Foggy. That’s how I feel. 10am and I really need this Starbucks to kick in and do its job. This morning we’re back in Los Angeles and I’m currently sitting in the open-air cavity that exists in the middle of the Westin Bonaventure. Glass elevators are going up and down all around me. There is the constant sound of water; fountains are spraying everywhere, streams are trickling between the little man-made lakes. But even though I am still in Southern California and I can hear water, this is a long way from my tear-drop wicker chairs overlooking the ocean. But it will do. It will have to. I don’t have any idea what day it is, other than my fifth year anniversary.
Let me quickly mention that Westin beds are second to none. Westin pillows too. I looked into getting one last year…but they are like $4,000. We ended up getting a mattress that was just a little more than half that, which may sound absurd to a lot of people. However…as a newcomer to the grown up world, I have a list of things that I don’t cut corners on…ever. Pillows and mattresses are number one and two on the list. But I’ve got two complaints about last night’s beds. 1: They weren’t big enough. What’s up with the doubles? At least queens would have fit on our room. 2: I am not sure what kind of knot tying class the Westin staff goes through to learn how to wrap those beds, but there were like 40 different sheets, comforters and blankets…all doing different things. Even though the first thing I do is walk around the edges and pull out all the linens that are tightly tucked between the mattresses, I still woke up in a knotted mess, feeling very much like layer four in a very complicated club sandwich.
We leave today. Tonight actually. I’m ok with it. I’m feeling what I think is the normal anxiety about going back to work. I say ‘what I think’ because I haven’t had too many vacations where I check out my brain completely. That is precisely to say that I usually maintain some level of anxiety the entire week so there isn’t much distinction between relaxing and anticipating. But I haven’t done that this week, I’ve checked out. Very proud of myself.
Yesterday was our anniversary. Five years. And we did very little to celebrate it, too. I don’t really like that. There was a whole series of events, some activities, some silences. I would say my frustration level was pretty high all day. It’s become glaringly evident to me how bad I am at communicating frustration…or communicating when I’m frustrated…or both. My standard MO has been to huff and puff about something until I provoke a conversation and then just spew out my points, which actually are usually reasonable points…but I’m being unreasonable when communicating them if that makes any sense. A lot of times I just wish my wife would think like I do. Now she won’t, and she may never. Intellectually, I totally get that. But despite being able to reconcile that reality in my head…I still get sad when she doesn’t respond to some situations the way I want her to…or the way I would respond, or both.
Take yesterday for example. Like I mentioned, we stayed the night at Pearl’s. In the morning we had plans to get out of there at 10am, go to the beach and then we actually decided we’d go get Vietnamese sandwiches with some others at 1. It was a tight schedule, but I figured we would be on the road by 1:30…2 at the latest. Didn’t happen. Rhonda obviously wanted to chit chat with Pearl, so I lay around splitting time between watching shows I’ve already seen and watching my watch, listening to the kids play while the two of them talked. 10…10:30, 11. It wasn’t that I wanted to go to the beach so much. It was that I wanted my wife to be a little more focused on me…on us…considering it was our anniversary. I also didn’t want to get stuck in San Diego or Los Angeles Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. With the pace we were following, both seemed inevitable.
Finally we made it to the beach (Del Mar beach which, by the way, is without question the best beach we’ve been to on this trip). By my count, we were an hour and a half off by my schedule. The Vietnamese place was at least a half hour in the opposite direction that we eventually needed to go but ok…if we left the beach at 12:30, we’d still be in good shape. That would only give us an hour at the beach, but Pearl’s babies surely couldn’t do much more, right?
Then 12:30 comes.
My point to this ridiculously unimportant chronology is that my frustration was building all day and there was never a time where I had access or the opportunity to talk to my wife. Even if I did, I felt physically unable to say anything constructive. And I wanted to know why she wasn’t thinking like I was…that it was our anniversary and we should reflect on the last five years. Our little vacation game with the kids “I remember” could be a great game for the last 13 years that we’ve known each other!
Ok I’m stopping myself. Here’s what happened: We left the beach, went to Vietnamese food, stayed too long, got stuck in San Diego and Los Angeles traffic, she and the kids slept most of the way, I wanted to kill someone. Actually, I worked really hard to confront the child in me that just wanted to lash out and instead somehow constructively manage everything I was feeling. Yesterday that meant not saying anything. That was about as positive as I could get. I did finally have a meltdown yesterday…a full blown nuclear one, but it wasn’t pointed at Rhonda or anyone important. It was aimed fully at the staff of the Bonaventure. Specifically, the parking staff.
It started after the four hour anniversary traffic jam that didn’t seem to bother anyone but me. When we finally reached the hotel, there was, yet again, a full blown traffic jam to get into the parking garage. Understand, this is a 45 degree subterranean tunnel with one lane pointing downward. Cars were in front of us, cars were behind us, so there was no way to get our car out of that mess no matter what we did. After 20 minutes of leaning on the brake and not moving, I realized we were in trouble.
Girls, I want you to get out of the car and run up the ramp. Wait for me inside the hotel.
