Terry Marotta: Hotel worker a ray of sunshine at a bleak time
There I was at the Marriott, dozing through a seminar so mind-numbing I couldn’t believe I’d spent money to attend it. By noon, all I wanted to do was check in and hide in my hotel room.
I knew lunchtime small talk in the hotel ballroom was WAY beyond me, so I scored some buffet food and hunched over it right in the seminar room, the way cats do with their little wildlife victims.
Finally, after a long, bleak wait, I was given the key to my room. But no sooner had I slung my 30-pound backpack down on the bed and kicked off my boots than I realized: If I didn’t go right then to get the rest of my stuff from my car parked in a that vast distant lot, I might never go at all and keep showing up for the rest of the conference in the same clothes with hair like Don King’s.
“Just go get the foolish suitcase,” I told myself, pulling my boots back on again. Releasing the chain on the door and sliding back the bolt, I comforted myself with the thought that I could spend the whole conference right here in this room and avoid any chance at all of being cheered up by some darn human.
I started down the narrow hotel corridor, which was partially blocked by a housekeeping cart so immense I didn’t notice the diminutive person behind it.
“Hi hi!” said this tiny woman whose badge read, “Polly. Hong Kong.”
“Hi,” I ventured and kept on walking.
“How YOU?” she called after me, with the kind of encouraging nod you might give to a young child.
"Eh!!” I wanted to say, but instead turned with a “pretty good” and asked how she was.
“I fie! I fie!” she smiled.
That’s when I realized we didn’t REALLY share a common language.
Still, she was a whole lot better in English than I would be in Chinese, I thought as I kept on walking. But then I heard her again.
“What you name?” she called.
And that question stopped me in my tracks. Because in more than 30 years of business travel, never has anyone in a hotel ever asked me my name.
“I’m Terry,” I said, walking back to her.
“I Polly,” she smiled and pointed to her badge.
“You work? Here?” she inquired. “What you work?”
“Um … . Oh! Well, I’m at this conference for newspaper people.”
She looked blank but hopeful.
I pointed to an unclaimed USA Today outside another hotel guest’s door. “I write stories for the paper,” I said and immediately pictured all the deadlines behind me. All the many deadlines still lying ahead of me.
“Ah!” she said with her beautiful smile. “Easy job?”
I had to smile at that, picturing the way I wake so many mornings praying, “Please, God, please: Just this one day more let me be able to write another column.” Then I looked at her gear and the ‘backpack’ of soiled linens it was her lot to haul from here to there.
“I guess it is pretty easy, actually. Anyway, I love it.”
“OK! Well I see you next day, Terry!”
And she did see me and ran right over.
“I see you today!” she cried in that same wonderful way, and gave me a box of hotel chocolates, too, and sent me out into my day with nary a cloud around me.
Newspaper writers all go to conferences, but they know they’re not really workin’ till they're out on the “street” mixin' it up with people. You can mix it up with Terry by writing her at email@example.com or PO Box 270 Winchester, MA 01890.