This weekend we went to stay at The Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor for Fiona’s Irish dance team competition (the Southern Regional Oreachtas). I had been in contact with the hotel’s public relations people and in exchange for some complimentary perks I was going to blog about their wonderful Christmas On The Potomac experience for families.
We didn’t arrive until after nine o’clock because the kids had their school’s holiday performance. When we arrived, the kids were pooped and I was eager to just check in and go to sleep since Fi had to be downstairs, dressed and in full Irish dance hair (!) at 8 AM the next day. When we got to the desk they told us they had given away our room, even though we had a confirmation number, even though I had been talking to their director of public relations about blogging about the experience.
Oh, did I mention I was PMS’ing? Do you care? No?
First, I got perturbed. Then I got angry. I don’t usually get angry at people in the service industry because I was once there myself, and frankly, it’s ugly to get angry at people who are just trying to do their best and serve you. But this…this was a late-night mom with two tired children who had just driven over an hour to get to their hotel and who had a confirmation number and did I mention I was premenstrual?
I asked if they had any sort of a room – anything at all – for us to check into, and they said no. I asked to speak to the manager, asked him why they gave away our room – and he couldn’t answer me. When I get angry I tend to enunciate sharply, and it’s horrible for the person on the receiving end of my fury. He fumbled around. Finally he kind of explained to me that it’s like an airline that overbooks a flight. This made me angrier. “You’re telling me that if I book a room with The Gaylord, and I get a confirmation number from The Gaylord, that the confirmation number is meaningless? That I’m taking a risk driving all the way down here with two tired children at ten o’clock at night because you may have arbitrarily decided to give my room away? That you people are some sort of low-budget charter airline?”
The manager was very nice. Ella liked him a lot. As my temper grew, she kept tugging on my hand and telling me she needed to say something to me. Finally, I bent down to her.
“WHAT?!” I hissed.
“Mommy,” she whispered, “You’re being mean to the nice man. I think he’s crying. He sniffled. You better apologize to him.”
(Who’s the parent now? Jeez!)
(And: I taught her well.)
“I am NOT going to apologize to him! It’s ten o’clock at night and he TOOK our ROOM away!”
Toddler, anyone? MINE-MINE-MINE! I WILL NOT SHARE OR SAY SORRY!
I stood to face this kind young man who could do nothing to help me. He had the lame idea of shuffling us to another hotel, which infuriated me even more, so I added my best Stink-Eye to my over-enunciation thing. I just knew he had a room or a cleaning supply closet somewhere in the hotel that we could use. I was totally surrounded by a vitriolic bubble of anger when I heard a helpful male voice behind me saying, “Excuse me – but I think I can help.” I turned, irritated beyond irritated, to see a tall, very handsome man, a Virginian, it turns out, standing beside me.
“I have to check out of my room unexpectedly,” he said.
Did I mention that I thought he was handsome?
“It has a king-sized bed that would fit the three of you, and you wouldn’t even have to pay for it because it’s already paid for. What do you think? Would that solve your problem?”
I was speechless. Mute – caught in the act of being angry, then suddenly hauled out of it by an act of kindness by a complete stranger, a tall Virginian, as it turns out, who had no reason whatsoever to go out of his way to be kind to me. I couldn’t speak. Also, I was wondering if I had spinach on my teeth.
“I couldn’t help but overhear your situation,” he explained. “I can see that you have two young children who are probably tired – and well, I’m offering you my room. I only used one towel.”
“Thank you,” I stuttered. “That’s really very kind of you – I don’t know what to say.”
I looked at the manager, who had stopped crying even though he wasn’t crying in the first place, and asked if we could check into this man’s room. The manager said yes, and if I wanted to wait he would call housekeeping and have them clean the room. I asked the manager if he would be willing to reimburse the tall Virginian for the cost of his king-sized room, and give it to me for free – which he did, so at least the nice man (tall, did I tell you he was tall?) got his money refunded.
Before my knight-in-jeans-and-shining-tweed left, we chatted for a minute. I asked him if I could take his picture so I could feature his act of kindness on my blog, and after asking me if he looked okay (he did) he posed for this photo. I asked him what his name was – he told me it was Ben. So – thank you for your kindness, Ben of Virginia. Wherever you are.
After my knight left, Ella tugged on my coat again. “Psst, Mommy!” she said, whisper-shouting. “You need to apologize to the nice crying man!”
I held out my hand and shook his hand. I said I was sorry for being a premenstrual she-bitch.
No, I didn’t say that – but I did tell him I was sorry I was angry. Ella had the nerve to wink at me, like she’s the parent. Ugh. I really hate it when our roles get reversed. I have a sick feeling it’s going to happen more as she gets older, too.
The manager was very apologetic and offered to comp the valet parking, and asked if I wanted him to send a bottle of wine up to the room. I told him that I don’t drink, and thank you, but he could keep the wine. He probably thought to himself, “If ever a person needed to chillax with a glass of wine, it’s her,” but anyway. On my way off I wished he had offered me a pint of Hagen Daz instead.
As we walked away, Fi accused me of “being flustered” and “blushing” while speaking to the man from Virginia. Ella said, “Do you still like Daddy?”
