Panic room

I traveled to Las Vegas today for the IBM Interconnect conference. It wasn’t even close to being the worst travel day ever. Not even in the bottom 10. But it definitely kicked my butt.  I suspect my autism contributed to the level of distress so this is the right blog for this post.  I have on occasion blogged about my bad days just to get them out of my head so I could move on.  Turns out those are the posts that get responses and the consistent feedback is that it was helpful knowing someone else has the same problems.   Here then is another post in the bad day series.  If you want something more upbeat, head over to The Odd is Silent.

I made it all the way to McCarren airport without a hitch.  During the flight I alternated between wondering what I’d do all alone on a Saturday night on the Vegas strip and trying to get caught up on last-minute work.  The thing is, I never use the laptop on the plane and I should know better than to depart that far from my established routine.  I exited the plane just like normal – Water bottle? Check. Man-purse full of electronics, snacks, medicines, and itinerary? Check. Backpack? Check.  Phone? Check.  Headphones and miscellaneous cables? Check.

Laptop? Didn’t check.

I was a long walk, a tram ride and a short hike away from the gate before I figured it out. I practically ran back to gate, trying not to freak out. Heart racing. A massive cold sweat, except it’s McCarren airport during the day so there’s nothing cold about it. The gate person who went to fetch the laptop must have got to talking to someone because she took a really long time to return. All I could think while she was gone was that they were looking for it and someone had picked up on their way out. I can recover from a lost or crashed laptop but it isn’t cheap, it isn’t quick, and it isn’t something I want to do from the other side of the continent.  Definitely not the way to start a conference at which I expect to line up half my business for the year.  Eventually she returned, laptop in hand, and I collapsed in relief.  I had to take a seat for a few minutes and just breathe slowly with my eyes closed.  Eventually I got up and headed a bit unsteadily toward the tram and baggage claim.

I’m here for 6 days and anticipating bringing back some new clothes, including an #ibmchampion shirt, and maybe some books, so I have the large suitcase.  I figured it would be spinning around the carousel all alone by the time I got there but instead I discovered the baggage claim area is under construction and half the carousels are down. Mine was swamped with 3 planes worth of people and one side was blocked by construction fencing.  The thing was mobbed.  I hate crows on my best days.  In my present condition, this situation seemed lethal.  No way I was going to wade into that throng so I hung out off to one side and waited.

For every person who picked up a bag, it seemed two more showed up. About 1/2 hour after the first bag appeared the crowd was thick as ever.  I watched my bag orbit the carousel several times, unable to get close enough to retrieve it. After 40 minutes and no end in sight, I waded to the back of the crowd. There was a slow turnover as the people up front collected their bags and left, allowing the people in back to advance.  As people moved forward, new ones refilled the line from behind.  The mass of us moved slowly forward like a human glacier. By the time I made it to the front, I’d seen my bag complete 4 more orbits. There was no maneuvering or leaving the way I’d come in.  I was being shoved from all sides except the front so I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth and tried to ignore the people pressing in around me. My earlier purgatory of panic at the gate now seemed like the good old days. I stopped counting signs of stroke and heart attack that I was having and started counting the ones I wasn’t having. It was a smaller list.

When I finally made it to the front, I’d seen my bag pass by so many times I knew exactly when to expect it.  That didn’t help.  Other bags had come down the chute and mine was at the bottom of a small pile.  Normally this isn’t a problem for me but people were pressed in on me from all sides.  Less space means less time to grab the bag and fewer places to put it.  Instead of lifting the bag off the carousel, the bag lifted me onto the carousel, jostling several other passengers.  I looked like the worst-ever wet t-shirt contestant and a couple of the people I bumped into reacted with disgust when they figured out the something-wet they felt was me.  I got back up and waited for the next pass of the bag.  Fortunately, some of the people I’d knocked into fetched their bags and left so I didn’t have to feel the contempt in their gaze while we waited.

When I finally retrieved my bag I fought free from the crowd, made my way to a quiet corner and collapsed into a chair hoping to make my impending death a bit more comfortable.  I really wanted to hear my wife’s voice but also didn’t want to distress her.  Not that I could have operated the phone at that point since my hands were shaking.  So I just put my headphones in and turned the music up.  I find that if I can sync the music up to my mood, I can shift my excitement away from whatever is distressing me.  Once I’m more focused on the music than the problem I then ratchet down the panic by picking successively calmer tunes.  Triumph. Blinding Light Show.  A song about a light show so intense that the entire audience dies during the performance.