Rhonda looked at me like I was insane.
They’ll be ok. They’ll be better than what they’d be in this carbon monoxide tent of a traffic jam. You too. Just go.
So they went. And so did I – right to the bottom of the ramp to the obviously overwhelmed valet team, where things went a little something like this:
Fuck that. I’m asthmatic.
You can’t leave your car unattended.
I tossed him my keys.
Here you go, here are my keys.
Sir we need you to move your car.
Move my car? Where? I want to move my car. That’s the whole point of me waiting in line for your ridiculous broken-ass service. But nothing is moving. What do you want me to do with it?
About that time it became clear to them that I wasn’t budging and therefore neither were any of the cars behind me, even if they had somewhere to go. With some quick wrangling, they were able to create some temporary rows at the bottom of the ramp and dislodge the logjam. Hey, what do you know – movement. There was still a line, but most likely it didn’t wrap around the building in downtown Los Angeles anymore. Since my car was now at the front of the pack, idling while they decided what to do next, I opened the back door and grabbed my computer bag, then popped the trunk.
Hurry? I need some help with my bags.
Nothing. They glance at each other.
I guess that was my way of saying ‘you could make this go faster’.
We can’t now. Not now. Maybe in an hour or so?
I don’t get it.
We’re very busy. There are people in line.
Yeah I got that much. I was one of those people in line and the way I see I’ve got a 20 minute credit now that I’m here. Someone can wait on me now. That sign says you’ll help me – not to mention the fact that I’ve stayed here several times and know that it’s your job to help me.
Sir we can’t help you with your bags. Look at that line. Please just leave your keys and move out of the way.
Hey fuck that. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got two kids running around the lobby of your shitty hotel because you guys can’t get your shit together. There are things in my car that I need.
The bell hops are too busy.
They say 30 minutes.
I haven’t even seen you use your brain today, let alone a telephone.
I know what they’ll say.
It was about that time that I could feel violence rising up inside me. I decided to grab the one big bag I could carry and my camera and computer and take my argument to the manager. Because I was set at a rolling boil and knew my kids were somewhere in the building without anything that they needed, I had no problem marching right to the front of the check-in line and making my case.
Hey you’ve got a real mess in the basement.
What do you mean?
Parking. You’ve got cars wrapped around the building and those dudes downstairs can’t manage it all.
Given that there was a line of people behind me, it didn’t take much more than that to get her to punt to the manager, who appeared…after about five minutes.
Getting my bags out of my car for one. I have two toddlers running around here and can’t do it all myself. You have a service downstairs that’s there to help, but they’re falling apart.
Yes, we’re very busy.
I’m not talking about being busy. I’m talking about all systems shutting down. They aren’t able to park cars. They aren’t able to get bags. Is that what always happens when you get busy? If so, I’d say I’m talking to either the right or the wrong person. Sounds like a management problem.
Well…I’m not really in charge of the garage.
Why am I talking to you? I specifically asked for the manager and indicated I was having problems.
Well, technically I am, but…
What’s technical about this?
Sir you don’t need to be rude.
I’m not being rude. Not yet. I’ll be honest, I think it’s coming, but right now I’m trying to understand what’s technical and what’s your job. Since you’re the one who said it, I’m asking you what you mean.
How can I help you?
Seriously? I just told you. I need my bags. Second, I think the garage needs some leadership.
Ok, I’m not exactly in charge of the garage.
Technically, yes. But parking it is its own department.
That tag says General Manager. Whose department is ‘Things Are All Fucked Up & Need to Be Fixed.” Yours?
I suppose so.
Perfect. How am I going to get my bags Boss?
Beads of sweat were forming on his forehead, no doubt the product of frustration and anger which meant I was successfully transferring my negative energy.
I don’t know who can do it right now sir. If you can…
I can’t. What’s that guy doing…right there.
I pointed out a bellman leaning against the counter.
He is helping that guest at the counter that is checking in.
What are YOU doing?
I am helping you.
Not yet. But once you get back from the white Buick with my kids diapers and milk that will all change.
That’s when I saw it – the crackle and then shattering of Mr. Ineffective’s spirit indicating that I’d broken him. Wow, that was quick, I thought.
Give me a minute and I’ll find someone to go down there.
Ha. Victory. But look, I wasn’t about to trust that moron. And all of a sudden, I felt better anyway. Rather than wait for him to come back with another opportunity to show me how incompetent he was, I decided to help them out a bit and go down and get my own bags. That’s right, I said it. So I found Rhonda, gave her my things and strolled downstairs and walked right to the valet stand, which of course had re-erupted in chaos. But that was good for me. While they were yammering amongst themselves I identified my car keys on the board, grabbed them and headed towards where my car was parked. Then they noticed me.
Sir! Once the car is in our possession we are liable for it and have to be the only ones accessing the car in the garage!
Then I got my things, walked back by them and flipped my keys on the desk. I figured that in their minds my car was probably deserving of some pretty serious vandalism, so I threw in one last nicety for good measure.
It’s a rental and it’s fully insured so go fuck yourselves. Have fun.