“I hear the train a comin’…”

Recently, I was the Keynote Speaker for a conference in Columbus, GA. (And just for the record, I would go back again in a heartbeat to spend time with those wonderful people!) It was the first time I had ever been to that city, and the conference site was a renovated historical hotel in downtown Columbus. I arrived to find that the hotel was just beautiful! Large, shady trees…old brick…. and ambience that people attempt to duplicate in more modern hotels, but never get quite right. It was “southern” through and through. I checked into my room and began unwinding from the trip. Since I had arrived near dinner time, and it was already dark, I went ahead and ordered room service for the evening. After eating, I reviewed my presentation to make certain there was nothing missing, and that I was fully prepared for the next morning’s event. I then stretched out on the bed for a little relaxation and reading.

As time passed, I changed into my pjs and began the nightly ritual of “trying” to go to sleep. I’m not the best sleeper to begin with, and staying in hotels as often as I do, can cause absolute havoc with my sleep patterns. I am a very light sleeper, so any little noise or light, will bring me fully awake. It was about 10:00 p.m., and as I lay there, I heard a train in the distance – blowing that mournful horn that you hear in the night, as it began its initial approach into the city. As the train got closer to our location, the horn got louder and louder. In fact, the horn never stopped! The engineer apparently starting blowing the horn at the outskirts of the city, and was determined (or required) to blow the horn the entire length of the city! As the train made its way closer to my location, I kept thinking, “My, it sure does sound pretty close!” Within moments the room began vibrating. The horn was so loud I had to cover my ears, and it felt as if the train was going to come through the walls. I looked out my window, and sure enough, there was the train passing by – just across the street from my room!!

Within moments the phone in my room began to ring. Since I very rarely ever get calls from a land line, I picked up the receiver and cautiously said, “hello.” The person on the other end, introduced herself, explaining that she worked the front desk of the hotel. She said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but are you playing a guitar?” I laughed and responded, “Although I do play a guitar, I did not bring one with me this trip…” I then asked if there was a problem. She indicated that there had been a few calls complaining of someone playing a guitar near (or in) my room. Now, I have to tell you, I was laughing so hard and trying not to insult the young lady, but I was thinking to myself…Guitar??? Did you not just hear that train coming through???? We had a good laugh and she apologized for bothering me. And by the way, that train made another “appearance” at 4:30 a.m. the next morning…

So many times in life people get extremely upset over minor events, while ignoring HUGE occurrences that should be addressed. I’m sure that whoever complained about the guitar playing was very upset about that “inconvenience.” Certainly, they were bothered enough to call the front desk and complain. I just wonder if they mentioned the train while complaining… Personally, I could have tolerated the guitar, but that train! Had I known about it beforehand, this one issue could have been a “deal breaker” for my stay at that particular hotel…ambience or not. But apparently, for that other person, the complainer, the playing of a guitar was the issue. We get so occupied with the “little things,” that we miss the huge, life-changing events that need to be dealt with on a daily basis. I think I will try to NOT sweat the small stuff, and attempt to get a handle on all those “trains” in my life. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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That baby sure does have a lot of hair…

Hey guys! As has been evident by the lack of posts, I have taken some time off from the blog. It’s not that I ran out of stories, because we all know I can get into more trouble in one day, than most people encounter in a year…I just needed some time away from everything that seems to be going on in the world. My heart has been saddened by how people are treating each other. We seem to have turned on each other, instead of lifting each other up in this world. So, I guess I needed a little time to have a “good talking to myself,” and recapture that sense of joy that has always been present in my life. I have decided that for the next few months, I will post either funny or joyful articles – nothing serious. I think we all need a little break from the news here in the U.S. and around the world. So get ready to chuckle along with me…

I was raised on a farm most of my childhood life. We really did not have pets, because we were very aware a special “pet” might just become a meal at some point in time. So, no real pets were in my life until I became an adult.

In my mid-twenties, I decided that I would love to have a little puppy. My choices were extremely limited in that I am highly allergic to almost everything. I had to consider dog breeds that did not shed hair. After much research, the poodle was determined to be a very good choice for me. I did not want to have a big dog, so I again did the necessary research, and decided to get a little toy poodle.

