Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another day, another hotelmotel

This time, I'm in Phoenix.

Getting here was mostly uneventful aside from the two hour delay in getting on my one hour flight. Things like this make me grateful for the Internet and the ability to check flight status before leaving for the airport. Of course the disclaimer suggests that a four hour delay is no reason to stay home and wait, as the plane could leave on time leaving you wondering what the purpose of checking the flight status really is. So you wed the ancient with the modern and call customer service and verify that you really do have an extra couple of hours to sit around your house with your feet resting on your luggage.

In any event, it's better than hanging out at the airport.

An officious large man came into the waiting area and made a lot of noise telling the gate agent that his announcements were garbled. Why this mattered, I was not sure since there were all of 15 people waiting for the plane two of which had made an attempt to board the flight to Dallas that was leaving when I arrived. Once again, I wonder about the intelligence of my traveling companions. The big fellow placed himself at the front of the A line, in position 1 which was interesting as I was holding the #1 ticket. Realizing that the wait was still another 20 minutes, he came over and sat one chair away from me. Reading him like a book, I rifled through my bag, pulled out my boarding pass, made a show of reading it and placed it on the empty chair between us. I started my stopwatch and sat back. Four minutes and twenty-three seconds later, he loudly asked me how it was that I had boarding ticket #1, claiming that he had dialed in exactly 24 hours earlier and managed #22. I told him I paid $60 more than he did to which he responded "I guess money talks."

The flight was the same as it ever is, two bags of peanuts, one diet coke and 55 minutes before the lights of the Valley of the Sun fill the plane windows. Off the plane and onto a surprisingly crowded rental car shuttle (given that it was almost 11 PM), off the shuttle and into my Camry, out of the rental car center and back onto I10.

Technology again reared its pointed little noggin' as I made my way to the hotel. Before I left home, I checked Google Maps to find the best route to my reservation. It suggested that exiting at Ray Road, going a block and turning left on 50th street south was the best way, 50th being a straight shot down to where I was going. So I did this and eventually found myself at the corner of Thistle Down (which was 50th when it started) and 45th street. I didn't turn, I didn't veer and yet the street had morphed from its place in a traditional numbering system to some post modern, twee street name that was apparently trying to convince me that we were no longer in a sun crusted desert. I mean really, "Thistle Down?"

Relying on my low-tech infallible sense of direction I made a left and headed back in the direction of I10 suddenly finding myself at Chandler Blvd. Somehow, I had done a square consisting of 3, 90-degree angles, violating the basic rules of geometry. Go figure. Turning left, I found 50th street and headed towards the hotel. Missing the turn-in, I continued down 50th until it dead-ended at --------- Thistle Down. It finally made sense, 50th was re-routed, becoming a left off of Thistle Down while that oddly named byway headed off at an imperceptible 45 degrees from True North.

Thank you Google Maps!

Not much to be said about the hotel, which I will not name aside from a hint that the first word rhymes with "La" and the second with "Quinta." When we travel internationally we stay at pretty fancy places as this lower, US-interstate-related class of inn simply doesn't exist. And so we get spoiled by the opulence and shocked at the reckoning when it's time to stay at a place like this. I mean, they're nice enough but a microwave on a table in the lobby doesn't really qualify as a sumptuous breakfast buffet, does it?

My room was interesting, big enough but very plain aside from the cheery green and white tiles in the bathroom and the oddball double swinging doors leading to that space. A built in cabinet housed a microwave and the narrowest refrigerator I've yet encountered. The place gave off an air of Southwestern meets New England. At least the pillows were good (for a change) but that hardly mattered given that the proximity to the endless traffic on I10 and an air conditioner that sounded like a landing 747 added up to a restless night. You know you're in trouble when you wake up 15 minutes before the alarm goes off, re-charge it with 20 more minutes and then wake up again 15 seconds later when that 35 minutes was gone.

Stumbling off to my morning ablutions, I noticed a ray sun directly illuminating the entrance door handle, emanating from a pin hole in the rubberized curtains. It immediately made me think of those tombs around the world where the ancient builders had aligned the entrance so that a shaft of light on the morning of the Summer Solstice would shoot in and illuminate a wall carving. I wonder what La Quinta was getting at here, perhaps I need to come back on June 21st.

Not much more to say about this morning so far other than the fact that the hotel hosting our get together was one that tried to charge me $200 for a phone call when I stayed here 150 years ago. Funny how we associate and remember things, and walking down the hallway and seeing the conference rooms that I had spent many hours in back in 1990 really imparted a strong sense of time and place.

Is it a good thing when we start measuring the moments of our lives by familiarity with spots in chain motels?

Something to consider for 15 minutes or so.

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