bluefluff's blue fluff

Sunday, January 15, 2006

My Trip

So the OU wanted me to help run a briefing for new online tutors, which I could only attend if I stayed overnight. The briefing didn't bother me at all (such is progress!) but the prospect of travelling alone to a hotel turned me into a gibbering wreck. (I'm not exaggerating - Alan had to make the booking because I couldn't pick up the phone.) In mitigation, the last time I went to a hotel on my own was in 1973, & I've hardly ever been with other people, either.

Anyway, when I got back home, I exorcised the experience by typing madly ( a therapy I developed a few years ago!) & thought I'd copy it here by way of further getting it out of my system. Only the names have been changed, to protect the innocent :-)

As [she] says, if you get stuck it's possible to ask someone, with the possible exception of finding yourself hopelessly lost in some out of the way corner of the OU campus that doesn't appear on the map you've been given, it's drizzling, you're lugging your overnight bag round with you & there is absolutely nobody around to ask! I toyed with walking back to the hotel & ordering a taxi, because I know my way from where the taxis set down! Eventually I managed to attract the attention of a security guard by banging on a window LOL Apparently I was supposed to be round the corner, over the roundabout & up the road, or some such, so I trudged off in the direction of his waving arms & got there over half an hour after I'd said I would be there (but not late for the meeting). This nice young lass sat me down & brought me a cup of coffee - she turned out (when I'd calmed down enough to get her name badge in focus) to be the new Course Chair!!!

Survived the rest of it, including not knowing how to get out of MK station (never having encountered a railway ticket barrier before) so I went & asked a policeman, who promptly drew my attention to the prominent No Smoking notices I'd not even seen after I lit up having seen several fellow-travellers do the same... I now know you can smoke on the platforms, but not on the stairs or concourse (whereas at Birmingham you can't smoke on either & in all the other railway stations I know, you can smoke on both).

Then got into a scared flap about getting into a taxi in the dark & had to walk up & down for a while psyching myself up (there is actually a reason for that, unlike most of my silly phobic bits & bobs). Then paying the fare was a horrible fumbling business (some of you have seen my lack of public purse manipulation skills!) followed by the deep breath required to actually walk into the hotel & up to the reception desk... every little thing was a swirl of mental torment!! Do I want a wake up call? 'yes i do but what time do i want it omigod i've got to do sums here & work backwards from 9.45 to omigod how long do i need to eat breakfast & what if there's a queue & I'll need to allow for checking out time as well & do i want the call before or after my own alarm goes off & what time will that be anyway & how long will it take me to walk from here to the OU & omigod i've got to say something soon or she'll think i'm deaf & what was the number i first thought of?' (etc.). When they asked if I wanted a newspaper I cut the process short by saying no thanks LOL

Collapsed exhausted in my room (once I'd worked out that you have to stick your door key into a socket on the wall to make the power come on, otherwise the light switches don't work, & of course you can't see what you're supposed to do because the door has slammed shut behind you & there are, by definition, no lights....). Seriously considered ordering food in my room, but was buggered if I was going to pay an extra £3.50 "tray charge" just because I was too much of a wimp to go back downstairs & walk into a bar on my own & go up & order food. Cheated by downing a quick brandy (brought a little bottle with me in case I needed to hide away & drink myself to sleep) & very very slowly approached the bar & ordered a beer because I couldn't see any sign of the promised 24 hour bar snacks... wandered up & down & around self-consciously sipping my beer until I found a very small menu card, hidden behind a wine list... then realised I couldn't read it without my specs & went into fumble mode again. ordered it & did inscrutable things with my "key card" ( a folded up bit of paper with my signature on & the room number, which is supposed to act as currency, except that sometimes I only had to flash it & other times I had to sign something else as well). Hung around the bar waiting for my beef & chutney wrap to appear, but was told it would be brought to my table, so I went & found a table for one - I did carefully scrutinise the people at other tables in case they looked likely to be OU people, then I might (just might) summon up the courage to go & introduce myself, but they were all either family groups with grandma & the kids (the sort of impeccably-behaved designer-clad kids you don't see in the real world, well, not in Grimsby!) or else couples attached to each other by the eyes & speaking body language across the tables.

Settled myself in a corner & was promptly engulfed by a "function": blokes in dickie bows, towing women in glittery frocks, all posturing & preening & haw-hawing & there's me in my jeans & cardy with a fag & a beer waiting for a butty... after about half an hour they all trooped off following some guy in a kilt & funny socks, so I ventured up to the bar again, to be told that my food would be ready "soon". Bought another beer & took it to a table much nearer the bar, where I could throw reproachful glances in the direction of the staff every couple of minutes, & my "wrap" suddenly appeared from the opposite direction. Not so much a sandwich as a heap of beef slices skewered together with some kind of soggy carbohydrate product top & bottom, dripping mayo & runny chutney & everything falling out of the sides - are you mean to eat it with a knife & fork or with your fingers? Managed to navigate most of it to my mouth by fair means or foul, losing none onto my lap in the process & only admitting defeat on the plastic gristle (sandwich beef never had plastic gristle in my day). Was very glad the corporate haw-haws were by now lurching in & out to the bar in silly paper hats & the other bar occupants were fully wrapped up in each other, as there was no way I could have managed conversation as well, & escaped back to my room asap. Perversely, I felt faintly cheated that I'd made the effort to go down & then found nobody I could strike up a conversation with!

