The rest of the crew seemed content to “do their own thing” for the rest of the afternoon in Los Angeles. So, a few minutes after checking into the hotel, I ventured out for a solo lunch. There’s not much close to our hotel, but it’s always nice to go for a long walk on a sunny November day in Southern California.
I was somewhat lost in my own little world returning to the hotel. Thoughts of a troubled economy and a (once again) stagnant airline career were interrupted every few minutes by a passing airliner. I’ve got a lot on my mind these days.
The hotel came into view as I turned the corner on the sidewalk. A thought hit me: Of the hundreds of rooms in the hotel, I had no clue which one was mine. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a bare key… no sleeve with the room number. Crap.
It was the third night in a row in a different hotel. After awhile, the pertinent information tends to jumble together. As I continued towards the hotel, I tried to force my brain to recall the room.
“Let’s see… when we got here, the flight attendants pushed the elevator button. We all got out on the same floor. Ahh, yes… I remember EXACTLY where my room is on the floor. But, what floor is it? Two? No, that was last night in New York. Four? Yes, it was four.”
I was fairly sure I had resolved my dilemma. As I continued my walk, I started thinking about two other hotel flubs I’ve had over the years.
During my fractional days, I once returned to my room after grabbing a meal across the street from the hotel. When I swiped the key, I was welcomed back by the dreaded red light on the door lock. Swipe, swipe, swipe… red, red, red. I’ll be honest… that annoys me. I was frustrated as I rode the elevator back down to the lobby. After all, why can’t these hotels make keys that work?
I simultaneously handed my key over the desk as I explained my dissatisfaction that the key had failed. I wanted a new key immediately. The clerk gave me look that quickly morphed from confusion to suspicion. “This is your key?” he inquired.
I instantly realized I had a problem. The key said Marriott. I was staying at a Hilton. The clerk thought I was trying to con my way into a room. Being dressed in the typical pilot t-shirt, jeans and sneakers didn’t help.
I reached into my other pocket and pulled out my Hilton key. (The one that would have worked!) The day before, I was at a Marriott in a city hundreds of miles away. Apparently, I had put a key from that room in my pocket and never took it out. I tried to explain that to the clerk, but it was too late. He had already flagged down the security guard. After I explained and produced my license and credit card on-file, they were convinced I made a legitimate (stupid) mistake and let me return to my room.
A few years later, I did something even more absurd. I had just returned to United and life was very hectic as we were planning our move to Denver. The day before my reserve assignment, I flew to Denver, rented a car and checked in at the Ramada. I spent the afternoon looking at property and drove back up to the hotel.
I entered the hotel, walked through the lobby and boarded the elevator. When I reached my floor, I made all the right twists and turns to my room. Swipe, swipe, swipe… red, red red.
I backtracked to the lobby and handed my key to the clerk. He smiled and said, “Sir… you’re staying at the Ramada next door. This is the Days Inn. But, don’t feel bad… you wouldn’t believe how often this happens.”
His encouraging words fell of deaf ears. I felt like a complete buffoon.
The hotels were right next to each other… built at the same time… by the same developer. Everything had looked normal because the buildings were identical! I had parked in front of the wrong one and walked through the wrong lobby.
Today, I knew I was at the correct hotel. I had only one key in my pockets and knew the room location. I was also fairly sure of the floor. So, I avoided the front desk and headed right for the elevator.
On the fourth floor, I took two rights and headed down the long hallway. If I was correct, I was going to find a room with the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door tucked into a little alcove of two rooms at the end of the hall.
Instead of a dead end alcove, I reached a T intersection where the hallway continued for a long way in both directions. I was wrong. The little tricks I use to find my room were all dependent on at least remembering the correct floor. I resigned myself to making the lodging equivalent of the walk of shame.
I approached the front desk with my driver’s license in hand. The very friendly clerk and I had a good laugh about the craziness of the airline lifestyle. He completely understood and said it happens several times a day.
Turns out, I was half right… I was on the eighth floor.
Did I mention I’ve got a lot on my mind these days?