A Standard of Living

98aa514c-red-roof-inn-columbia-west

There is one bar of soap. And one washcloth. The lighting is out of a horror flick. Not to mention, half of the switches do nothing.

The carpet hasn’t been cleaned in decades. It smells like smoke, though it’s a non-smoking room and you had to initial AND sign a thing promising you wouldn’t light up.

Everything is unplugged except for the t.v.’s. Yes, there were two. I splurged for a “suite” so there would be more room for the pack n’play.

$80 for this sadness.

But it’s just a night. And the only reason we’re staying here is because Cleveland is halfway to upstate New York, where we just spent Thanksgiving with my boyfriend’s family. We drove because we couldn’t afford to fly, but it’s fun to pretend it’s because we needed the car.

***

My Uber driver graduated from my high school. He was a senior when I was a freshman and thankfully we didn’t know one another.

Richard is doing this full-time because he lost his job. He says it’s not worth it and when he explains all of the costs and hassles and the 35% cut Uber takes from each of his fares, I realize he won’t even make $10 an hour from this two hour ride to Midway.

I give him a $10 tip and my business card. I tell him to send me his resume and I’ll do what I can. I probably can’t help him, but it seemed like the right thing to do. He probably won’t anyway.

***

The airport is a weird place. I haven’t been in five years because I have no money to fly and the only reason I’m here now is because my job is paying for me to attend a conference in Atlanta.

I checked in via phone and have my boarding pass in a text message. The airport security lady is super annoyed when I don’t know how to scan the bar code.

I need three fucking bins for my stuff. One for my laptop and phone, one for my purse, one for my coat and shoes and then my suitcase. I struggle to push the train of items down the rolling conveyor belt and the next security guard chides me to “stay with my things”.

I am boarding group “3” and after hearing an announcement at a different terminal, I find out I’m in the last group.

I suppose this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, as I’m never one of those people with a platinum designation. Though I start to wonder how big my plane is if Row 16 is towards the back. I also wonder if I can pre-board if I’m ever rich enough to bring my kid on a plane.

Rich. That is apparently what you have to be to be in a designated group that gets on the plane first. I suppose there’s no luxury in sitting in a stationary aircraft other than to be the first to do so and maybe to ensure your carry-on bags get a space in the overhead bin.

If I had money I didn’t know what to do with, is flying first class for a two hour flight something I would spend it on? Maybe I would to sit in those “lounges” that can only be accessed by key card, you know, for the upper class people who don’t want to mingle with the common folk.

I consider the softer lighting and bigger seats and complimentary cocktails as I languish in the three seat row on the aisle, pulling my arm in so I don’t get in the way of the flight attendants, drinking Starbucks VIA instant decaf (without sugar and cream because it was not offered and I feel like a dick asking for it) and not so delicately biting into a crumbling cookie biscuit thing.

For some reason it feels very low class to be an everyday passenger on a plane and it’s funny that in my lifetime, people used to dress up to travel and there were free hot meals and flight attendants were perky super waitresses with perfect hair and make up and high heels.

***

The Hyatt that my job has put me up in is nice. It is over twenty something floors and I’m on the 16th. I have a “view” and a balcony. There is a chair just for reading and a desk with a fancy sculpture vase and everything is plugged in. There are also TWO bars of soap, one for your hands and one for your body. The bed has five pillows. There is room service.

The bell hop lets me borrow an umbrella but warns me of the $50 fee if I lose it.

I hang on to it tighter than my kid’s hand crossing a busy street.

***

My Uber driver is doing this full-time because he lost his job.

It was a good job too, a family owned company with good benefits and a large bonus and they even gave you the day off for your birthday.

Markus says he could take a job doing something similar to what he used to, but the pay is almost half.

He likes the independence of Uber. He works from five a.m. to three or four p.m.

***

The conference is at a huge convention center.

The Big Federal Agency hosting this conference does not provide any food, not even coffee.

There are several kiosks for drinks and quick bites and a larger area with lunch options like Subway.

A Coke is $4. A bottle of water is $3.

The lunch I want would come out to be around $17. Even though I have a decent per diem from work, it hardly feels worth it.

I settle for a sub-par taco salad that I wolf down because I’m sitting at a large table that a guy is saving for an additional EIGHT people, none of whom are there yet. But I can tell by his antsy gestures and anxious glances my way that he’d prefer if I moved along.

At a break between sessions, I get in line at a Starbucks and it is moving painfully slow. I miss the obnoxious efficiency of the insanely staffed store in Willis Tower. Then I’m annoyed at myself for being annoyed.

My last session is jam packed. I’m shoulder to shoulder with strangers, sitting on a crappy folding chair and realize my feet stink. I had to walk in the pouring rain to the convention center from my hotel because the directions for the shuttle were not very detailed. My shoes, which needed to be replaced anyway, are now downright embarrassing.

I take an Uber pool to a Payless and realize this is definitely a different part of town, though I’m only five minutes from downtown. My Uber pool companion seems uber irritated by me and my driver, so I look out the window and hope she can’t smell my feet.

I find a pair of $10 “Christian Siriano for Payless” flats and even though they’re uncomfortable, I can’t bring myself to pay $20 for the ones I really want.

I try to take a nap when I get back, but suddenly realize I probably could have found a coupon for the shoes, which means the $20 shoes would have come out to around $16.

But even that wouldn’t have been low enough.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s