Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Detroit was a Nightmare

Nothing mystical or ironic or even really altogether interesting about it: En route to New Orleans for the weekend, I got stuck in Detroit on Friday night. I was stuck in Detroit due to heavy rain. The heavy rain delayed the plane's landing, which caused me to miss my connecting fight. And so, there I was: Grounded. In Detroit. At 7pm.

Because my circumstances were caused by weather and nothing mechanical, Northwest Airlines would not provide me with a hotel room for the evening. Apparently, it didn't matter that my next flight out was not until 3pm the following day. Rules are rules, and the American airline industry clearly cannot afford itself these days. Instead, I was given a number to call for a discounted hotel room in the Detroit area. I called the number, only to discover that there were no discounted hotel rooms in the area available for the evening. In fact, there were no hotel rooms at all.

With a very long night ahead of me, I ambled over to the airport terminal map and located the nearest establishment in which I could find a margarita. A much older man in a TSA uniform with an ironed-on name tag that said "Jerome" approached and asked if I needed any help. I jokingly told him that I needed a place to sleep for the evening. He chatted me up for a few minutes and less-jokingly said that his shift was up in 30 minutes. I could come home with him, if I liked. I did not like. That was when I stopped joking and really began to worry how I was going to make it through the night.

Five years ago, I spent some time hopping around Turkey and Greece with a friend from college. On the way home, I had a 24-hour stopover in Paris. I remember being particularly excited about the opportunity to spend some time in Paris with myself. Call it my own masturbatory travel inclinations, but I felt the inclination to call upon my late adolescent French existentialist phase. I planned to sit at a cafe and watch the people go by whilst romantically sipping on small cups of coffee, re-reading the love letters of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and taking copious amounts of journal notes to the bouncing ball of hum-along tunes otherwise known as my (less-than-linear) inner thoughts.

...All of this would have been lovely, of course, if I had not discovered that my bank account was overdrawn the morning that I left Athens. I arrived in Paris with 5 euro in my pocket, and ended up spending a very long night in the Charles de Gaulle Airport. That was the evening that my attempt to get a couple of hours of light sleep in a corner of the international terminal was rudely interrupted by a man with very unsavory intentions. While it was not the first time that my pepper spray and self-defense training had come in handy while traveling abroad, after locking myself in a women's restroom stall for the duration of the early morning hours, I swore to myself that it would be the last time I ever spent a night in an airport alone...

A bad dinner and two very terrible margaritas later, I was still not prepared for the night ahead of me in Detroit. Every thirty minutes, I called the number for a hotel room. None available at this time. Call back in 30 more minutes.

Now binge drinking...30 minutes later... I was half way through another margarita when I called again. Finally, a room opened up at a place called "The Marriot Romulos". Fantastic! I will be on the next shuttle!

The next shuttle later, I was thoroughly feeling the 2.5 margaritas in my belly. I was also thoroughly picking up on the fact that a very attractive man in jeans and a black t-shirt seated across from me was making eye contact with me. He was obviously athletic, and I could practically smell his self-confidence from across the hotel shuttle van. I surmised that he was either a soccer player or a martial artist, and I was uncertain of whether or not he could be trusted by his demeanor. He stood in line behind me at the check-in counter. Of course, he struck up a conversation. He offered to buy me a drink. It was almost midnight, but since I knew precisely where I was sleeping that night, I figured I would be up for a little while anyway. Besides, who was this smiling man in the black t-shirt? Who knows...maybe he would have something interesting to say?

Two drinks later, the very attractive man had given me the cliff notes on his life, his profession, his travels, etc. He was a soccer player in college, he had once been married to an Israeli woman who did martial arts, he studied Shakespeare under a professor who claimed that Shakespeare was "all about holes and plugging them", and he was not particularly spiritual. He was several years older than me, though seemingly young for his age. Where he lacked an overall confidence in his intelligence, I could tell that he compensated in his ability to attract women. We reached the end of our conversation. The bill came, and I thanked him for the drinks. We exchanged contact information. As attractive men do, he brazenly asked if I wanted to spend more time with him in his room. In return I politely acknowledged, yet bluntly and transparently declined the offer. He took it well, but I could tell that he was uncomfortable being turned down. I decided not to hold this against him. Clearly, this had nothing to do with me.

On my way up to my own hotel room, I pondered this. I pondered how the story would have changed if I actually was the woman who accepted the offer to spend the rest of the evening in a stranger's hotel room. I considered the idea that it has to take a certain form of ego to do such a thing. What is the source of that ego? Is it too much or too little self-confidence? Ethics and issues of principles aside, I simply don't have any confidence in situations like this. In fact, the only thing that I am confident about is my ability to fail to see the point. Why throw my body and soul into what could potentially be very harmful to me physically and psychologically? Is that sort of risky behavior a part of the "thrill" for people who have a different rubric of ego than me? I find myself conjuring up a number of tangible fears with regard to my health and well-being, which, in essence, decide for me that the best decision is to never venture behind closed doors with a man I simply do not know. And clearly, it does not matter how much alcohol I have in my bloodstream...I do not trust anyone, including myself, to be that woman. That particular form of action is just not for me.

Five minutes after I was safely snuggled into my own bed, he called on the hotel phone. Points for persistence got him nowhere. Ten minutes later, he called again. I decided to ignore the call and check to make sure that my door was double locked. The calls stopped, and I finally went to sleep.

Two days later, I received a nice email from him. He wrote that he had a "great time hanging out" with me, and he apologized for the "late night bells".

Completely un-offended, I waited two days to reply:

"No worries about the calls. Sorry I don't have the type of ego to take them seriously."

I ended sleeping very poorly that night anyway. Detroit was a nightmare. On the other hand, I suppose it could have been much worse.



VJ said...

Yes, you could have been wandering the airport like that poor fool who did @ the CDG for years for a Visa mishap. I think they made a movie about it. But some might suppose that answering any of the 'late night bells' would seem substantially less riskier than living in a refugee camp for a few months too. Or wandering around broke in the ME as a single woman academic/tourist. But yes, they're different and not similar risks.

On the other hand Detroit has scads of really great homes for sale now really really cheap. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Laura said...


Re: horrible nights in airports. Bangkok, 12 hours. Ugh.

Alan Ward said...

Lucky you! As a balding, more than slightly paunchy man, I get very little propositions. Ah well, life ain't fair... You do seem on top of the situation, though.

Interesting how air companies refuse to take any risks at all. They build the planes to fly in just about any weather conditions these days - ILS should be up to managing a zero-visibility landing. Unless something was wrong and hadn't been repaired. Hum...

VJ said...

I'm with AW here. It has to be heavy wind shear that was keeping the planes grounded. Rain alone just won't do it, unless things are just stacked up in the region and they system is flooded due to time constraints (not enough time to schedule landings or takeoffs). But be that as it may, I'm rarely propositioned either. Well not mostly. At least not in that way. But in my small town, almost everyone comes to ask me about my opinion on things. (Mostly politics though). Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'