I am about to leave for the airport, in fact, I already have my keys in my hand, luggage is by the front door. I turn and notice the red light on my work phone is on, indicating I have voicemail. This is annoying for two reasons. One, I just put my phone on "do not disturb" less than 10 minutes ago after a quiet morning with no calls and two, my voicemail clearly states that I am not going to be in the office all week. I almost left without checking it.
It turns out to be the hotel I am supposed to check into later that day. "Do you know a Marie that works at your company?" I tell her yes. The woman on the phone cheerfully tells me, "Well, we have a customer who just extended their stay and, as you know, we are an extended stay hotel!"
Okay, I think someone is confused and it isn't me. An extended stay hotel means that you can stay there for an extended period of time. It does NOT mean that you can randomly extend your stay when the hotel is full. The hotel wants Marie and I to share a 2 bedroom suite. This is a hot issue for a lot of people, including me. I do not want to share a room with my co-worker. It doesn't matter that we are both girls or that we like each other. I don't need to see Marie's pajamas and more important, she doesn't need to see mine. I don't need to know the ins and outs of her bathroom habits. I couldn't work for a company that requires its staff to share rooms. It isn't natural. I barely let David know my bathroom habits and he and I have been married 26 years.
But now I feel pressure...what did Marie say I ask? "She said it was okay with her it if it was okay with you." Crap. I ask if we have our own bathrooms and am assured we do. Two bedrooms, both with a door and a private bathroom. If I have to share, this is the only way I will do it. They offer to keep our rate the same as the individual rooms we would have had, saving the company money and to throw in some bonus Hilton Honors points. I still would prefer my own room but I agree to share.
Living in a small community, I can't fly direct to very many places. I usually fly to Salt Lake City and occasionally Denver or Minneapolis. On this flight, in SLC I take my aisle seat and start reading. A couple comes to take the middle and window seats. The woman slides across dragging my seatbelt with her. She doesn't notice. I try to pull it but it won't come out. I finally have to ask her to let me get it (this happens again when she goes to the bathroom during the flight) and she lifts her butt to the side so I can reach under. Eeww. I get settled again and start hearing a distinctive popping sound. I look over and the woman is flossing her teeth. I don't mean using a toothpick either. She got out a roll of dental floss, pulled some off, wound it around her fingers and went to town. This is quite possibly the most disgusting thing I have been subjected to on an airplane up to now (the vomiting teenagers on the plane from DC is a close second). Even the man with her says, "Are you through flinging your food particles everywhere?"
He wants to get on with their card game. She can't remember the rules from one hand to the next. He keeps looking at her cards and telling her what to bid and explaining the rules again. Her giggling get on my nerves quickly and I find that the headphones I brought aren't working. Two and a half hours of her flossing and giggling and I am ready to freak out. AND no snacks on this leg of the trip because one of the passengers has a peanut allergy so severe that no one on the plane can have them or anything that could have traces of them, and don't eat what you brought with you (like the turtles in my purse) for the same reason. I am not sure how this person is not at home living in a bubble.
Fortunately (for me and Marie), Marie is not there when I get to the hotel. I get a little quiet time and some food before she arrives around 9:30. I have to let her in because her keys aren't working. We chat a little and go to our separate rooms to bed. I turn off the lights at about 11:15 pm.
Just as I am drifting off, the smoke alarms go off. I am disoriented at first but collect myself enough to get some pants on, grab my sweater, the keys to my rental, and my cell phone, all of which are on the other unused bed in my room. I can't find my room keys. Normally I leave them right with the car keys but this time I didn't. I open my door and Marie is there. I tell her I can't find my room keys. She can't find her car keys. We take her room keys (which we know don't work) my car keys and head out. There are a number of people in the hall (we are on the first floor) and we join them in exiting the front of the hotel.
This isn't the first time this has happened to me. It is the 5th. Smoke alarms happened while I was in Memphis, Houston, San Antonio, Navarre FL, and at my daughter's house (which I blogged about last year). Two of these were false alarms, three were not, including the one at my daughter's. And once I set them off at my house when I came out of a particularly hot bath and walked under the alarm while I still smoldering so that makes 6. That doesn't include the various times they went off at my parents house when I lived at home or the time my three kids made them go off trying to make maps using notebook paper and a barbecue lighter while I was at work.
The point is you don't know if it is a false alarm or not. Maybe the fact that my dad was a fireman when I was young makes a difference but I always get up and leave the room/hotel (except at my daughters when the fire was quickly extinguished although I did eventually leave and go get us McDonald's with our breakfast now in ruins).
Dad and me at the fire station. This is not a "real" picture, it is a Photoshop version of two photos. This photo originally only had my dad in it. There was a second photo of me using the same angle where I am sitting on the racks where they dry the hoses. I simply put me in the one of him.
In Houston, which wasn't a false alarm, I was one of only 2 people who left the hotel. There was a man on the 8th floor (same floor I was on) in the window watching us in the parking lot. I guess it was too inconvenient for him walk down all of those stairs.
It is cold out this time so Marie and I go to my rental car and get the heat going. The strobes and alarms are still going strong. Then the first fire truck shows up.
I tell Marie, "This isn't a false alarm." A fireman walks up to the front door and immediately comes back, speaks to two other firemen and they suit up in full gear, including oxygen masks and tanks.
Definitely not a false alarm. A second fire truck comes.
Marie and I sit in the car discuss a variety of things like the merits of particular 80s songs for karaoke and the fact that the crowd milling around outside includes some of our customers. Customers neither of us have ever met before. Customers we would rather not meet while in our pajamas.
When they finally let us back in, people on the first three floors can return to their rooms. People on the 4th floor aren't so lucky. We learn the next day that a man on the 4th floor was cooking beans in his room (these rooms have small kitchens). I want to know what kind of a fool is cooking beans on the stove at nearly midnight in a hotel? Probably the same fool who extended his stay forcing Marie and I to share a room! Several other suggestions were made - drunk or stoned or both were the primary guesses. This is bolstered when the front desk tells us that the man was AWAKE AND STILL IN HIS ROOM when the fireman knocked on the door.
Marie and I are forced to stand in line at the desk because I don't have my room keys - a fact I know my dad will not appreciate when he hears it - and Marie's don't work. While we wait and watch the fireman wrap up their time here there is a particularly unhappy looking woman next to us with her luggage. She had the unfortunate luck to arrive during the fire. And of course, she is one of my customers. I introduce myself while standing in the lobby in my pajamas, braless, shoeless and makeup-less.
On the last day of training, the smoke alarm goes off right before lunch. We are not a happy group, most of us having been through the first event just a few nights before. It quickly stops. Then goes off again. I go to the front desk. They are replacing a part and it is malfunctioning. The front desk assures me they will come get us if something happens. I break for lunch, it is hard to talk over the alarm (which goes off a total of 4 times that afternoon).
A cousin wrote on Facebook that the alarms at her office went off today and she didn't want to go outside. ALWAYS go outside. I know my dad could probably tell horror stories about people who were hurt or even died because they couldn't be inconvenienced to go out or didn't believe it was a real fire. More than half of the alarms I have been through at a hotel were caused by real - although small - fires.
Go outside, do it for me. I'll be there in my pajamas, waiting for you.