He was jet black, a little ball of fur, and his name was Muffin’s High Prancer, because when he walked, he pranced like a Tennessee Walking Horse. Now, I know that “Muffin” is considered a female name, but that was the name I wanted, and that is what I went with. He didn’t know the difference, and I didn’t care what anyone else thought. So Muffin became a huge part of my life – for 17 years! I never knew you could love a little animal so much. He traveled with me everywhere.

Unlike now, years ago, almost NO hotel would allow an animal on the premises, unless they were a service animal. Therein was the problem when I traveled with Muffin. He was, indeed, said animal…He was not a “barker,” so I was able to sneak him in numerous hotels without anyone knowing. I had gotten very adept at masquerading/camouflaging him to get past the front desk.

On this particular trip, we were making our way home from a seminar. We were tired, had been driving a long time, and decided to stop in Memphis, TN for the night. We chose to stop at one of my favorite hotels, The Hyatt Regency. Now remember, they did NOT allow pets at that time. The front desk was long, against a front wall, and was positioned directly across from the only elevators by which we could get to our room. The hotel was a “high-rise,” so there was no way we could sneak into a window on the ground floor (which we had done on occasion…lol!) So, we were in a quandary as to how we were going to get past the desk employees without them seeing Muffin. We finally decided that I would wrap Muffin in a down-filled, sleeveless vest, where he was not visible, and hold the vest as if I were holding a jacket in my arms.

It was a really good plan. I wrapped Muffin up “just so,” and we began that loooonnnggg walk to the elevators. With each step, I just knew that an employee was going to shout out, “Freeze, baby!! You’ve got a dog!! You’re out of here! Security!!” We made it all the way to the elevators, eased on, and pressed the floor number where our room was located. No one had discovered us and our secret!!

The elevator was walled with mirrors, and as I was standing there looking at the images, I saw movement. I looked closer and discovered that Muffin had found an opening in the sleeveless vest, and had poked his little head through the arm hole. As we both began laughing, we realized that he had been visible to anyone and everyone at the front desk. We had walked right in front of them, with Muffin’s little head up and out, looking at everyone! We could not figure out how on earth they had not seen him. The only conclusion that we could come to, was they thought he was a really hairy baby…

How many times have you tried to “get away” with something in your life? Have you ever done something “not exactly right,” because no one would find out? We convince ourselves that we are “getting away” with something; or “pulling something over” on someone; that what we are doing will not harm someone else. So…what does it matter, if no one gets hurt? Some rules are meant to be challenged; right? Although I meant no harm to the hotel, or other guests, there were rules, and I was intentionally breaking them.

I am highly allergic to animals, especially CATS! So, if I were to happen to stay in a hotel room, where someone else had brought in a cat, without the hotel’s knowledge, and they did not know to “pet clean” the room, I would probably end up in the hospital emergency room. If someone else chose to bypass the “rule,” that decision could certainly harm another person – namely ME! And other than the potential for harm, there should be a certain amount of respect and courtesy for the place of business that you are frequenting, and vice versa…respect and courtesy for the customer. Taking Muffin into the hotel was not done with “malicious intent;” however, negative outcomes could have certainly occurred. And I am sure many of you are thinking…really? You’re concerned over a hotel’s rules? And you just snuck a little puppy dog in? Big deal! But you see, it goes beyond that…it involves character, respect, honesty, and your “philosophy” regarding life decisions.

What have you tried to “get away with?” Was it worth it? Did you get caught? And WHY did you do it? I try to be honest and upright in all that I do, and taking Muffin into the hotel was dishonest – a very small act, but still dishonest. If I had to do it over again, I would not have taken Muffin in. I try to do much better now with my life decisions, and will continue to strive for that elusive “perfection.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Ummm….are my clothes in there???

Many years ago when I first started working in health care, I worked with a large firm whose corporate headquarters were located in Shreveport, LA. I was a Corporate Management Consultant and shared the responsibilities for part of the operations of 101 nursing homes, in 7 states. Since I had to travel ANYWAY to go to work each week (somewhere in the 7 states), the company did not require me to move to Louisiana. They allowed me to work from my home in Mississippi. My “official” office was in Shreveport, as was my secretary. This meant that I had to fly into Shreveport on a regular basis, and when I was working on a “big project,” or if we were having management meetings, I could be found in the city for weeks at a time. Our company happened to own one the largest hotels in the area, located within a block of our corporate office. It was at this hotel that I became a regular, and familiar, guest to all the hotel staff. It was “home away from home…”

Since the hotel was so close to our offices, I never rented a car while being in Shreveport. Usually, either my secretary, or someone else within the office, would pick me up on their way to work each morning, and then drop me back off at the hotel in the evening. The hotel back at that time was one where your room opened out to the parking lot. Today, it would have been called a “motel.”

