Priceline.com, my personal travel planner, had placed me at the Hotel Monaco, an incredibly charming downtown Denver hotel, which has the feel of a fine old restoration, though it is in fact a nearly new facility. This hotel was quite reasonably priced, and yet so luxurious. It's too bad I was there for business travel only. I am always amused when the priceline.com room rate is a fraction of the "quoted corporate rate". I remember when "corporate rates" actually meant one got a genuine discount, so that one did not have to treat each hotel room purchasing experience as a trip to a Tijuana flea market. The priceline.com approach, based on "look, I'll pay x for y stars in z neighborhood" is much simpler to me than constantly having to barter and shop around on prices.
The meeting yesterday lasted well into the evening, without proper meal breaks, and, without going into the details, was extraordinarily successful. Somehow in the course of things I looked at my tickets and decided that my departure from Denver was at 10:15 p.m. I took a taxi ride, during which the cab driver filled me in on urban renewal, which councilperson to pay off to get a permit, his role in the construction of the airport, why he moved from Illinois, the effects of his divorce on his balance sheet, the politial implications of changes in the Denver taxicab permit system, the location of the electronic vehicle identification sensors, and all the other sundry items which can be viewed from the windows of the highway to the airport along the prairie just outside of Denver. I have a weakness and a fondness for this type of stream of life narrative, so I was vastly entertained, and tried to hold up my end of the conversation on the perfidy of political people, the high tech nature of security, how Denver prairie looks like Allen prairie, and "airports I have known".
I was less entertained when I got to the airport at 9:30 and realized that my flight had left at 7:20 p.m., and that its ARRIVAL time was 10:15 p.m. I try hard not to get angry at myself for things I do when I am very tired, so I just picked up the telephone and called American Airlines (all the ticketing representatives having wisely departed when all the flights had gone).
This has been a week in which virtually every call I make ends up in a conversation with a computer, which politely cajoles me to punch buttons, make bold statements of desire and to repeat any answer that was not "yes", "no" or "continue". Many computers are quite congenial, but the American Airlines computer last night was entirely unable to decipher the ticket confirmation number despite repetition. I felt a bit dismayed at the experience of going through a lengthy menu of interesting data about my location, intention, and hopes and dreams, only to be dashed by a computer that only "hears" the affirmative and negative but "asks" for the sun, the moon and the stars. This was particularly frustrating when on my trip out to Denver, the computer had told me my gate information and made me feel that I really would have a nice day. I was intrigued that instead of "goodbye" or "thanks for using American Airlines!", it said "Done!", but efficiency can make up for minor matters of form. My return trip reservation disappointment was therefore almost as disconcerting as the charming voice on my voice mail that perpetually insists that when I use my cell phone from a remote location, I am entering the wrong voice mail password code.
I did finally reach a living breathing (or at least undead) person, and made a reservation for 5:55 a.m. this morning. Then my fortune sunk into me a bit. I had a nice inexpensive priceline.com room already paid for back in downtown Denver. Unfortunately, the cost of a cab back is itself nearly the price of a motel room. I was leaving too early to ride out from downtown anyway. I went to the little "phone a motel" kiosk, and began phoning.
Nearly everywhere in the airport area was solidly booked.
Finally, I found a smoking room at a Comfort Inn. I don't smoke, but any port in a storm. I am not a hotel snob, but I did notice that when the Comfort Inn put me up at a "rack rate" (having me more or less over the barrel) at a price only slightly less than my room in the Hotel Monaco, there was a deep mismatch in value someplace.
I pondered this over animal crackers, a diet Coke, and the next to last episode of Politically Incorrect. I am going to miss Politically Incorrect.
This morning I awoke at 4:00, but the 4:30 shuttle was late getting off because one family felt that 4:30 really means 4:45 (I can sympathize, it sometimes means 5 or so to me).
I then figured out I had left behind a jacket with my ticketless confirmation in it, so I had to stand in the interminably long airport line. The helpful line person kept pulling people from a later flight and moving them to the front of the line. I was too timid or too tired to ask for similar treatment. I finally made it to my plane, with the full 90 seconds to spare.
On the flight back, when I was not sleeping, I read an issue of a really good science fiction magazine, and felt thankful that it is Friday, and it is okay to be utterly exhausted.