Posts Tagged ‘Business travel’

I almost shit my pants. Almost. I managed to duck-walk to my hotel room, seconds before impact. I had become a character in a Farrelly Brothers movie, and I wasn’t happy about it.

Moments earlier, as my bodily functions began their doomsday countdown, I was checking into the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Louisville.

The woman checking me in, Mary, according to her golden name-tag, was a twenty-something blonde, with a dialect I couldn’t quite place. She may have been local, or she may have been from Alabama for all I knew.

Sadly, to my ears, any dialect from the southern Midwest, and most of the south for that matter, all sound the same to me. Except for Texas and Georgia. For some reason, I always know if someone is from Texas or Georgia. It’s weird.

Anyhow, Mary seemed nice, but she had a lot of questions, and I was a road worn traveler. A traveler, I might add, who ate a giant burrito earlier that day, and who was now paying a steep price for his bad decisions.

My stomach spasmed. Something terrible was happening in there. Goose bumps rose on my skin, a trickle of sweat beaded my forehead, and all the while, Mary, with her damn questions.

“What brings ya, to Luuuville?”

“Uh, work.” I replied, as I tightened my aging glutes.

“Any floor preference?”


“Did you park with us?”


“Are you a Hilton Honors member?”


“Would you like any restaurant suggestions?”


“Any directions?”


She paused for a moment, there was a mischievous glint in her eyes. She knew. I could see it, now. She was toying with me.

I bet she saw a lot of this, while working the front desk. Middle-aged business travelers, in desperate need to relieve themselves. Road weary men and women, who just wanted to check into their room, thereby granting them a private facility to do their unmentionables.

Seconds passed, she was either thinking of another question, or waiting for me to shit my pants. Probably both. I had to intervene.

“Listen, I really need to get to my room.” I said, through clinched teeth and sphincter.

“Of course.” She replied, with a slight frown. As she slowly, much too slowly, swiped my key cards on their activation pad.

In spite of of my new nemesis, and her evil plans to ruin me, I made it to my room. And soon, all was right in my world. Little did I know, my harmony would be brief.

After a quick shower and change of clothes, I decided to take a walk and find a meal. I strolled through the lobby with purpose. Mary gave me a nod, as if to say, “You got lucky… but there’s always check-out.” We locked eyes briefly, and I nodded back. My silent reply, “Bring it on, lady.”

It was a warm night for mid-November, as I arbitrarily picked a direction. About a block down from the hotel, was a heavy-set African American man. He was disheveled, and hopping toward me.

He had removed one of his shoes, and was carrying it in his arm like a football. The man appeared to be homeless. Having more than my fair share of encounters with the homeless of American cities, I did my best to not lock eyes. But it was too late. He spotted me.

Hopping toward me he asked “Hey man! Can you help me?”

I shot him an impatient look I save for just such scenarios. “Actually, I’m in a hurry.”

I picked up the pace, hoping to lose the man within a few more strides.

He called out to me as I went. “Come on call me an ambulance, man!”

I continued walking, but something wasn’t right. My stomach did that spasm thing again, but I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. I stopped walking, and turned to look at the man.

He was resting against a store front. He faced the other direction. Apparently, he was taking a break. If I was to guess, all that hopping really takes it out of you.

My stomach rumbled again. Damn it. This was worse than having diarrhea. This was a case of sympathy, or maybe even empathy. I didn’t know which.

It doesn’t happen often to me, but when it does, my stomach does this weird thing, and I know I’m about to try and help someone, and it’s probably going to be giant pain in the ass.

I walked up to the homeless hopper.

“Hey man, are you okay?”

“Nah, man. My foot’s fucked up. I need to go to the hospital. Can you call an ambulance?”

I quickly did the math on this. If I called an ambulance, I’d have to sit with this guy until they came. And I had a feeling that was going to be a long sit. Also, I was hungry. And lastly, there just so happened to be a way to kill two birds with one stone.

“Aw, jeez. My phone’s out of battery.” I lied.

“I’ll tell you what, do you think you can get to the Hilton Garden Inn, down the block.”

The man warily eyed the glowing neon sign in the distance. “Nah, man. I can’t hop no more.”

His words seemed profound. As if, in a just world, he would hop on forever, but it was mortality that poisoned his hope. Yeah, something like that.

“I’ll help you get there.” I said, surprising the both of us.

“Come on. Put your arm around me, and lean on me.”

I quietly hummed a Bill Withers tune as we made our way to the HGI. It was slow going, and we adjusted our embrace a few times.

I looked down at the man’s foot and it was really, really fucking gross. Swollen and discolored, and in need of a nail clipper, but that was a different issue all together.

“Hold up, I need to rest.” The man exclaimed.

We stopped for a moment, our arms still interlocked.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, it just, it hurts, ya know?”

I did know. I mean, not about a swollen, messed up foot. But about things that hurt. And suffering is terrible, and I felt sad for the man that he had to endure it alone.

“I’m sorry.” I said, and I meant it.

After a couple more minutes, he was ready to continue. As I held onto him and kept him off of his bad foot, I noticed a small hospital band around his wrist.

