Sunday, April 11, 2010

Up in the Air

What I'm about to say will probably shock most of you: I am allowed to leave the state. At least, I'm pretty sure I am. And to shock all of you: I actually care about my career and professional opportunities. These two things only become relevant when a special event occurs, an event both eagerly anticipated and deeply loathed by law students: the out-of-state job fair. I say "eagerly anticipated" because there are employers, captive, all in one place, who are actually hiring. When this job fair is by invite-only (say what you want about my moral failings, but I'm actually not failing out of law school), it seems like the Holy Grail: they want to talk specifically to you! Why the deep loathing you ask? Unlike some career opportunities, this one does not come with a gratis flight at stay at a swanky hotel. This one, you foot the bill for.

Oh, sure. I'm absolutely not considering commandeering a walk-in pantry's worth of Finn's empties to buy groceries. I'll just take a week off work and a vacay to boot. I'm debating which kidney to sell to finance this trip, when the Gods (finally) smile upon me. I mention this excursion, and Jabba offers to pick up the tab. Like, without of my sneaky machinations. My face. It is surprised-looking.

The trip down went well enough, until I landed in Baltimore. A word about airports: there's not a lot of middle ground. Some cities, apparently averse to new traffic, like, maybe BALTIMORE, use their airport to convince you that you don't want to stay a moment past the time your flight connects. On the other hand, some cities really try to out-do themselves on the airport front. Take for example, Detroit, Michigan. If you're only hanging out in the Detroit airport, you'd think that Detroit is a truly delightful place, full of culture, and bars and shopping; the kind of place you'd like to be. London Heathrow, or at least the Heathrow of my memory, is another such place. I'm also pretty partial to Chicago Midway. Except, Chicago really is the kind of place I want to be. My point is, Baltimore is not trying to impress me, with its airport or its weather. It's pissing rain and the shuttle service doesn't have my reservation. Neither does Orbitz. I politely (or as polite as one can be through gritted teeth) inquire as to how the reservation is in Orbitz's system for the purpose of charging my credit card and sending me a confirmation, but not for the purposes of my trip voucher. A few minutes later, my travel voucher is in my hot little hands.

Grateful to be in D.C. at last, I hop out of the shuttle and stroll up to check-in, having double-checked my reservation after the shuttle debacle. "I'm sorry, Ms. Lawless, we don't seem to have a room for you." I stare blankly, not even really surprised. Undeterred, I present a confirmation number with the smug assurance of one who fails to learn her lessons about how badly a travel site can really fuck up your stay. Yeah, my reservation is for the hotel's other (identically named, might I add) property across town. My shuttle is gone, and so is my patience.

Now, here's where I have to plug the Renaissance Hotel on M street. If you ever find yourself in the D.C. area and are looking for quality accommodations, I highly recommend it. While it's true that the accommodations themselves are pretty par for the course for an urban, upscale hotel (trendy d├ęcor, bar, restaurant, dry cleaning service, large glass stall showers) it was the customer service that really set this place apart: I asked for directions to the nearest copy shop and instead, the awesome duo of Patrick and Noel (names have not been changed to brag about the fabulous) hunted up some nice paper, printed my resume for me, and brought it to my room; I came in one day looking tired and they changed the access code on my key to let me into the "concierge lounge" where I could recline on comfy chairs and eat their free food.

Because I had job-hunting to do, I actually behaved myself on this trip and, aside from walking for an eternity through the hood in my suit and 3-inch heels over uneven brick pavers, nothing really noteworthy happened: I saw some friends from law school and attended my interviews like a good person. Everything ran smoothly until it was time to leave.

The SuperShuttle was back for Round 2. And this time, it was out for blood. I said nothing about it being 20 minutes late (and by nothing, I mean I called the service twice to make sure they hadn't gone to the side entrance of the hotel). About 15 minutes after I got into the cab, I realized I had to pee. But, it's not a long ride into Baltimore, so I figured being a grown-up person, I could handle another 35 minutes.

Yeah, about that 35 minutes? Try over TWO HOURS. Marley, our crazed Caribbean driver, managed to take the most bass-ackwards trip around D.C. ever. And maneuvered us through traffic in a manner I usually associate with a game of Frogger. I arrived at Baltimore airport 30 minutes before my flight was to leave and I was informed that I would have to gate-check my bag by the electronic kiosk. I did not think much of this, and went to the ticket counter. Now, I had been nervous about flying U.S. Airways since an ill-fated trip that Boss (not to be confused with Chief, who I actually saw while in D.C.), #2, the Kid, and NewB took a couple of weeks ago which involved delayed flights, lost luggage, and tears. I was not disappointed. I was informed that neither I nor my bag would be boarding the flight. And that there were no other flights to my final destination that night. Srsly? Fuck you, U.S. Airways. Fuck you. I still hadn't peed. Things were reaching critical mass. I manage to jump a flight through Charlotte and ran like hell to get to a bathroom.

All I wanted at that point was delicious, delicious vodka. Luckily, I met a cute soldier who directed me to the nearest bar. Unluckily, the bar was packed, so I had to settle for coffee gelato instead. I was so excited to find gelato at the airport. And then I paid 3 bucks for it. And I got this:

(I took a picture next to a box of cigarettes to give an idea of size.) So, I settled for eating my comically small gelato and chatting up the cute soldier. We bonded over I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

When I landed in Charlotte, my hopes were not high. I saw not one, but two stock-car themed bars in the B concourse alone. But it was ok, there was the "Taste of Charlotte" bar. Apparently, Charlotte tastes like a double Goose and tonic. I waved good-bye to cute soldier and I was on my way. And no, we did not fly friendly in the skies. It seems to me that I should have, it would have been the patriotic thing to do. The sad thing is, I didn't even think about mile-highing it until I'd we'd already landed. What is going on here? Maybe my soul is growing back.