I was recently sent down on a business trip to the head office in a Dallas suburb. These are some random thoughts on the Lone Star state, and the state of George W. Bush's America from a Canadian visitor's viewpoint.
(Link to Part 1).
(Link to Part 2).
Part 3 - Hotel life
With the flight from Montreal to Dallas behind us, my boss and I are anxious to get to our hotel near the head-office in the suburbs. He’s careful to avoid the toll roads and is surprisingly not sure of where he’s going, considering he’s driven this milk-run at least twice already this year. Our route has been mapped out for us, courtesy of the rental car agent. We head north; on a road that bisects the airport. It’s strangely disconcerting to see a DC-10 crossing the overpass right-to-left above us.
We manage not to get lost. There is scarcely another car on the road, even though it isn't even 11:00 p.m. That could explain why there seems to be so much road - all of it in excellent condition - and seemingly little traffic to warrant it all (at least, compared to Montreal). This is fortunate since the exits pop up with little notice. In that regard, Texas and Quebec have something in common. But at least Texans know how to build a proper road. Ours are worse than horrible. There is also evidence around us of ample more highway construction going on. This area must be booming.
The hotel itself is quite nice. Six storeys and a plush, wood-finished lobby complete with fireplace. I gobble some orange-and-black candied popcorn from a bowl on the desk. It’s the only hint I’ve seen all day that it is Hallowe’en. We sign-in for our separate rooms and the clerk asks if we need anything. I inquire about the hotel bar. There is none, the clerk says. Oh. There is a place still open about ten minutes away by car, he says, launching into detailed directions of a landscape that is all but devoid of landmarks. My boss meanwhile stands bemused. “We have a big day tomorrow,” he tells me. I get it. He suggests we meet in the lobby at 8:00 a.m. where a full continental breakfast buffet will be ready.
I had asked for a smoking room and that put me on the sixth floor. It had been smoked in alright – by a pipe-smoker no doubt. The fan is on full-tilt but it’s impossible to miss. As hotel rooms go, this is certainly one of the nicest ones I have seen. Two-seater couch with coffee table. 24-inch cable TV. A desk with a cat-5 hook-up and free high-speed internet connection. And the bed is king-sized. It has no less than seven pillows – five feathery guys lined-up sideways against the headboard, and two more very broad ones leaning up against those. That oughtta do me.
The bathroom is equally well appointed. Wall-mounted hair-dryer. Huge expanse of counter-top. Something like six large towels, four small ones and four face-cloths. Even the iron in the hall closet is a souped-up number that looks vaguely Star Trekkish.
I turn on the TV but I'm too late for the Daily Show (it is on an hour early in Central), so I make due with Bill Mahr. I haul out the laptop and email home, where it’s nearly 1:00 in the morning and too late to call. I check the net, but don’t get much past reading about the Habs’ spectacular road win over the Rangers before turning in.
The next morning, my wake-up call comes at 7:00 a.m. There is a little coffee-maker with all the required pouches (including “whitener” – ick) on the bathroom counter, but I’ll wait for a real coffee. I notice someone has thoughtfully slipped a USA Today under my door. I read about reaction to the Alito nomination. Apparently he’s a lean, mean Right-wing machine of conservative judicial fortitude, and the Christian Right is all agush over him. That should shut everybody up about the Libby indictment and related fallout – for a day at least.
I spend too long with the paper – even though you could probably read the whole thing front-to-back in less than half an hour. I rush through ironing a shirt and pants, then get on with the morning routine that my old Newfie friend Paul MacInnis immortalized for me as the three S’s: "Shit, Shave and Shower."
I present myself in the lobby at 8:00 a.m. sharp and,... uh-oh. I know that look. It's that unmistakable look that a boss wears on his face when he's trying to look very professional despite being annoyed as hell. Seems boss-man has had his breakfast already and was hoping I'd be down a bit early. Now I see that when he said we’d meet in the lobby at eight o’clock, he meant ready to leave at eight o’clock.
He graciously allows me to cobble together a sort-of biscuit and leathery egg and ham thing from the unremarkable buffet. I notice his right leg bouncing up and down on the toe of his foot as he watches the wide-screen TV (forever tuned to CNN) that looks down authoritatively over the lounge area. I can tell he isn’t actually paying attention to it; his mind is busily sorting through how I have fucked with his whole day by being a moron who can’t get up on time and now we both will look like lazy-asses, waltzing into the office at a leisurely 8:20 or so. At least I imagine that’s what he’s thinking.
There is brewed coffee like we used to get from the cart service at Concordia University all those years ago – crappy, but caffeinated, dammit. I hastily chomp down my biscuit thing and take the coffee to go. No time to brush my teeth. The office is apparently close-by and we’ll get there for 8:20 probably, but now I feel like we’ve started off badly. At least the sun is out.
In Montreal I'd need a jacket and a sweater and a scarf and gloves... But in Dallas it's mild enough in the bright sun for us to eschew our coats. No clouds. Light breeze. Flowers in full bloom. Yeah, I'll take it.
- 30 -
Next up: Meeting your Texan co-workers at the Company HQ.