This is an old story that I dug up to re-post. It's from 2006, waaay before I started this blog. It's fairly long, so I'm going to post it in sections. Oh, and one other thing...this is 100% true.
December 11, 2006 Back from California
Sometimes travel is boring and non-eventful. My most recent business trip did not fall into this category. It started upon arrival at the airport, with the immediate notice of a delay in my flight. No big deal yet, a one-hour delay is not a problem when you are facing a ninety minute layover. Still plenty of time. Until they delayed it again.
United Airlines, whose motto is More Leg Room [NOTE: not available on your flight], was thoughtful enough to automatically book us on another flight, so my colleagues and I were able to relax as we downed a couple beers at an airport bar and ate cheap – wait, scratch that – low-grade airport food. For some reason airport food is never cheap. I’ve only seen one Wendy’s in an airport, and I’m betting they are not more prevalent because of their Dollar Menu. They could not offer a Dollar Menu at an airport, because the other food vendors would probably maul them for upsetting the pricing scheme.
We finally got on board our flight and took off to Denver, where we took part in the Traveler’s Olympics. Our event was the Twenty Gate Sprint. We won!
The connecting flight to San Francisco was smooth. I did some work, which I had intended to do on the first flight but could not because a) there was not room to comfortably open my laptop, and b) we had those beers before we got on board the plane. After about an hour of diligent work I looked at the clock and saw that it was after midnight, which was very de-motivating indeed. I shut off the laptop and returned to my Sudoku puzzle book, which was much easier this flight than on the first leg. I attribute this both to the momentum you get when you solve several puzzles in a row and the metabolism of alcohol.
When we got to San Francisco we were amazed to see that the bags we had checked actually made it through. We took this as a sign that the rest of the trip would be smooth and there would be no further complications. How wrong we were.
We proceeded to the BART terminal to catch a train to the financial district and China Town, where we had hotel rooms reserved. It was 10:00pm Pacific Time, which was 1:00am Eastern Time, so we were understandably eager to get a bite to eat and get to bed.
We got off at Montgomery Street, and it was a short horizontal walk to our hotel. I say horizontal, because it was a long vertical walk. If you are not familiar with downtown San Francisco, it is anything but flat [NOTE: More to come on this exciting topic later].
We did not let the fact that we left our mountain climbing gear at home stop us from attempting to crest the summit of one of the downtown streets. When we got there, we saw the awning for our hotel, the Grant Gateway. It was a welcome sight.
Before I continue, I must shed some light on the background of this hotel and my choice to reserve rooms there. We were going to San Francisco to install our software at a client’s office and train them on how to use it. We had asked for recommendations on nearby hotels, and our client sent an email with websites for 5 or 6 nearby hotels. Because he lives there and does not need to stay in hotels, I cannot fault him for including the Grant Gateway in this list because, to be fair, it was the closest hotel to his office [NOTE: Horizontally speaking. It was at the top of the hill, and his office was at the bottom of the hill. If you count the incline, you need to effectively triple the distance. Especially considering that we were lugging luggage up the hill. Which, if you think about it, lugging is probably what luggage was made for].
As I was booking our travel, I looked at the websites and checked the rates for the hotels Peter recommended. The first was $300 a night. The second offered a distinctive price break at $279 a night. The third was right between the first two. The Grant Gateway as $70 a night. It was a great deal, featuring free wireless Internet, and the pictures of the lobby and the rooms looked quite elegant indeed. They were obviously taken at a different hotel.
When we crossed the threshold into the lobby, we began to sense that something was wrong. We went to the front desk to check in, and the oriental gentleman with the unkempt hair looked as though he was expecting us. I suspect we were the first fools to book rooms at that establishment in months.
There were a number of warning signs that should have inspired us to run away right then and there, but we were tired and hopeful [NOTE: And ignorant, which I’m adding as a note because I’m embarrassed and I doubt you’ll actually read these]. These warning signs included:
• The open door to the manager’s office, were a dilapidated bay of old bus-station lockers with a sign that said “Safe Deposit Box” stood in plain view
• The sign on the front desk that said Please Keep Your Baggage With You At All Times
• The other sign on the front desk that said No Visitors To Your Room Allowed After 11:00 pm
• The oriental gentleman with the unkempt hair behind the front desk
• The ice machine in the lobby, with a stack of dirty plastic buckets next to it and no plastic liners
• They had no toothpaste. I did not have a tube small enough to get through security at the airport (yes, you read that correctly) and when I asked for some the oriental gentleman with the unkempt hair looked at me as if I had just asked him to single-handedly tear down the Great Wall
• The rats [NOTE: We didn’t actually see the rats, but I am certain they were there.]
Click here to read Part II...