 minutes after turning off my lights, a family walks into the adjoining room. “I get the bathroom first!” shouts a teen-age girl. “Shut up. People are probably trying to sleep,” says her father. Then he turns on the television and I happen to know he was watching CNN News because it was that loud. Meanwhile, the two kids continue to bicker in outdoor voices and at some point, one of them must have thrown the other against the wall. I looked at my clock: 1:28 a.m.

I’m not a subtle person. I yelled, “Hey, quiet down over there.” No response. I could have called the front desk. Instead, I sat up and turned my own TV on and up – and got my point across. It got nice and quiet on the other side of the wall, and I snuggled back into the covers by 2:15 a.m.

But now it’s 8 a.m. They’ve received four phone calls, have taken three showers, made a pot of coffee, and I can only thank God those aren’t my kids to discipline. Not to mention the maids have swept the floor of the room above me. I get the message loud and clear: Get outta here!

Which brings up the philosophical question, “Which is more important to hotel survival: Internet connection and wide open spaces around the toilet or an atmosphere where folks can sleep?” At this moment, I’m longing for Glen Capri.