Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tales from the Road(way Inn)

(Rodeway Inn Central, Charlotte, NC)

Traveling is an adventure for me because I do just enough of it to appreciate coming home after a few days. Case in point, tonight I am writing to you from a hotel room near downtown Charlotte, N.C.

Normally I stay at the finest Five-Star establishments, of course, but I thought I would “rough it” this trip, save the company a little expense money, and remember how the other-half lives.

I am in Charlotte for the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, or “bros-casters,” as the little kid used to mis-pronounce it on the old TV ads in the ‘60’s. Going to see what’s in, what’s new, what’s hip and what’s happenin’ on the professional Radio scene. Hope to see some old friends here, too.

The trip did not begin well.
I lived one of those airline horror stories you’ve heard ab
out lately. Not nearly as severe as Jet Blue’s Valentine’s Day meltdown, but enough of an issue to share with you.

The original flight out of Houston was delayed 15-minutes, and then another five.
No biggie.
I am one of the most laid-back travelers you’ll ever meet. I am generally asleep by the time we make the take-off run and rotation of the nose into the sky. It just doesn’t bug me.

A malfunctioning aircraft, however, does get my attention, and when the Gate Attendant announced we were changing planes because of an “equipment failure” on our jet, I simply shrugged and thanked the Lord they discovered the problem before the nose of the plane was in the air.

So they herded us like cattle across the terminal, down a pair of escalators, into a part of the airport I’d never see before. I had to look around and make sure I was still at Bush International, because we were suddenly in this third-world looking steel and aluminum corridor with exposed beams and raw air conditioning ducts, and we’re walking on the ground level of the airport.

We’re looking up at the planes, and there are none of those automated gateways that roll out to meet an aircraft at flight deck level.
We’re on the ground.

We walked up the steps into the plane, just like on Air Force One.
(I did not turn and wave to the crowd. There wasn’t one.)

And it was a tiny, commuter jet.

At least it got us to Charlotte.
Unfortunately, it did not bring our luggage with us.

So I arrived in Charlotte with nothing by the shirt on my back (which sounds like a great opening line for a novel)…and my laptop, the bag for which I would never check on an airline. All of my other clothes and "needful things" were somewhere in that great baggage claim in the sky, or perhaps behind those mysterious plastic flaps in the claim terminal.

Anyway, the airline promised to have my bag delivered to my hotel by 10pm.
We’ll see.

The cabbie I hired to take me to the hotel stopped at a drugstore along the way for a box of Prilosec and some post-op necessities.
I may sleep in my street clothes tonight, but I won’t have indigestion.

I like to explore when I visit different cities.
This drives my Bride crazy when she reads about it, so don’t tell her that I walked down the road a few blocks, past an old WW1 training camp memorial, to a vintage, 1946 Dairy Queen that was humming with
business. (Don't worry, Babe, it was next door to a Fire Station full of Paramedics.)

I had noticed it when the cab drove past enroute to the hotel. A classic piece of Americana: Blue and white checkerboard ceramic tiles on the front of the store, with polished aluminum sills, and a rounded-corner wrap-around awning across the front and sides.
And up on top, that grinning Eskimo girl...

As I walked up to the serving window, a family of seven spilled out of a mini-van in the parking lot and ambled up to the menu for an after-church snack on a moonlit Wednesday evening in their neighborhood. Another customer walked up, still wearing exercise clothes from a workout at the gym.

When I asked how long the Dairy Queen had been here, she said she couldn’t remember when it wasn’t—that it had always been a fixture in the area.

It was worth the walk up the hill to see, and the milkshake I bought almost lasted all the way back to the hotel.
Where the baggage had still not arrived…

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