I found myself once again jammed elbow to elbow with strangers several thousand feet in the air as our airplane rocked like a cork upon the water. So began yet another glamorous business trip, this time to America’s heartland. I guess that when I told my boss earlier this year that “I’m not the biggest fan of business travel,” he heard “I haven’t traveled enough.” Clearly, frequent flyers are exposed over time to something mixed in the recirculated air.
Upon arrival, I took one step out of the sliding doors and was nearly knocked down. I can deal with humidity. To call the air that met me outside the airport “humid” is like saying a tsunami is wet. Accurate yes, but the word just doesn’t do it justice. (According to Google translate, in Zulu, wall of water is translated as Udonga amanzi which for some reason feels more appropriate.)
A van, probably white when factory new but was now more ecru, pulled up. I assumed it was the hotel shuttle, however, wasn’t entirely sure as the logo was beginning to peel from the vehicle’s side. The driver came around to help stow my bags. “You’re the only one today, so feel free to sit up front if you’d like,” he said. Eager to get my lungs out of the oppressive air, I jumped in.
As we turned down unfamiliar streets it occurred to me that I had willingly hopped into the kind of van one might see in a movie’s kidnapping scene. I glanced at my driver. The cuff of his long sleeved shirt was rolled down, exposing a large tattoo. The look didn’t exactly boost my confidence.
Oh, I can hear my mom now as she reads this…
A couple of stop lights later I arrived at the hotel safe and in one piece (see mom – no need to worry about me at all!) There were only a couple of cars in the parking lot. Either I was arriving well ahead of check-in, or most people were staying at home after the holiday weekend. It reminded me of the empty hotel from The Shining (if I saw a pair of creepy twins, I was out of there).
I was told my room was ready. My room was ready. The room across from me? Not so much. Large fans whirled in the hallways while a radio blasted classic rock from the other room. The door was wide open and I could see that it was in the process of being refurbished from top to bottom. I decided I’d rather not know what kind of hi-jinks must have taken place on that side of the hall.
Between the fumes and the easy jams, I decided to vacate my room while the workers finished for the day. I decided to try out the gym (see mom – I do occasionally make healthy choices). One of the footplates on the elliptical machine had given out, the backrest on the stationary bike was set to permanent recline and the treadmill sounded like a chainsaw (the ‘art’ in this ‘state of the art’ facility was still in the surrealist period). Perhaps I should run outside. Rain began to pelt the windows. Perhaps not. I was motivated to work off some holiday excess, but not that motivated.
I ventured downstairs to see what this fine establishment might have in the way of dining only to find a small mini-mart stocked with frozen meals instead of a restaurant. Sigh. I grabbed a dinner and returned to my room. Sometimes you just need to call it a night.
And unlike my last trip, I slept like I did back in the time before kids. It is amazing how a little extra rest helps your mood. The food might have been less than ideal, and the accommodations worthy of the term economy, but, I’m not really complaining. I’ve been on worse trips.
It comes down to the people I meet along the way, and all people this time were friendly. Especially my tattooed driver, who, in addition to being exceedingly polite was living in this city/fishbowl to be closer to aging relatives (and wasn’t scary at all). It was a good reminder not to judge based on appearance. I would have preferred to stay at home, but it was an experience. I may not get to travel like the rich and famous, but as I’ve said before, at least I get to keep my miles.