 A little aside (as usual)…let’s remember, I had only been out of college for a little over a year….had been raised very conservatively….had attended a small church college…was single…and was pretty much known as being an “innocent” with everyone who knew me at work. (And they were correct in that assessment for the “most” part…lol) So, on this particular day, my boss’ secretary was the “chosen” one to drop me off at the hotel. She pulled up in front of the room, I got out, put my key in the lock, turned to wave goodbye, and opened the hotel door to enter. I was stopped by the chain on the door! Someone was in my room…and had locked me out!!! I quickly checked the room number…it was the same number that appeared on my key. It was the very same room that I had left that morning!! I noticed that the secretary was watching me with much interest at this point. I began knocking on the door. As I was knocking, a nice looking man opened the door with nothing on but a towel draped around his waist!! (By this time the secretary had turned her car off, and was watching the show….) I did not know what to do, and could not figure out what had happened. How did this man end up in my room??? Finally, I looked past him, eyes searching around the room, looking anywhere but at him IN THE TOWEL, and asked, “Are my clothes in there??” He looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but gave me the cutest grin, and said, “No, ma’am, they’re not. Do you want to come in and look?” I put my best “game” face on, and said, “No, thank you! That’s really sweet of you to offer, though. I will take your word for it!” I went back to the car, to my friend, who could hardly wait to hear my explanation. I just asked her to take me to the front desk, all the time sputtering that I did NOT know that man, I did NOT know how he came to be in my room, AND I did NOT know the location of my clothes! She just smiled sweetly, and said, “Uh huh….”

Upon arriving at the front desk, I learned that during the day (while I was at the office) the room I had been occupying needed some maintenance work. Because of my “familiarity” with the staff, and not wanting to “inconvenience” me, they had taken it upon themselves to move all of my belongings to a new room. They swore up and down they had called and left a message, but I am here to tell you…I DID NOT get that message!! I explained everything to my friend from the office, and she dropped me off at my new room. Mind you, she had a look on her face that indicated she was going to have a really good story to tell at the office the next morning. I went into my new room, and the staff had been meticulous in moving my possessions…They had even placed all the items in the same position, just as they were in the OTHER room..even down to the exact location of my hair dryer and tooth brush! I’m telling you, I thought I was in a parallel universe…Now….here comes the “moral to the story….”

Anyone in passing could have seen me go to my room (the original one…), and would have observed the “towel man” answering and opening the door to welcome me in. Oh my, can’t you just hear all the gossipers…Anyone watching the episode play out would have certainly come to the wrong conclusion!! How many times have lives been totally destroyed due to “someone’s” innuendos, careless remarks, or the “passing on” of wrong information?? I try very hard to never listen to a “gossip.” I try even harder to not be one myself. When you start to speak of someone, especially if it is of a defamatory nature, ask yourself: Do I know this to be absolutely true, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Will my words harm another person, or make things worse? Will my words help or encourage? And do I really need to share what I know? I tell you, it’s pretty hard to fight a negative…all you can say is, “I didn’t…” Maybe we should work a little harder on giving someone the benefit of the doubt, instead of rushing to an incorrect conclusion. That’s what I try to do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

We’re Just Going To Have To Jump Over Her!!

Last week’s post got me to thinking of other travel “experiences,” so here’s another story that you might find amusing…

A number of years ago, I worked with a national nursing home company. I was a part of the corporate team, and when we traveled, we usually traveled with the Vice President over a particular region of the country. On this particular trip, I was traveling with two Vice Presidents (they were male…which will be important to know later on in the story). We were working at a facility in Chattanooga, TN, and were staying each night at a high-rise hotel in the downtown area. My room was on the 14th floor of the hotel. As is the case many times for me in hotels, I was having a little difficulty sleeping. There happened to be a huge thunderstorm going on, and I had my curtains open, enjoying the natural “light show.” It was actually very beautiful. It was about 1:00 a.m. in the morning, and I was laying on my bed, just enjoying the show.