    And the blind shall
Lead the sighted
As we lose the candle glow
No one knows tomorrow
In the blinding light show

I don’t know how many people attended the Blinding light Show but after sacrificing all of them, I felt better.  Best of all, I felt drier.  It may be hot in McCarran but it’s dry as a bone.  I collected my things, queued in the nearly-nonexistent taxi line for 5  minutes and after a short ride finally made it to the hotel.  Finally, I thought, I can unpack and pass out on the bed.

Which was an excellent plan, right up until the moment that it wasn’t.  This is Vegas.  I expect the rooms to be on the far side of the casino from the front desk and they were.  I expect to swim through indoor smoke as thick as pudding on my way to my room, and I did.  I expect the room to be at the farthest end of a long hall appointed with the most luxurious carpet that feels great under your feet but holds onto your luggage as if it has tentacles, and it was.  I expect a room with an adjoining door to have a deadbolt – and it didn’t.

Apparently, the management of the Tropicana (a Hilton/Doubletree property) felt the deadbolt was more security than their guests needed and removed it.  The only thing between me and the guests in the adjoining room was a hollow-core interior door, mounted to a foam-core door frame, and a simple closet-quality latch.  The kind you might have on a pantry or laundry closet door.

In fairness, when the door is closed, the guests on the other side have no exposed latch or knobs to pick.  All they see is trim plates.  And that might be OK if any of the components involved were sturdier.  Usually the door to an adjoining room is comparable to an exterior door, possibly even a fire door.  The door frame is usually either heavy steel or solid wood.  The door hardware usually includes a deadbolt because the kind of latch that springs in to allow the door to close without turning the handle is easily picked.  Usually the door hardware is comparable to that of an exterior door.  None of this was true in this case.  I’m sure the hotel doesn’t have problems with this setup or else they wouldn’t allow it to exist.  At one point the door did have a deadbolt and someone made a deliberate decision to replace it with trim plates.  But after nearly losing my laptop on the plane and my life in baggage claim, no way I’m unpacking into this room.

The clerk who took my call was gracious enough but a bit clueless.  He said he’d call me back because he needed to check with someone.  When I asked what for he said he wanted to see if this was a standard feature of the Bungalow suites.  Wait, what?  A near total lack of security might be a feature?  I explained that regardless of the answer the room wasn’t acceptable so he moved me and gave me a $50 dining credit.  That was a welcome consolation gift since by now I was tired, hungry, cranky, and exhausted.  I picked the pasta thinking I’d be able to get two meals out of the credit.

When dinner arrived it totaled to $48.  For a $20 dish of pasta.  I know they tack on delivery and a gratuity but this seemed impossible.  Sure enough, it was.  The prices on the bill were higher than those on the in-room menu.  My server apologized and promised to make an adjustment but didn’t offer to add additional dining credit.  I guess that’s reserved for managers and the Front Desk but at least he didn’t try to squeeze me for even more of a gratuity than they add on automatically.

The pasta was good.  So I have that going for me.  And I’m in Vegas, surrounded by casinos, and I seem to be running a deficit of good luck.  The way I figure it, I’m due about now.  I’ve locked all my cash up in the safe except for $20 which I’m taking downstairs as soon as I submit this post.  I’m going to blow that entire $20 – no more and no less – on quarter slots.  If my theory is correct, my good-luck deficit will correct itself and I’ll take all my winnings back to my room, throw them on the bed, and roll around in them like Scrooge McDuck.  There’s a selfie you don’t want to see.  Or maybe I’ll just lose $20.  Either way it has to be better than the trip here and right now that’s all I really care about.   Wish me luck.

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3 Responses to Panic room

  1. Morag says:

    Good luck. Play the machines on the ends of rows, they’re set to a higher chance of winning. Worked for us once.

    • T.Rob says:

      Thx for the tip! So far no luck, other than to be in Vegas on a Saturday night and see the spectacle walk by. Some of these people look like they are straight out of the pages of a fashion magazine and some look like they just clawed their way out of a fresh grave. Braaaaaaiiiiiinnnnnnzzzzzzz!!!

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