When I saw the Title dropdown on the registration form, I should have known things would go poorly. Instead of just your regular old Mr., Mrs., Ms., there were dozens of options.. Esquire.. Captain, Admiral, Sir, Duke – and the oh so too tempting "Lord." I appreciate the creativity of a bored production programmer, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity of bringing a touch of royalty to my business trip. Wow, was I mistaken.
Upon my arrival, the front desk guy stopped sniffling and did a double take after entering my last name into his computer.. There was confusion in his eye… ‘crap, this guy has long hair and mutton chops, but his first name is Franz – maybe his family is rich as hell and wants to buy this shit-hole of a hotel.. uhhh – put him in the corner room!' I found myself going through a barn sized door into an elevator older than myself, was relieved to find buttons instead of a up/down leaver, and proceeded to the top floor.
The door opened, I was introduced to smell #1.
Smell #1 felt like it started many decades ago with another person's good time. Cigars perhaps? Many, many cigars? Smoked and then extinguished into ashtrays, which were then simply sprinkled across the floor. Much later, a cleaning attempt with some scented cleanser.. Strawberry? Cherry? It had a jaded undertone as if there has once been the promise of a fresh burst of fruit flavor which had long since surrendered, admitting it was artificial to begin with – and nothing on this planet should really dare compete with those cigars anyway. It was impressive, but it faded as I went down the hall.
The hall was actually rather quaint. Little faux-crystal chandeliers and the occasional piece of non-signed art. I was starting to feel bolstered. I found my room. Yup, right at the end looks like my play at royalty was working, these Best Westerners may have no sense of smell anymore but they know how to treat a "Lord." I opened my door, my dear God – hello smell #2.
Smell #2 was completely unique from, and amazingly stronger than smell #1. Standing in the hall staring into my room, you could actually experience both – an exercise I went through more and more through my visit as I braced myself to retreat for the night. Smell #2 was heavier and sweeter. It smelled less like a battle between tobacco and fruit, and more like a hodge-podge of expired cleansers. As if you had a bottle of lemon, mint, evergreen.. and perhaps banana cleansers from the 1970's, you mixed them together, stuck them in the microwave for about 40 minutes, and started sprayin' away. Smell #2 was so strong I wondered if I might need a machete to get through it, and I knew lighting a match would have put my life in peril. "I can handle this.. " I thought ".. after all, I'm a Lord – this is hardly a crusade or armed revolution." I stepped in the room.
It was cold. See your breath cold. Boston at this point was a balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit and my room was hardly warmed by its smell. I looked around for any type of vent or rheostat but found that the room was completely detached from the airflow of the rest of the building. There was an aging air conditioner unit in the window which was off. Perhaps turning it on would get some air moving, hopefully of the warm type.
Joy! It was a heater as well. Being careful not to electrocute myself, I cranked it fully to red hit the first of two mystery heat buttons. I had my own Jessica Simpson moment as an intense blast of hot air threw my hair and clothes back in a warm wind. It sounded like a Yugo but it easily produced more heat than the exhaust of a jet fighter. Interesting. Let's let things warm up and investigate.
My room was standard budget fare. Two abstract paintings that belonged in Taos, a bed with a bedspread I was happy to not have a blacklight around, a TV armoire, sliding door closet and bathroom. Lets turn the light on in there and see what we got. Ahem, I said lets turn the light on in that bathroom and see what.. oh. It is on. I see…. kinda… Well that's probably for the best anyway. Why cast the hard glare of reality on a situation that any one could guess would be bad. Stick with the mood lighting. Smart. There was a hair dryer, it said "Elite" on the handle, but as I took in the scene we both knew, it was lying.
I needed food. I recognized on the earlier mentioned reservation form that there was no bar or restaurant in the hotel – but they promised me a "Ma Magoo" was right across the street. I don't know what that is, and I never found it, but okay. Let's find something to eat. I searched around on my iPhone..
Do you you mean restaurant?
Why yes, I do.
McDonalds Restaurant, .2 miles?
No, I don't.
Hrmmm. Hold on a minute, here's a pizza joint that sounds like it's not a chain, has a real pizza oven and someone somewhere thinks is the best in Boston. My Northwest-Foodie sensibilities were piqued. We must find this place, happily – it looks to be close to where my prospective client's offices are. I planned on walking there tomorrow morning, so it'd be great to check this out tonight – let's venture out!
I bundled in my best and proceeded downstairs to verify my planned route with the helpful reception desk staff. "You wanna deal with this one?" the facebook clicking girl said to the porter behind me. "Hi, I want to get to this pizza joint. Have you heard of it? .. oh.. no? hrmm. well can I walk through this park here? I know it's snowy outside, but is this park safe? Will I get mugged or fall in a pond? No? Great! It's right behind the strip mall next to the hotel you say? Well then I'm off!" I mustered my best Woodhouseian sense of adventure as any good ‘Lord' would do and trudged off into the icy snow.
