Friday, February 18, 2011

Travel travails, again

Back from a trip to Richmond, Virginia, where the weather was wonderfully unseasonably warm but windy.  While there I spent some time with my team member visiting clients and also interviewed a couple of candidates for a new position our company is looking to fill.  But neither of those is the subject of my entry, of course, in keeping with my company's policy of no mentions in personal blogs.

So, I wish to outline some of the odd things I encountered while staying in a Marriott in downtown Richmond.

My rep recommended this hotel because there are numerous restaurants and such nearby, it's a short cab ride from the airport (I needed to get myself there when I arrived Tuesday night, but she was nice enough to take me to the airport for my outbound flight yesterday--more on that below), and, I found online, they had an indoor pool.

The last item is huge with me for a couple of reasons:  I don't have access to a pool at home and like to swim as a diversion from my normal treadmill sessions here at the ranch, and it allows me to pack much lighter than if I took clothes and shoes for exercise (if you wore a size 13 EEE shoe you'd want to save that space, too).  So when I travel overnight an indoor pool (so that weather isn't a factor) is a big plus, if not an absolute must.

I flew into Richmond from Cincinnati, having decided to try a direct flight instead of my normal route, which is Lexington to Atlanta, frantic connection, then Atlanta to, well, wherever.  Cincinnati's airport is actually in northern Kentucky (and if you're not from this part of the country, I'll bet you didn't know that) and is only an hour away by car, so it's an easy drive.  There was a time I would NEVER have voluntarily done this, but over the ten years or so that I've traveled by air for business, the passenger load in the Cincinnati (more correctly the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport) airport has steadily decreased.  First, Comair, the regional carrier that is still headquartered there, used to be such a major force for 50-seat regional jets all over the eastern US has drastically reduced its flight schedule, and following its acquisition of Northwest Airlines, Delta Airlines downgraded Cincinnati to a secondary hub, meaning that three formerly bustling concourses are now down to one moderately busy one.  So parking is no longer a huge issue, it's easy to navigate, the security lines are pretty reasonable, and, best of all, I can fly directly from there to a good many places that would require a connection if I originate from Lexington.  That's a pretty decent development for me.

So, back to my story.  I arrived in downtown Richmond on Tuesday night around 9:00 PM.  One desk clerk was trying to wait on about ten of us who walked in at once (including a group of three people, two men and a woman, who appeared to be checking in together), so there was a sustained wait.  I continued to chat with a nice woman with whom I shared my shuttle there, a doctor from Michigan who was in town for a conference, to pass the time, and eventually we were all checked in.

I arrived in my room and the first thing I noticed was that it was a handicap-equipped room.  Now, I know that it's important that hotels have a certain number of these, but I'm not handicapped and since I have a Gold Marriott Rewards membership, I was more than a little unhappy about this.  But I was also tired and didn't want to wage a protracted battle to get a different room, so I decided to live with it.

Next morning my wakeup call came as planned, and I shaved and then headed downstairs to the pool.  I never wear my glasses to or from the pool (probably should, but I function well enough without them not to accidentally walk into the women's restroom, anyway) but when I got to the pool I began noticing the depth markings on the side of the pool.  Unbelievably, the pool was ONE AND A HALF FEET DEEP in the shallow end, and deepened to a maximum of just under FOUR FEET.  This means that swimming in it would require either a very small person or the willingness to drag one's knuckles on the bottom with nearly every stroke.  No, thank you.

So I elected to get into the hot tub to soothe my back, which has been giving me problems since sleeping in another hotel bed last week in Mississippi (poor me, I know).  On the way there I noticed a lot of standing water and had already seen about a dozen wet towels dropped here and there.  The spa felt pretty good, so after a few minutes there I thought, what the hell, let's give the pool a try.  When I did I stepped into water that was so cold it literally made me shriek!  No, on second thought, let's NOT try the pool.

As I was leaving for the day I took the manager on duty aside and explained my disappointment with the handicap room, the shallow and cold pool and the general mess that the pool area was.  She apologized profusely, and I simply told her that I knew they could not address problems of which they were not aware.

In a wonderful gesture of customer service (and I'm very big on those myself), when I returned later in the day, there was a tray on the desk in my room.  On it were two bottles of water (which are not generally free in a Marriott), a box of truffles, and a bottle of wine, all accompanied by a note from the general manager, apologizing again for my frustrations.  Now, that's how you do it.

Flash forward to yesterday morning.  I'm sitting in the room reading on my iPad, and my right foot is kind of wandering aimlessly around the bed (in the handicap room the armchair was on the TV side of the room to accommodate a wheelchair, I assume, so I slid the chair over next to the bed) and I felt something firm that didn't feel like the bedcovers.  I reached down and to my surprise there was what I would judge to be a nearly new woman's shoe!  Black patent leather, VERY high heel, probably really uncomfortable, but darned if I know why women so often wear uncomfortable shoes anyway.  Then I got curious, and, sure enough, there was the other one also under the bed.  My guess is a previous occupant of the room kicked off her shoes upon entry and they slid somehow under the bed.  Anyway, I put the shoes on the nightstand, washed my hands and when I checked out reported this to the front desk.  They were rather surprised but appreciated me mentioning this.  All in all, a pretty weird hotel stay.  And while they were nice, I didn't get what I expected from this hotel, so I probably won't go back anytime soon.

And, of course, even though I had a direct flight from Richmond to Cincinnati yesterday, the flight was delayed.  Not because of weather, which has been the culprit behind nearly every delay so far in 2011, but a mechanical problem.  Thankfully it was eventually fixed and our flight left, albeit late.

Suppose it wouldn't be a business trip without some kind of hiccup....but, come on.

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