Stairway to Heaven? Not so much.

11 Aug

Last week I was in Chicago for business. Unlike most of my usual trips when I travel alone, last week I was in good company: my friends Brian (from Charlotte) and Margaret (from DC) were visiting the Windy City for work as well. We coordinated our lodging and ended up staying at my usual place (The Silversmith), but only after I tolerated many rounds of verbal abuse for choosing an off-brand bargain hotel.

Despite the fact that I’ve stayed there AT LEAST a half dozen times in recent months, I had a bit of a “Dora the Explorah” moment shortly after checking in.

First, I tried unsuccessfully to hop on a conference call from my hotel room. Alas, my internet connection was shot and my cell service kept dropping calls. Admittedly, when you’re staying in a place that looks like it was last renovated for filming of The Shining, you shouldn’t be surprised that instead of WiFi, you’re offered a frayed Cat-5 cable entering the room from a hole that looks like my 7 year-old nephew drilled it and results in a game of tug-o-war (presumably with the occupant of the room on the other side of the wall) when you try to stretch it to reach the desk.

Suffice it to say, I spent 30 minutes of sheer frustration cursing AT&T Wireless for their lack of bars, and the Silversmith for their internet situation. When that half hour of hell was over, I decided to check out the lobby to see if it might provide me with a better connection and cell reception for my next call, which was with an important client, the Global VP of a large communications agency.

I raced to the lobby and the desk clerks could clearly see the annoyance on my face. “Ma’am? Can we help?” they asked.

I was in too much of a hurry, so I just shook my head and dashed past them, holding my laptop and phone in front of me like divining rods, watching the bars to test the strength of my signal. Both were meager, so I returned to the desk. “Is there any where in this building where I can get a reliable signal?” I asked, in a tone that can best be described as exasperated.

They looked at each other and although they were sweet, I could tell they didn’t have a clue how to help me. I decided to cut losses, so I turned and stormed up the flight of stairs next to the elevator, too impatient to wait for the lift. Except. The stairs went no where.

Brian, modeling the staircase that goes exactly no where. And makes one feel oddly like an Oompa Loompa.

Which might be why the girls were calling, “Ma’am! Ma’am!” after me in concerned tones.
In case you were curious, let me assure you that NOTHING takes the wind out of your sails faster than storming off into a dead end. From which you must turn and descend while looking nonchalant, potentially tittering, like, “Aren’t I funny? I’m all about dramatic effect, folks!”

Side note: Can someone please tell me why they even have a set of stairs that leads to a wall???

I’m pretty sure that secretly, the girls at the desk thought I was awesome. I mean, how often do they even get to see people use those stairs? I’m sure that’s why they were smiling. At my Chutzpah!

So my other odd staircase moment came later that evening, when I decided to take the stairs down to the ground level rather than an elevator. I must have chosen a fire exit instead of a legit staircase, because I ended up in a dead-end where the door was marked with an “Alarm Will Sound” warning. The upside? There was a completely unattended stack of Gatorade there. Not that I took any, but it was good to know in case I woke up dehydrated.

So I beat a retreat and went up one level, thinking that surely I’d be able to exit without going all the way back up to the third floor, which is where I was staying. When I popped out on the second floor, however, I found myself in the hotel’s kitchen. Since I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really support a restaurant and is only used for daytime meeting catering, it was oddly deserted. I wandered around a few minutes before realizing that I was no closer to exiting the building. (And I had that same weird “I might get arrested” feeling that I had in the Nice Airport in France in 1999, when I arrived at 4am and jimmied open the door of a construction entrance with a 2×4 to access the terminal before it was officially open.)

Defeated, I returned to my floor and took the elevator down, trying to look more composed than the woman they probably just saw on their security cameras. Next time, I’m definitely flipping the bird in every direction, just so that when they do see calm, quiet Me walking through their lobby, they have to spend a few minutes trying to catch a glimpse of my hands to determine if I’m the woman on the video.

And that will give me just enough time to run.

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One Response to “Stairway to Heaven? Not so much.”

  1. Alicia August 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    But you said you’ve stayed there before? So hadn’t you had issues in the past?

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