Forty minutes later, I found myself corralled into a dark cathedral of Semi-trucks and loading docks by miles of chain link fences. Crisp oven roasted pizzas fell from my mind as the fatigue of my flight caught up with me. Okay, abort. Let's regroup at this Whole Foods I passed quite some time ago. Ahhh, Whole Foods. You're not a restaurant with a chirpy young wait staff eager to help me pass the time, but you got some damn good eats. I stocked up at their various warm and cold buffets and got a nice hunk of cheese and bread. Now for some type of utensils and some much needed beer… wander.. wander … wander.. surrender again. "Do you guys have any plastic silverware or anything?"
"Why yes, right there, and at EVERY register sir.. "
duh. The pots of prepackaged utensils and napkins almost glowed in contempt at me now that I was told where they were. Okay. Lets just give up tonight, deal with Smell #1 and #2, eat, and pass out.
My meetings went well. My client took me to the best BBQ in Boston, which was indeed very very good BBQ. I returned to my hotel uncomfortably full, enjoyed an extra beer from the night before and passed out thinking of the more technical meetings to come on day two.
Day two went well. Hard problems, but ones I know how to solve. Happy client. Good lunch. Presents procured for kids. Day even ended early… what to do.. I got a cab back to the hotel, worked out in a perfectly well equipped exercise room, except for the noticeable lack of any machine geared towards thinning of one's abdomen. Perhaps there is some unspoken Bostonian view where the perfect male form is capable of running 5 miles and lifting 200 lbs, WITH a gut the size of a beech-ball. That actually made a bit of sense.. Regardless. 5pm, nothing to do, meetings over, flight doesn't leave till evening the next day, what to do?? – grrr.
Well, I'm sorry to report, I struggled through Smell #1 and Smell #2, showered and after getting sucked into email hell with my associates who are all 3 hours behind, I admitted to myself I was stuck for the night. I was not taking a cab into college town to compete for space at a bar with thousands of young men aspiring to the perfect "Bostonian" form. It was back to Whole Foods. Really not bad at all there. Some mighty good grub, and very interesting beer next door at the Spirits store… Got back to the room. Arg! I forgot to get plastic silverware! DAMN.. ahh well, I'm eating Turkish style tonight. That was actually pretty fun. Eating with my fingers, being burned by the jet exhaust 80's heater on one side, and by the horrors of Smell #2 on the other, I watched the second half of some made for HBO series about Saddam Hussein and drank, a lot. I felt artistically committed. The snowy reception on the TV only added to the bombed out 20th century experience. Good stuff.. I eventually pulled up the covers and got ready for a fine tomorrow…
Now here's where the story gets interesting (amazingly.) I would normally rerserve this type of meandering diatribe for the victims who seem compelled to listen to me whilst out drinking, but I found this part to be so over the top I had to take the time to share it with you, dear reader.
I picked up the shockingly loud hotel room phone.. (who knew they even still bothered with those..)
"How did you get in the room?" A voice blurted out from the other side of the line.
"Uhh, with my key. Who is this?" I replied while noticing the time was just after midnight.
"The front desk, how did you get in your room?"
"I used my key, what the hell is wrong with you, it's midnight."
"Uhhhh… (uncomfortable pause).. well.. uhh this is the night auditor, your card didn't go through.. I told them to change the lock…"
"I've been here three days and no one said anything any number of times as I said hello as I passed the front desk… really? I mean, really? you did notice its midnight…. right?"
"Are you going to pay cash"
"Sure, whatever. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say American Express might be wondering why a $400 charge is showing up 2,000 miles away from my home, but it really doesn't matter. We'll resolve this tomorrow morning."
I'm sure you'd agree, hardly the ideal thoughts to put in a fellow's head before nodding off.
The next morning I proceeded to tell my tale to the reception desk manager who told me "I'm so sorry.. I'm sorry.. He shouldn't have called you.. I'm sorry"…
"Well yes, he shouldn't have, I don't really need you to be sorry, I could use a ride to the airport however.."
"Oh our shuttle doesn't go to the airport, just these two train stations, do you want to go there?"
"Hrm. No. I think I'd like to go to the airport, will you call me a cab?"
It was at this point reader, I shit you not, that the shuttle driver walked behind me, and interrupted saying "hey, you got anywhere I need to go? I was gonna take off for 25 minutes…" and off he went.
In a word – Wow.
Whatever you do, if you go to Cambridge Massachusetts, don't stay at the Best Western Hotel Tria (just add a GE to the end of the name in your mind and move on)
Oh, and if there's something about concrete5 we can make better – please tell me before it stinks in two ways, burns the side of your face, and leaves you dreaming of finances.
(like that tie in?)