Sometimes, those generic airport stores nevertheless give you a pretty good idea of exactly where you are. Could anyone seeing this cheese-oriented presentation, complete with a cheese cowboy hat, doubt that they were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the self-proclaimed cheese capital of the world?
As a normal rule of business travel, I don’t eat at the restaurant — if there is one — at the hotel where I’m spending the night. I think it’s important to get out and at least see some of the surrounding area, and if I don’t get out I feel trapped and confined.
Sometimes, though, when you’re in a remote area and the only nearby food option is a bad chain eatery, there really is no alternative, and the hotel restaurant is the only viable option. So it was that last night I found myself eating in the hotel combination bar-restaurant and reading my book — or at least trying to, because there was a group of about a dozen guys at the bar area who were raising a huge ruckus, eating chicken wings and arguing very loudly about what kind of pick-up truck has the best towing capability. (One guy actually said, with total, high-volume conviction: “I’m a Ram Man until the day I die.” Who knew people had that kind of a deeply personal connection to a consumer product?)
These guys weren’t complete jerks. They didn’t get into a fight or harass the waitresses or start calling out people in the room. But they were loud and thoughtless and annoying, and they obviously didn’t care that they were intruding upon the worlds of other hotel guests. It’s one of the realities of life in the hotel zone: it’s a transient existence, on the road in a faraway place that you’ll probably never visit again in the future, and the social mores that would otherwise tamp down your behavior if you were in your home territory aren’t present.
This is one of the reasons why I hate to eat at a hotel. I’d rather not see my fellow guests up close and personal, truck-loving warts and all. I’d rather operate under the illusion that my fellow hotel guests are all anonymous, well-mannered types. When you get a good look at the complete strangers who might be staying in the room next door to yours, it can be unnerving.
Nothing makes you feel older, slower, and more horribly out of shape than having to sprint through an airport, past about 25 gates, to catch your connection just before the door closes. But when you make it, winded and embarrassed, the endorphins kick in and you actually feel pretty good about yourself.
We had to get back to Columbus this morning, which meant we arose before the crack of dawn and were treated to a view of the Greenbrier in the wee hours. With wisps of fog shrouding parts of the grounds, absolute, not a whisper to be heard silence, and no living soul out and about, the Greenbrier assumed an almost mystical dimension that made you almost expect to encounter the ghost of Dwight D. Eisenhower. But no ghosts appeared, so we loaded up the car and headed out toward I-64 West.
This may be the perfect time of year to visit the Greenbrier, and the mums are only part of the reason. The weather has been bright and clear, warm but not too hot during the day and cool in the evening. The leaves are starting to fall, letting us feel them crunch underfoot as we walk the trails and walking paths. Throw in the soothing clip-clop of horse hooves from the carriage rides, and you’ve got a beautiful place to spend a weekend.
On yesterday’s flights back from San Antonio, there was an odd and somewhat troubling coincidence — on every flight, and in every gate area where I was waiting for a flight, there was a kid crying one of those shrill, keep your nerves on edge cries.
One crying toddler, I can understand. Sometimes, your child is just exhausted and is crying for reasons you can’t even fathom. I get that.
But a crying kid on every flight? That seems pretty suspicious to me. It made me wonder whether the crying kid was stalking me.
Now that I think about it, there were some other pretty suspicious coincidences at the airports, too. Like the hefty guy manspreading to try to discourage people sitting next to him. Or the woman loudly talking into her cell phone and carrying on an unending conversation apparently heedless of the fact that she was sitting in the midst of a bunch of weary travelers. Or the young people sitting cross-legged on the floor, even though there are actual seats available, so you can’t simply walk past but have to carefully navigate through the clutter of hunched-over people, backpacks, and cell phone cords. Or the old people who decide that it’s perfectly okay to stop dead in the middle of concourse traffic so grandma can find her sunglasses.
I mean, what are the odds that would find these same people on every flight and in every concourse?