Scarlett’s Letter August 22, 2013

You would think after five years of traveling and spending more nights in a hotel than at home for a good portion of each year, I’d be able to sleep better. Night one, no matter how sleep deprived, I never sleep well. I often have the “first day jitters” if I’m working with a new client. Even though I take the time to drive to their location, from the hotel, to be certain I know how to get there, and I set four wake up alarms on two different devices, allowing an extra thirty minutes, minimum, travel margin, and I’ve planned on arriving and have communicated with the client, at least forty-five minutes before the training session begins to be sure I have no connectivity issues, I still fret, all night long, over the “what-ifs”. It’s almost enough to consider a new career. Almost. This week, however, is a repeat client. My hotel is about a block away and other than Wal-Mart traffic, there is none. No worries. It’s all familiar, and at this point, almost routine. So, why can’t I sleep?

Last night, after a super early morning, travel, which is usually exhausting, and a later than expected night, I thought I’d lapse into a coma. Nope. At exactly the moment my head hit the pillow, the occupant of the room downstairs turned their TV on, full blast, and left it on. All night. I am well armed with numerous “sleep apps” on my phone. They make white noise and can successfully drown out New York City street noise. I swear it. But, they are completely and utterly useless when trying to drown out hotel noise from adjacent rooms. I think it’s more the disbelief that people conduct themselves in that manner than the noise, itself. The noise from the TV, I swear, was absorbed through the floor, resonated through my mattress and was then amplified through my pillows. I got zero sleep, until forty-five minutes before my alarm went off.

I love my white noise sleep app when I travel. It almost always works.
I love my white noise sleep app when I travel. It almost always works.

When my first alarm, of four, went off this morning, I quickly reached for my phones and turned off the other three alarms. I struggled out of bed, and, as is my custom, whether at home, visiting my Sweetie, or a friend, or in a hotel, I turned right around and made the bed. I grabbed the pillow I’d used, one of three, and when I picked it up, there was a HUGE bug with a glowing green spot on his head. His eye? I’m not like most girls, I did not scream, though I was simultaneously disgusted, repulsed, and a little scared. It was the size of my pinky nail, but resembled in anatomy and movement, a tick. I got some toilet paper, about six feet of toilet paper, wadded it up and removed the bug. I flushed him. And as he swirled and swirled and swirled in the toilet I paused, should I have kept the bug? What if I develop some rare bug borne disease and the scientists and medical specialists need the bug to develop the rare antibody to save my life from whatever green, glowing venom is coursing through my veins. Clearly, I am sleep deprived.

The bug under my pillow. With the glowing green eye.
The bug under my pillow. With the glowing green eye.

I composed myself and got ready for work. I do have a question; do people who build hotels actually stay in hotels? Do people who decorate and appoint hotel rooms actually, ever, stay in hotel rooms? My guess is, no. Whoever installed the shower curtain in my hotel room, clearly, has never taken a shower. The rod is a curved rod, to accommodate rotund showerers. Rather than installing the curve so it would allow for a large girthed person, so, outwards, towards the sink, it is installed like a smile, high at the ends, low in the middle. Not so visibly so, but functionally so. Who cares? Me. Because throughout my entire shower, and mind you, my shower is a sacred thing, the curtain slid down the rod, from both ends, and gathered in the middle. After repositioning the curtain about ten times, I gave up. I no longer cared if water got on the floor, I was pissed off enough to throw all but two bath towels on the floor so I wouldn’t slip. But, my shower was drafty. Which I hate. Between the bug and the drafty shower, my morning was off to a splendid start.

I got ready, the rest of the way, without incident or drama, and headed to my clients’ office. I’m teaching an “experienced staff audit” class this week and was delighted to have a class full of really fun “kids” I taught “new audit staff” skills to last year! Good kids. And, at the age of fifty, for the record, I have license, liberty and entitlement, to call anyone under the age of thirty-five, a kid. Basically, if the age difference is such that I could’ve babysat them, and, possibly changed a diaper, then they are forevermore, kids.