“Were you in the hospital?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah, I was.”

“For your foot?”

The man shook his head. “Nah, not for my foot.”

The man glanced up at me earnestly, as we stumbled toward the HGI together.

“The doctors say I’m homicidal or something like that.” He said, and then laughed heartily.

I quickly broke eye-contact and stared up at the glowing neon beacon ahead of us.

“Well, that’s not good.” I whispered, not knowing how else to respond to something like that.

“Yeah. It’s whatever.” He said nonchalantly.

We had finally made it to the lobby doors of the HGI.

“Okay, I’ll bring you into the lobby and you can sit on their couch, while they call you an ambulance. Is that cool?”

“Aww, yeah, man. It looks nice in there!” The man said, smiling brightly.

We stumbled into the lobby together, the man’s arm over my shoulder, like two wounded soldiers making it back to camp.

Mary scanned the situation. She took in the homeless hopper, before returning my gaze. My eyes said “Checkmate, baby.” As I eased the man onto a couch.

I gave Mary a shrug of the shoulders as I approached the front desk.

“Hey, this guy’s really hurt and he needs an ambulance.”

Mary had no choice and she knew it. She’d have to let the man sit in her corporate, faux-hipster lobby, while he waited for an ambulance. An ambulance that would hopefully take the long way there.

“Oh. Yes, of course.” She replied.

I knew that she knew, that I helped our homeless friend. And she knew that I knew, that she had no choice but to also help. There would be no shooing away of any homeless folk, especially while a guest, and also clearly an upstanding citizen, was present.

I smiled broadly, before leaving Mary to it. As I turned, to head out into the night, I saw that my homeless friend had made himself comfortable.

He had taken off his shirt and laid down on the couch. It was a glorious scene. And on top of it all, my stomach thing had went away.


The next morning a cleaning woman knocked on my door, much too loudly, at 7:30 a.m. After that, it took twenty minutes to get my car back from the valet. And the icing on the cake, the coffee in the lobby was as cold as the road that lay ahead.

Coincidentally, Mary was working the front desk that morning.

This wasn’t over. Not by a longshot.


It was at least the twentieth time I was retelling the same anecdote. I was at a dinner party, or out for a drink, or perhaps alone in a dark room, staring up at where I thought a ceiling fan should be. After repeating the same story enough times, the where doesn’t really matter. And that’s not the important part, anyhow.

The anecdote, or whatever you want to call it, has been officially retired. Except for this blog. But this is different. Perhaps, this is a moment of self-awareness. Or is it self-reflection? Either way, It has to have something to do with the self. After all, having a blog is as Me! Me! Me! as one can get.

It wasn’t the incident that rubbed me the wrong way. It’s my perspective on it. My take on the situation. Or lack thereof. Was I unintentionally reaffirming what most people who haven’t been to Detroit have always suspected? Maybe.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The story:

March 5th, 2014

My phone alarm began to chirp. Morning songbirds by way of auto-tune. It was 6:30 a.m. and I was in Detroit. And Detroit was on fire.

I opened the drapes of my hotel room window. Nine or ten stories up. I couldn’t remember. The sunrise was partially blotted out by plumes of smoke in the distance. From what, I did not know. I brushed my teeth and watched as the dark swirls twisted and expanded, reaching higher into the sky. Like the city was exhaling a foreboding drag from its last cigarette. I continued brushing, Crest’s whitening power played tug of war for a superior color hue. This was a losing battle.

I turned on the television. With remote in hand, and toothbrush in mouth, I watched as the newscaster filled me in. Detroit was on fire. The reporter interviewed a distraught, middle-aged African American woman. Behind them, the billowing smoke paced ominously. Through her growing tears, the woman explained that the entire apartment complex went up in flames, along with everything she ever had.

I turned away from the television, and gazed out at the city in the distance. I was in the suburbs, after all. More than half of the people who say they’ve travelled to Detroit, or are from Detroit, are actually talking about their time in the suburbs of Detroit.

Detroit just sounds cooler, until you live there, and your city is on fire. It was all happening right outside of my window. Maybe twenty blocks away? Thirty perhaps? Not far at all. Yet a world away.

I dumped the remote and stored the brush. It was time to go. And like all salesmen, seasoned in the game of business travel, there was a checklist to contend with, and a deadline to do it under.

Shower. Check.

Hair combed and deodorant applied. Check and double check.

Yesterday’s fashion faux pas, and today’s dirty clothes? Stuffed into the laundry bag. Triple check.

The button on my suitcase was now engaged, the handle expanding telescopically to waist level. Ka-chink. My middle-class switch blade. Checkmate.

A Terminator like scan of the room. Phone, keys, watch, and wallet. A glance in the mirror. Checklist complete. Hasta la vista, baby.

Thirty expertly maneuvered minutes, from beginning to end. As close as I’ll ever get to taking a gun apart while blindfolded.

Detroit was on fire and I was passing through the suburbs. But when I told the tale it sounded way funnier. And that’s why this is a retirement party.


The news coverage of the fire that I was watching that morning: