Most travelogs need embellishing to be entertaining, but the trip I’m on now doesn’t belong to that class of story.
This is my second trip to D.C. on business. I’m consulting for Leostream with a large, revenue-generating government agency that will remain nameless. On the first trip a month ago, it was decided that my traveling companion and I would depart on a flight leaving Boston at the obscene hour of 5:45AM. That proved to be a somewhat unliked decision, so this time around, we decided to get there the night before we were expected so that we might be refreshed, dapper and smart. It is good to have lofty aspirations, so that you have something legitimate to be embittered about.
A crafty plan was hatched to leave on a 6PM flight Monday from Logan that would arrive at 7pm or so in D.C. and give us plenty of time to get to the hotel, which serves free beer from 6PM-7:30PM. Now, you’ll no doubt notice the first glaring mistake in our cunning plan: the itinerary would put us at the hotel beyond the free beer zone and squarely into the less well-thought of “fighting over the last snickers bar in the decrepit laundry room vending machine like goddamned monkeys” zone. That we made this critical mistake in our planning rather points to the more serious problem that would plagues us for the next few days: groundless optimism.
Because of deeply held neuroses, I arrived at the airport two hours early on Monday. After getting through security without incident and settling down in my seat to wait, I started to notice that some very attractive females were in my area. Fortunately my carefully honed stalking instincts took over and I merely observed them sereptitiously, like a wolf or a jackal. One of these girls had that sort of femine assests that could only belong to an adult entertainer and by a stroke of good luck I was, at that moment, an adult who needed entertaining! Unfortunately, her plans didn’t seem include getting to know a gawking, leering dork in a YAPC t-shirt. Still, I would learn, that was to be the least of my disappointments.
On the East coast of America, the weather was foul that day. It was
bad enough to dissuade the space shuttle from landing in Florida and also
to force commerical air traffic controllers to reroute planes scheduled to
land in Philadelphia, a city not very far away from D.C., as the crow flies.
So, the dark, rainy clouds merely foreshadowed darker ones to come.
My flight boarded on time, but then sat at the terminal for about an hour.
This, I found, is far more dispiriting than just lolligagging on the tarmack
in a queue which, while still not getting you further along to your destination,
is at least interrupted by the occasional pointless taxiing.
Luckily, we also got to queue to for a long time waiting to take off.
So we got the full treatment.
The flight to D.C. was quick, but then we were in a holding pattern for an hour while a storm cell of some violence passed over the airport. When we finally touched down at 9PM, it began to pour again.
Our shuttle dropped us of at the car rental place we’ll call RememberTheMaine! which didn’t have the car we reserved (which may have been captured by General Santa Anna). It took a few awkward moments in the rainy parking lot to figure this out. We ended up with a Stratus, which I suppose is great to someone of uncertain sexuality who fetishizes over cars, which is not me. Did I mention that neither I nor my traveling companion had driven in D.C., let alone at night in a driving rain? We were almost taken out on 495 by, what I assume, was another out-of-towner whose driving credentials paralleled ours. Good-oh!
We managed to get to the right exit, although starving, by 10PM. We both had hopes getting the free beer and rather humble fair at the hotel, but realized that beautiful dream wasn’t to be. Those unfamiliar with Alexandria, Virigina should note that retail stores close at 10PM sharp there. Hungry, we attempted to stop at a mall for food, only to find the place closed and foreboding, in a Children of the Corn sort of way. We did find a Wendy’s with a drive-through that was willing to sell us food through a small, bullet-proof window. A bit dispirited, we pressed on to find the hotel, which our directions placed merely a 1/4 mile away from us.
I’ll spare you, gentle reader, the description of the ugly desperation that ensued as we managed to take a successive series of wrong turns in an increasingly mocking city. The second call to the hotel corrected the bad directions given to us during the first call and by 11PM, we arrived at the hotel, only to find we had been book in a room with one bed. Now, I like my traveling companion, but he’s a married man and Mama Johnston’s boy don’t roll like that. So by 11:30PM, we were ensconced in our suite, near tears and boozeless with only the weak promise of a brief slumber before our 6:30AM wake-up call.
Tuesday morning, the pair of us laughed off our previous misadventures and
got a manly-sized free breakfast in the rec-room-cum-dinning hall of the hotel
where the grinning jackals of morning TV news attempted to fill dead air
during the shuttle’s rude refusal to blow up again now that they had their
cameras ready. We caught the bus to the Metro station, noticing only in
passing the rain-pregnant clouds looming above us. Our walk from the station
to the office was only a five minute affair, but it was made memorable by
the Noah-like deluge that successfully washed away any semblance of
professionalism afforded to us by our morning’s ablutions and priming.
Fortunately, the icy air conditioning that we would sit in for the next eights hours took care of the rain and our remaining good health.
After this long, cold day, we headed back to the Metro and hopped on the first train back. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the correct train at all and we hopped out several stops later. We looked expectedly at the other side of the the platform, hoping that an inbound train would be forecoming, while the train we arrived on lingered with its doors open in an almost mocking fashion. After a long time, the train left going inbound! For you see, we were already at the last stop for that line! Having realized the depth of our misfortune and hubris, we caught the next train back to the original station, regaling the other passengers with our sorry tale of woe (which had a few of them laughing pretty hard [at us)).
Our long suffering was rewarded on getting back to the hotel in time for free beer, which we directly indulged in. The free “dinner” consisted of lectuce, stale chips and a form of limp elbow pasta with wilted veggies in a viscous tomato-paste meat goo which didn’t live up to my expectations. The beer, however, did. My companion and I had only a few eight ounce glasses (not nearly enough, really) when a limping shell of a old man all but demanded that we get his computer on the free wireless LAN. My companion, who’s a substantially better man than I, offer to fix his laptop if he would only bring it to the table. The plot thinkened to the consistency of the pasta dish as the old man replied that his machine was a desktop and that we would need to repair to his room to affect remediation. Considering that he offered us nothing in return, not even the free beer which he could have gotten for free, and also noting that he wasn’t a fetching young lass with pornstar-sized assets, his request was politely, if nevously (for he was a muscley old codger), dismissed. Having had a few, my spidey sense was tingling, warning me that he’d ask us again for help.
This borishness angers me. It’s one thing to
politely ask for help. That sort of request should be honored, if possible to
do so. That’s what one expects from a gentleman of quality, such as myself.
It’s another thing all together to demand a stranger to rescue you from your own bad planning. As a pedestrian of long standing in Boston, I am forever getting stopped by lost motorists insisting that I unlostify them immediately without a map and using directions nor more complex than “turn left”, even if they are miles away from their destination and going the wrong way down a one-way street. And, as I noted, I had been drinking. Feeling the anger welling up in me, I excused myself from the free beer and retreated to my room sullenly. Shortly after, my companion joined me. Apparently, the geezer demanded to know our room number. Putz.
After a brief nap, we decide to get some
at a local Indonesian place. To do so, we needed to drive there.
The hotel’s parking lot is one way. That is, there is a clearly marked enterance and a clearly marked exit. There is no room for two cars to pass each other in the circuit around the building. On exiting the hotel in our car, we nearly get into a head-on collision with a jackball entering through the exit. Are you ready for the punch line? Are you? Because I am!
The driver was old Johnnie Wirelessless from whom we were trying to escape in the first place. Zing!
Who needs to watch sitcoms when you live in one?