In my travels through the glamorous Michigan City, Indiana yesterday evening, I spotted a restaurant I hadn’t seen before, in the “uptown” section of town, about a half a mile from the nuclear power plant. Maxine’s. In class today, I asked “the kids” if there were any good restaurants around, and, bless their hearts, they recommended, resoundingly, Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee’s and Chili’s. They’d never heard of Maxine’s. On that information, alone, I decided to try it. A very good sign, their was a “Trip Advisor” sticker in the window. So, though I can’t, for whatever reason, pull up any helpful apps on my phone; Yelp, Open Table, Trip Advisor, there is, somewhere, someone who can, and did, and posted something favorable about this place. I’m suddenly excited. I don’t see a menu posted, so I have to commit without adequate information. I enter the foyer and see a chalkboard boasting the local handcrafted beers. Things are looking better. At the very least, if the food sucks, the beer is promising. The décor is nice, sort of an over the top, Midwestern attempt at Old World European. I am greeted and seated. It is an ongoing social experiment of mine, I love social experiments, how do people deal with a single diner, and, in particular, a female, single diner. There is quite a bit of awkwardness and discomfort. On the part of the hostess and the wait staff, not me. I’m fine with it. But people think single diners must be uncomfortable and so they are uncomfortable. Often we are rushed, sometimes ignored. It is very, very interesting.  Of course, when I start taking pictures of food and pull out my iPad and start taking notes, they think I’m some kind of food critic or blogger or something. Oh, wait, I guess I kind of am!

I am seated in the far corner, in a booth. Okay, I like that, I can see the whole restaurant and the bar. I like to people watch. The menu is large, the size and the font, I, at first thought big menu, big selection, but the font size limited the number of selections substantially. I read the whole thing, and, in an effort to eat light, in the Midwest, which is very hard, I passed over the appetizers, the soups, the large salads, the sandwiches and the pasta. I went to entrees and the section labeled “grill”. The entrees all sounded good; scallops, salmon, chicken, a vegan polenta and black bean something or other. In the “grill” section were, basically, steaks. But, to my glory and surprise, they offered a four-ounce filet! I am hard pressed to find many restaurants, even in Cali, that offer a four-ounce serving of meat! My decision was made! And, I got to choose accompaniments. For a few bucks extra, I could order a topping; sauce, cheese, mushrooms, I passed. Included in the price was a “starch”, yes, that’s how it was labeled, thanks for the blatant honesty, it’s about time people realized that a starch is a starch, and a “side”. I chose the “veggies” for my side, green beans and roasted red peppers (though some of the red peppers were orange, and I was okay with that). For my “starch”, I was thrilled to the point of wanting to do cartwheels, to find quinoa on the menu! The waiter came to take my drink order. Both the main menu and the drink menu stated in great big, green, bold and italicized letters, “ask about the draft beer selections”. So, I did, of the hostess and the waiter. Neither of them could name anything. I want to know! There was a chalkboard in the foyer, go read it! I really, really want to be told the entire list of local, craft beers on draft! The waiter asked, “What do you like?” Stouts, porters, lagers, pale ales … God, everything. They were out of stouts and porters. I almost left. I agreed to a sample of some lager he didn’t know the name of. It was good, but I have wine in my room, so, being prudent, and frugal, decided against ordering it. Five minutes later, the owner or manager, or someone of “importance” brought me a glass of some other kind of amber or something, “here’s your blah, blah, blah”. I’m thing, “Cool! A freebie!” I get those a lot; single diner, pictures, notes. Whatever it was, it was awful. It tasted like anise, or anus, or both, and there was a very sharp alcohol burn after burn. I can drink whiskey, straight, out of the bottle, and this beer was hard to swallow.

