Another Red Letter Day of Sorts?

As most of you probably know, I have a tendency to freak out a lot. Little, tiny minuscule things that don’t even register on the average person’s radar have the ability to really throw me into the depths of despair and it’s all my mother (or a few close friends) can do to walk me down from the I-don’t-know-what-I’m-going-to-do-ledge.

I was supposed to fly out of DC today at 3:20. When I arrived at Reagan National Airport I learned the flight was overbooked and I wasn’t even guaranteed a seat. They did the whole, “Do we have any volunteers?”-thing…and I briefly contemplated taking a later flight for the $300 voucher, but then I started worrying about my luggage and where I would stay in DC for another night and decided it was probably best to just proceed as planned. So…I was lucky enough to get a seat on that flight…it was a middle seat, but I had already freaked out about not getting to Chicago at all (and it’s only a 90 minute flight), so, you know, if you have to have a middle seat, a 90-minute flight is the flight to have it on. We pushed off from the gate and began to taxi…and the captain came on and told us about some bad weather in Chicago. Fast forward an hour and a half: I’m stuck between a guy who talks to himself while doing crossword puzzles (“What’s nine down? I don’t know…I don’t know…14 across is ‘idol.’ ‘Idol.’ Did I spell that right? I don’t know…”) and a woman who snored. I was having visions of that JetBlue flight that was stuck at JFK when, thankfully, the captain came back on and said we were going back to the terminal. The know-it-all woman in front of me (“Once the weather in Chicago was so bad, I had to fly into Milwaukee and rent a car. Milwaukee’s not all that far from Chicago…” said it definitely meant they were canceling our flight. So, we all unloaded our personal belongings and huddled around Gate 28, waiting for news. They canceled the next two flights from DC to Chicago which the guy next to me said was good news for us because something had to go out. And, long story short, after reboarding and a little more waiting on the tarmac, we finally made it to Chicago. My luggage made it, too (always nice) and I was able to get a taxi to my hotel without any problems.

I was feeling a strange sense of euphoria after we landed. DC is so close to home (not to mention Boston) that it doesn’t quite feel like “getting away.” But Chicago’s definitely away…and my family’s not far…so I really just felt like this week was going to be just what I needed.

When I finally arrived at my hotel, all I wanted to do was to get some dinner and hook up my computer to check the story my boss edited (and eventually write another one…but not until after dinner). However, I soon discovered that my room was – ahem – lacking in certain respects. First on the list: if you don’t have wifi, you don’t have Internet access. This is despite the fact that there’s a little sign on the desk (and a notice on the website as well) that claims all rooms have wired Internet access. The little sign in my room actually says, “Start with your notebook computer turned off and connect an Ethernet cable from your network card to the Wayport adapter (also called a “bridge”). If there is no bridge in your room, you can get one from the front desk.” So…I tried to call the front desk but discovered my phone didn’t work. I tried to turn on the lamp to illuminate my room while I thought about what to do about the defunct phone and discovered it, too, was not working. I started to get a little upset. I decided food would help me (I get grumpy when I am hungry…and have always suspected I am hypoglycemic). After my stay in Boston when I called the front desk and said, “I don’t have a room service menu!” and they said, “Uh, turn on your TV…” I knew to check the television here when I didn’t immediately see a menu. Sure enough – there was a services option. However…even though I could see “in room dining” on my screen, I could not find a button on my remote control that illuminated that selection. The cursor just went back and forth between “folio” and “back.” So…I went downstairs to tell the woman at the front desk that I had several problems. However…two of her friends had arrived and this woman could not have cared less that I did not have Internet access, a phone, a lamp or in-room dining. I asked about the “bridge” first and she looked at me as if I was speaking klingon. She told me that the hotel had nothing to do with Internet access and if I was having trouble, I’d have to call the third party provider from my room. “But, that’s the thing – my phone doesn’t work…” I said.
She dialed the Wayport number at the speed of light and handed me the receiver to return to her friends to talk about what hotels they stay at when they visit New York (if only they knew!). I was dubious I would be able to accomplish anything from the hotel lobby, but the guy was very nice…he put me on hold for a bit…and while I was on hold that very helpful woman at the front desk disappeared for a moment and came back with a “bridge” (which was kind of funny since the first time I asked about it, she looked at me like she had no idea what I was talking about). The Wayport Helpdesk guy came back and said, “I just talked to her. You should be all set.”

She really didn’t want to have anything to do with me at that point though…so I counted my blessings and went back to my room. However…I soon discovered that the “bridge” had just two tiny chords. And I assumed (my basketball coach in Mississippi used to say that “when you assume, you make an ass out of ‘u’ and me.”) that one of the chords had to go into the wall. But then I realized that in order for this to work, I would have to literally crawl under the desk in my room in order to do all my work with everything plugged in. Nevermind – I clicked the Mozilla Firefox icon and held my breath. Still nothing. So…the nice man had given me a number to call if I still had problems. Another guy (Stephen?) walked me through some Internet connection nonsense and finally wanted me to push a pin-hole size button on the “bridge” with a pin when I said, “Sure…but can you give me a second? Because the chord is really short and I’m under the desk right now and the lamp doesn’t work, so it’s really dark.” and Stephen said, “Under the desk because the chord’s so short? That’s unacceptable! You can’t work like that! Let me call the front desk…” So, he put me on hold some more…and then came back and said, “Ma’am, do you have both chords plugged into your computer?” and I said, “No – I have the ethernet cable plugged into my computer and the other one is plugged into the wall.” Bingo. That was my problem. They’re BOTH supposed to go into the computer to create a faux wireless network. Oopsie.

So…at this point I know I can definitely NEVER talk to the front desk girls EVER again. And if I’d had lunch, maybe I could have just skipped dinner, but I was STARVING. So I knew I had no choice – I had to go to the hotel restaurant by myself.

I’ll admit I was a little nervous as I surveyed the menu and then approached the host. “Just one?” he asked.

Yes. Just one.

He took me to a lovely table by a window. The whole restaurant was very nice – it was kind of dark and candle-light-y and would have been uber-romantic if I wasn’t destined to die barren and alone (that was for you, Dubs…even though you’re drunk and fishing in the woods right now…and don’t likely read my blog anymore anyway…). There weren’t very many people there…which also made it easier to sit there with my notebook from the DC retirement conference. I was also sort of able to listen in to the table next to me as a girl met her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. It’s funny – I was able to drink – oh, I don’t know – half of a beer and eat a salad while they were there…but it wasn’t until they left that I could actually touch the bread basket (as if they would have been riding home together in the car later and said, “Did you see that girl? Alone?? Eating CARBS???”). It actually wasn’t that bad at all…considering this was really the first time I’ve ever eaten at a sit-down restaurant by myself before. So…progress?

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