All of a sudden, a strobe light near the ceiling of my room, starting going off and on, sirens and alarms began to sound, and an automated voice came over the intercom in my room saying, “Proceed to the nearest stairs and exit the building.” The voice kept saying this statement continuously, and seemed to get louder with each proclamation. Now, as a traveler, I have always prided myself in being safe. When I am assigned a hotel room, I always check to see where the nearest stairs are, and note which direction I should go if there were an emergency. In my mind, I have also gone over and over how I would make such an exit. I would get dressed comfortably (and quickly)…I would get my wallet…I would put comfortable shoes on my feet…I would check the door to make certain that it was not hot…and then I would exit to those stairs. I had rehearsed this time and time again in my head. So…the alarm was going off…and I panicked. I tried to call the desk to see if it was a false alarm, and there was no answer. I looked out my window, fourteen stories down to the street, and I saw fire engines pulling up to the hotel, and I heard peoples’ footsteps rapidly going down those stairs, and I saw people racing out of the hotel. I realized that this was real, that there was a fire, and that I. WAS. ON. THE. FOURTEENTH. FLOOR!!!

I used to sleep in a tee-shirt, so in my panic, I did not think to put anything else on…at least the most of me was covered…but I did need shoes…I could not find any “comfortable” shoes, but my high heels were laying there on the floor, so I thought, “well, that will be better than nothing.” I forgot the wallet…I checked my door to make certain that it was not hot (it wasn’t), and I opened it. Just as I opened my door, a man from across the hall opened his door. He was as prepared as I was…He had on a tee-shirt, boxer shorts, a suit coat, black socks and wingtip shoes. I was in my tee-shirt and high heels. We made quite the couple…I looked at him…he looked at me…and I said, “Let’s go!!” We joined arms and headed for the stairs. (And let’s remember that I had never laid eyes on this man ever before…) As we opened the stairwell door, we joined hundreds of people going down the stairs, trying to get out of the building before we were all burnt to a crisp! We happened to get behind a lady who was wearing a baby blue, chiffon negligee with matching slippers (with little pom-pom puffs on top of them), AND she had remembered her purse. She looked like a big ole’ ball of cotton candy floating down those stairs. We were so close behind her that her chiffon kept getting caught in our faces, and we kept having to bat it away. The other problem was that she was going too slow!! As we rounded another turn in the stairwell, I happened to look at the number on the door that we were passing. I looked at Mr. Boxer Shorts, and said, “We’re ONLY on the 7th floor!” He said, “I know! What should we do?” I looked at him with great determination, and said, “We’re just going to have to jump over her!!” She must have heard what I said, because, at that very moment, she got faster!!

We finally made it down to the bottom floor, and was about to exit, when I realized that it was pouring down raining outside, and all I had on was that little tee-shirt. The fear of actually burning motivated me to move on out into the rain no matter what!! I should not have worried, because everyone standing out in the rain was in the same situation as me…either little clothing at all, or all in disarray. We were just lucky to get out alive! I hugged Mr. Boxer Shorts, thanked him for accompanying me, and I went to find my two Vice Presidents. I was so glad to see them, and find that they made it out safely too, that I hardly minded that they continued to try and “read” my tee-shirt…We looked up, and saw hundreds of people up in their rooms looking down at us. Now, I have to ask you, what kind of person would be up on the higher floors of a hotel, look out their window, and see fire trucks, people in various stages of dress (and undress)…all standing out in the rain…and not move heaven and earth to get out of that hotel??? I found out later that when a fire is “discovered” in a hotel, the alarms only sound on the floor of discovery, the floor above, and the floor below. So, those people did not know why we were all outside!

They were able to contain the fire and we were allowed to return to our rooms for what was left of the night. The next morning I called my secretary and explained to her that we needed to make a change in my travel profile…to NEVER book me in a hotel room higher than the second floor. She said, “Oh, did something happen???”

Throughout our lives, people are placed in our paths. Some can help, support, motivate, love and make your life better. Others can slow you down, make you wait, keep you from attaining the goals that you have established for yourself. Still, there are others that can hurt and destroy you…suck the very life from you, and make you miserable. There is one key factor in this equation, and that would be you. You have the choice to allow those people to harm you, slow you down, help you, or love you…it is all within your power. I am going to either lead, follow, or simply get out of the way, but I do not intend to slow anyone down…or let them slow me down…I am going to love, support, inspire and motivate! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…