My steak was great, tender, a little more done than the medium rare I asked for. The only thing, it had an au jus of some sort and it tasted remarkably like Swanson’s beef broth. Other than that, it was supering delicious. The salad was a little limp, but good, at least a nice medley of lifeless greens and a tangy vinaigrette, and not the Sysco variety with the gelatinous consistency and the neon red flakes in it. The veggies were good, very al dente, but that’s the way I like them. I ate every morsel.

Limp but tasty mixed baby greens at and the $7 beer I didn't order at Maxine's in Michigan City, Indiana
Limp but tasty mixed baby greens at and the $7 beer I didn’t order at Maxine’s in Michigan City, Indiana
A four-ounce filet and quinoa. In the Midwest, of all places. Maxine's in Michigan City, Indiana.
A four-ounce filet and quinoa. In the Midwest, of all places. Maxine’s in Michigan City, Indiana.

I declined the dessert menu and the check arrived. About the time I glanced at my check and saw I’d been charged seven dollars for the lousy beer I didn’t order, I heard the waiter tell another table what the specials were. I didn’t get told what the specials were. They didn’t sound that great, but I would’ve liked the information. My bill, along with the portion of the Whole Foods food I bought yesterday, when allocated, put me over my company’s per day limit. By about seven dollars. Don’t even get me started on my company’s daily limit, I eat a lot of my meal expenses, no pun intended, but it is becoming a source of irritation. Enough said. I’m one lousy seven-dollar beer over my limit. And I didn’t get told the specials. Other than that, it is one of the better meals I’ve had in Michigan City, Indiana. For the record. But they wouldn’t survive five minutes where I come from.

After dinner, I HAD to go to WalMart. Again. There is no Target. So sad. My MacBook power cord, somehow, on this trip, got damaged and is nearly severed to the point of not supplying power to my computer unless held in a very specific manner, and one, I’m sure, exposes me to a likely threat of electrocution. I want a new power cord, I know they’re expensive, but I want one. Now. I thought MAYBE WalMart would have one, and, if not, certainly, electrical tape, probably in different colors and patters, like duct tape. I scoured the electronics section and found nothing for MacBooks. I wasn’t totally surprised. This is WalMart. In the Midwest. The only “Mac” known around here is Mac-N-Cheese. While in the electronics section, I spotted some phone cases I’ve been interested in. Otterbox has a cool “Realtree” patterned case I’d love to have, to match my new “Realtree” daypack I bought for fishing and hunting (any excuse to shop, I tell you). But, then, there are the Lifeproof cases, which are waterproof, where the Otterbox is not. I looked on every theft proof, you have to go find and then ask the inattentive associate for the key, peg and everything for the iPhone 5 was sold out. At eighty dollars per case, theft proof peg after theft proof peg was empty. No cord. No case. I went in search of electrical tape. After several aisles, and after nearly losing hope, I found electrical tape. In only black. I bought it. Sixty-one cents. So, in my two-day stay, not a block away from WalMart, the closes thing to a Target I’ll find here, I spent less than three dollars. Hurray. They don’t deserve my money. And, I paid cash, so my bank won’t totally freak out and shut my card off.

A frayed MacBook cord cost me dearly. Only sixty one cents for the tape, but I had to endure WalMart to obtain in.
A frayed MacBook cord cost me dearly. Only sixty one cents for the tape, but I had to endure WalMart to obtain in.

So, I’m capping my evening off with an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Sweet Spot, which, according to Vivino (a wine app) has ratings of “low” to “medium”, I think is quite tasty. Maybe being in the Midwest has temporarily impaired my taste for quality wine. I don’t know. But I’m enjoying it.

Even after taping, power only reaches the MacBook if the cord is at precisely some certain angle. Tomorrow, back to Chicago, and my very first stop, an Apple Store!
Even after taping, power only reaches the MacBook if the cord is at precisely some certain angle. Tomorrow, back to Chicago, and my very first stop, an Apple Store!

Tomorrow, after work, I head for civilization. Chi-Town! And an Apple store, for certain! I need power!

I desperately want to eat these, but I shan't.
I desperately want to eat these, but I shan’t.

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