Me: “Of course I still like Daddy, a person can get flustered occasionally and still like their husband. And besides I am not flustered. I didn’t blush.”
After that we waited around for 20 minutes for housekeeping to giddy-up but the kids were getting cranky so I marched up to the desk again, and I’m pretty sure when they saw me coming they could also hear the theme song to the Wicked Witch of the West. When I got there they told me they had an even better room for me, they were going to upgrade me to the executive suite – it even had a dining room! So we happily checked into a luxe mini-apartment and all was well. We were in the lap of luxury.
Over the next few days a lot of little things went wrong – the hotel was chock-full of people from conventions, and Irish dancers, and Irish dancer’s wigs, so it was crowded and everywhere we went there seemed to be a long line to wait for something. In between all that was the beautiful nightly fountain show (think: a mini Bellagio), indoor snow, the fantastic ICE exhibit (‘Twas The Night Before Christmas), a swim in the swimming pool, fantastic views from our balcony, complimentary room service, a Madagascar character brunch, fine resaturants, and people everywhere trying to be helpful.
Despite all this and the privilege of being at such a fantastic venue with my children, I continued to grumble – about the waiting, about being put on hold whenever I called the “Do It Now” line – once I even said, after they picked up, “Don’t you think this should be called the ‘I’ll Do It Later After I Put You On Hold For 5 Minutes’ line?”
I was being a jerk, a mom-Grinch. Entitled and ungrateful, pretty much, and premenstrual and pooped from shlepping the Irish dance bag around behind my tween like a Sherpa, and doing the hair, and waiting-waiting-waiting while being forced to listen to repetitive Irish jigs. It does things to your mind – but that’s no excuse for behaving like someone I don’t want to be. I don’t know what went wrong with me this weekend – I had crossed over into the realm of being a person I don’t want to be, an entitled she-bitch. It doesn’t happen immediately, it’s a gradual build-up when you have too much, do too much, you start to take things for granted and to complain about them if you aren’t careful, if you don’t practice the art of gratitude.
Children are so wise. They have a way of putting the brakes on situations like these.
On Sunday, there was an ice storm so we decided to stay another night at the hotel rather than risk the dangerous drive home. We had a lovely day, and a wonderful night, but when we went to go back up to our room on the 15th floor, the elevators on our side of the hotel weren’t working. I asked a security guard what was going on and he said they had intentionally turned off the elevators but it was safe to use the other elevator to go up to our room, so we did – and it was a long-assed walk, too. When we neared our room there was a peculiar, very strong smell – of smoke or fire or gunfire. As we walked down the hall we saw a group of security guards and one of them told us to turn back and go out the Exit doors and run all the way down to the lobby (15 floors). He then ran with us down the hallway and helped us find the Exit door. He couldn’t tell me what was going on.
Cue me and my frightened children running down 15 flights of stairs, alone in the echoing gray stairway. Fi was crying. Cue my thoughts of the people in that mall in Kenya, of the people running down hundreds of flights of stairs in the twin towers. It felt…surreal, like we were in slow-motion. It was really pretty scary, and the weird thing is I kept wondering about how I was going to blog about it.
When we got to the bottom I marched myself up to the desk again (this time with the actual Theme Song to Wicked Witch of the West trailing behind me…every body could hear it) and asked if they could tell me why we had just been evacuated down 15 flights of stairs to the ground floor. Instead of being even the tiniest bit grateful that we had gotten down safely and were pretty much out of danger, I was annoyed. The guy at the desk couldn’t tell me what was going on exactly, but said it was a fire event and that he would get back to me as soon as he could with news from the fire department that was conducting a check.
Ella whispered to me that I was being mean again.
Me: “I’m not being mean! For Pete’s Sake, we were just evacuated down 15 flights of stairs and I want to know WHY! I’m UNDERSTANDABLY UPSET!”
Ella: “Mommy, H.A.L.T. – you are probably either hungry, angry, tired, or lonely.” (This is what I say to her all the time when she’s having a tantrum.) “You need to eat some protein.”
Ella: “And you’re not being very Christmassy.”
So anyway, to make a long story short, the nice man moved us to a different room on another floor that wasn’t smouldering and comp’d the room for us and even gave us hotel credit blah-blah-blah. He basically bent over backwards to make it all better. It wasn’t his fault there was some kind of fire emergency. It wasn’t his fault I stayed awake all night, sniffing the air for signs of fire.
The last day, Ella again mentioned that I was being mean. But this time – I was able to hear her. When she told me that basically, I was becoming an asshole (not her words, mine) because over a three-day period I had consistently been snarky to people who were doing their best to help me. She was right. Truth is, we had an amazing weekend. We were privileged to get to experience all that The Gaylord has to offer. There were a couple low points, like being evacuated down 15 flights of stairs, but all in all, it was an amazing weekend.
I had become my worst nightmare, The Assholic American Consumer, a Grinch who complains about everything even though everything is pretty dern nice. I’d lost the spirit of Christmas totally. And somehow, Ella, who sees things, showed me a mirror.
I was able to see what I was doing…to pull my head out of my arse, eat some g.d. protein, wake up, and be a little grateful. (-:
So to the nice man at the desk – the one I didn’t get to apologize to, I’m sorry.
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