Monday, September 13, 2010

72 O'Clock?

I woke up several times the other night in my Richmond, VA, hotel room. This is not an uncommon occurrence when I'm on a business trip.

For starters, I am a homebody and don't really like traveling without my Lovely Wife and kids. Okay, maybe sometimes I do enjoy traveling without the kids, but not without the wife. Even on those few occasions when she is the one traveling and I have our comfortable king bed all to myself, I tend to lay awake for hours in the flickering glow of the television. After almost sixteen years of marriage, there is something unnatural about trying to fall asleep alone.

So, this past week in Richmond, as I closed the notebook in which I scribble passages for the book I'm writing and turned off the lights in the hotel room, it came as no surprise that sleep initially eluded me. My mind reviewed the day's events and I realized, among other things, that I had forgotten to pack deodorant. I don't know about you but I need deodorant. Without it, my armpits become incubators for unnaturally potent odors, even on the coolest of days. Since mental notes to myself never seem to take hold, I turned on the light and wrote "buy Dry Idea" in the notebook, then switched the light off and tried again to fall asleep.

Sooner than is customary, I found myself in dreamland. Even as I began to dream, I recall thinking how strange it was for me to be asleep so quickly. Before long, though, I was awake and looking around the room trying to figure out what city I was in and what time it was.

The trouble with working for a hotel chain that has only one product is the tremendous consistency of the room decor. This is a great selling point for our frequent clients because it means they know what to expect from each of our inns. For me, however, a founding father of attention deficit disorder and a strong candidate for early onset Alzheimer's, waking up in essentially the same room whenever and wherever I travel is a disorienting experience.

Am I in Ohio? Maybe Maryland? This couldn't be the April training in Tampa, could it? No, that was months ago. The October meeting in Columbus? No, no. It isn't October yet. I'm going to Annapolis for a military travel fair. That's in September. This is September, right?

And if not knowing where you are isn't bad enough, figuring out the time is another troublesome task. When I'm traveling, I live in constant fear of oversleeping. Think about it. You've just driven two-hundred miles to meet with an important client. Do you really want to screw it up now just because you didn't hear the alarm clock?

Wiping sleep out of my eyes, I struggle to find the bedside clock. There it is, facing the other way because the light had been shining in my eyes when I was trying to fall asleep and I turned it away from me. Unfortunately, I am comfortably positioned in the very middle of the king bed. If I move around too much to reach the clock, only to find out I still have hours to go before it's time to get up, I might not be able to get back to sleep.

So I look around to find the microwave clock. There it is, clear as day. It says "72."

I rest my head back down on the pillow and prepare to slip away, until my brain finally catches up with my eyes. I could almost hear the conversation between them. My brain questioning my eyes, doubting them, asking for confirmation. Begrudgingly, my eyes open again and, sure enough, there are the big yellow numbers. For what seems like long enough for a minute to pass, I watch and wait, wondering if I will witness the change from 72 to 73. Guess what? It never happens.

Eventually, I'm awake enough to realize what I am looking at is the thermostat on the air-conditioning unit next to the bed and not the microwave clock, so I sit up to search for the real thing. This pattern repeats itself two more times before it's finally close enough to morning to just go ahead and get out of bed.

When I'm finally showered and dressed, wearing a watch whose battery died at 11:26 the night before and gathering a ream of printed directions because my GPS had been recalled the previous week (seems people don't like their GPS bursting into flames due to an overheated battery) I head out for my first call of the day -- Target, to buy deodorant.

© 2010 Mark Feggeler

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