Exchanged a couple of texts with hazeofpink (thanks h!), rang home to tell daughter #3 I was having an early night, then daydreamer phoned me up!! (thanks d!). Played with the keyboard since it was stamped with "only works with this hotel TV set" so I assumed it was meant to do something & briefly thought it might even give me access to tv internet, but couldn't make it do anything. Read the instructions on the broadband modem & located the cable hanging up in a plastic bag in the wardrobe (?!) but at £15 a night for connection, was glad I'd not borrowed a laptop. Had a brandy, clocking up a grossly inflated £1.65 for a tiny bottle of mineral water from the minibar cunningly concealed in the dressing table - would never have found it if I'd not gone round nosily opening everything to see if they still put Gideons Bibles in hotel rooms LOL (They don't.) Felt disinclined to pay for it, but there was a price list that threatened to subtract unspecified amounts of money from your credit card if you failed to settle up properly on checking out (we have your credit card details! Do not mess with us!!).

Flicked through all the channels on the TV - all five of them plus the option of paying another unspecified amount of money to watch a blockbuster or an "adult movie" - like that's going to make you feel better when you're stuck in a hotel room on your own! Pressed the Teletext button thinking I could at least catch up with the news... "NO TELETEXT" dsplayed in bright blue on all five channels. Had another brandy. Sent Alan a text. Pressed the Radio button & listened to some cheesy dance music from the Ministry of Sound via MK Radio something or other, hoping this wasn't going to be deducted from my credit card, too. Listened several times to their self-referential advert about wanting to employ someone to sell advertising time - since that's all they were advertising, it was obviously badly needed.
Got bored. Went to bed. Got up again & played Goldilocks with the lighting arrangements (This one's too bright. This one's too dark. This one would be perfect but the bulb's gone.)

Fell asleep eventually, after the impeccable kids had fnished their decidedly unimpeccable chasing each other noisily up & down the corridors. Woke once & remembered not to turn on the light on in the loo as it activates an annoyingly whiny extractor fan that carries on for 5 minutes afterwards. At 8.22 my mobile went & I peered blurrily at a picture of "sunrise over Gran Canaria" (thanks h!) once I'd worked out that it wasn't my alarm going off. At 8.25 my alarm did go off, just as I was trying to deactivate it. At 8.30 my wake up call came in. Horrified at how loud the phone was, I crossed the bedroom in one stride, grabbed the receiver & said "Thanks" in what I hoped was a simultaneously bright, cheery & grateful voice. "Good morning. This is an automated message," the phone went. "Press any key if you would like this message repeating in ten minutes time." Well, how was I to know it was a bloody machine?!!

Muddled my way through breakfast & checking out in much the same way as the rest of the stay, then set out in plenty of time for the short stroll to campus...

The meeting was fine! Best bit of the day? Being approached by a course manager who last met me two years ago when I did my first "national event" (though we've been in frequent email contact ever since) & said "I cannot believe this is the same Lynne Dixon! You look different, you sound different, you act different, but I know it's you. What happened?"

You know what? I feel different, too! :-)


  • At 16 January, 2006 00:19, Blogger Daydreamer said…

    You did brilliantly to get yourself through your ordeal :]

  • At 16 January, 2006 02:14, Blogger Bluefluff said…

    Thanks, d - there were a lot of demons lurking in those 24 hours!

  • At 16 January, 2006 11:35, Blogger Morning-Loves-It said…

    Oh my goodness! This is brilliant! Talk about being on the periphories! You should be doing it!

    I hung onto every word and identified with loads of it too.

    Purse-fumbling! Yep. Talking to an automated wake-up call! Yep! The lights in hotel rooms only working with the room key! Yep! And so much more.

    Creased me up with the hidden charges every time you use anything and the threat of taking money from your credit card.

    Whatever your demons then if they bring on writing like this then that's a bonus. Thanks for such an amusing read - you've put a smile on my face!!

    Gonna read it again now ;-)

  • At 16 January, 2006 11:46, Blogger Nogbad said…

    Well done Lynne - I know something of the grief this kind of gig causes you but now I can say "Told you so!" - those fans in bathrooms are the worst though, especially in the middle of the night! :-)

  • At 16 January, 2006 12:31, Blogger Bluefluff said…

    Morning - thanks ever so much! I'm glad I entertained you :-)

    Nog - :-P (but thanks!)

  • At 17 January, 2006 13:50, Blogger west coaster said…

    a fun read. you obviously felt that, and it was kind of cathartic, it seems, the way you blabbed it all out. i hate being in hotels on my own and i do it a lot. the experience usually matches yours.

  • At 17 January, 2006 18:10, Blogger Hazeofpink said…

    Just have to say this is brilliantly funny, so much of it really hit the nerve! I loved reading this...especially the positive conclusion!! Great!!!!:-)


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