Lost Myself

A recent trip requiring an overnight hotel stay became an insightful, educational experience.

Hubby was occupied with a client/friend and it was necessary that I drive to the hotel and check in alone. My first time to do so.

As I stood at the front desk waiting for the manager to pull up our reservation, I allowed my mind to wonder, “What if?” To my knowledge, my name was not on the reservation – Hubby’s was.  And, Hubby was not here.

I’ll admit, I felt a bit like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 2  when she handed me the room keys…”Wow! It worked!”

At first, I had no qualms about checking in alone.  Walking from the car to the front door was no big deal.  Standing in the lobby at the front desk felt safe.  But with keys in hand, I suddenly felt alone – very alone.

And, I felt a bit lost.

Instructions were given:

  • when you leave the front desk, turn right
  • go through those doors
  • turn right at the hallway
  • take the elevator up to the 2nd floor
  • turn left
  • go to the end of the hall
  • room 202 is on the left, one door from the stairwell

Knowing I needed to check the room first, I tucked my purse under my arm and headed right, through the doors to the hallway.  When I came to the intersection of the hallways, my chest tightened.

I was leaving the safety of the open occupied area and entering the unknown and the unseen.

The fact that I was alone became acutely obvious to me. And, the need to be vigilant in knowing my surroundings became urgent as I became aware of potential dangers.

My visual acuity increased – I noticed everything and everyone.  My hearing tuned in to every sound. My mind, alert, captured it all.

The elevator ride was solo and uneventful except for the rush of adrenaline I received as soon as the door closed and I began my brief journey up one flight to the second floor.

When the elevator bumped to a soft stop, I reminded myself to focus, remembered the directions to our room, and gathered myself to take another step into the untried.

The door opened and I glanced into the hallway – empty.  With door key in hand and purse tucked securely under my arm, I stepped off the elevator and turned left into the hall and began a quick walk down to room 202.

I noted the rooms that indicated occupancy

  • TV noise
  • conversation
  • water running
  • children crying/laughing

The rooms on either side of 202 were empty, and so were the two across the hall.

With a quick glance up the hallway, I unlocked my door and slipped inside, leaving the door open long enough to find the light switch and make certain I was alone in the room.

I assured myself I was not afraid, I was wise and careful.

At that time, I felt no fear, but I did feel vulnerable and that was enough to prompt caution.

Women travel alone all the time.  I wondered if they experience the feelings I was experiencing.

A quick check of the room for signs of resident or past bedbugs assured me all was well and this room would be sufficient for our needs.

I opened the drapes and looked out the window to see where the room was in relation to where I had parked.  Our room was on the front of the hotel. I had parked the car just beyond the front door.

It would be an easy thing to unload the car and bring our suitcases into the room.  I had seen a luggage cart in the hallway outside the lobby.

A quick text to Hubby that I was in the room and all was well prompted a call from him.

He assured me there was no need to unload the car until he arrived (his client/friend would drop him off at the hotel when the meeting ended) and that I should relax and enjoy the time alone.

I cared nothing for the TV – wanted no noise.  Reading interested me, but my backpack was still in the car.  In it was all I needed or wanted for my alone time.

With a glance out the window, I decided to go down to the car and get it.

Out the door I went, down the hall to the elevator, and onto the elevator – all without seeing another soul.  The elevator door was closing when a man’s hand caught the door and pushed it back.

In he stepped, with a glance toward me.  I nodded a greeting and watched him.  Perhaps I made him nervous, or maybe he was in a hurry – when the door opened he was off like a flash.

Things had picked up a bit since I had checked in. The hall outside the elevator was crowded.  I slipped through and headed out the front door, car keys in hand.

Hubby had said there was no need to carry things in until he arrived, so I selected a few items to carry in by hand – my backpack, a small cooler, our hanging clothes and his pillows.

Back to our room I went with arms full and confidence increasing.

The second floor hallway was busy. Several doors were open and I could see life happening within the rooms – and without – as children played and parents scolded. The rooms nearest ours were still empty.

Back in the room, I settled in to relax and await Hubby’s arrival.  We would unload the car and then dine out for dinner.

A text from Hubby indicated a delay that would prove to be substantial.  As daylight dimmed I knew I needed to grab a luggage cart and head down to unload the car.

For the first time I felt a twinge of fear. I gathered my courage and my wits, then as I exited our room, I looked back and called over my shoulder to no one – “I’ll be right back!”

As I walked to the elevator I wondered why I had said that…did I really feel that vulnerable?  Was I afraid?  And, if so, what did I fear?  And, I wondered how women who travel alone deal with the fear/concern they feel.

I rode to the 1st floor alone and exited to find several people standing in the hallway. As I passed the luggage carts, I snagged one and headed out with it and car keys in hand.

As I exited the front door, I paused.  Parked on the left of my car was a large truck, and to the right was a large white van – the back doors of which were standing open. I glanced around to see who was in the parking lot and where they were located. Then, I looked back at the van.

Seeing no one in or around the van, I headed off to the right and slipped between two cars, turning left and walking behind the van as I approached the trunk of my car.  Sitting on the floor of the van with his legs dangling over the bumper, was the man who had previously ridden the elevator down with me.  Between his knees was a blue bottle of beer. In his hands he held a guitar and played softly, eyes closed…head drooped.

The rattling of the luggage cart alerted him to my presence and he glanced up.  I nodded and continued past him, stopping at my trunk.  The guitar music stopped momentarily and I wondered if he would be too shy to continue with me near. But, as I busied myself loading the cart he began to play again.

As I pushed the fully loaded cart from the car to the elevator, several stopped to gaze at me and I’m sure wondered why one woman would need so much stuff.  I smiled and continued on to my room where I unloaded the cart.

I started to slip the empty cart into the hallway outside my door and let someone else worry about returning it to its rightful place. But, I knew what it was like to need a luggage cart and for there not to be one available. Frustrating!

So, I grabbed the cart and headed for the elevator. Down I went and when the doors opened I saw a varied group (age and gender) standing in the hallway and a lone woman – a little younger than I, carrying a small suitcase and a briefcase.  She stood with her back against the wall, slightly down from the elevator.  Others in the hallway entered the elevator as I exited with the cart. She, however. remained.  I assumed she was waiting for someone.

I slipped the cart into its slot and returned to the elevator. The woman had not moved…still appeared to be waiting. I punched the elevator button and waited for its arrival.  The door opened and I stepped on, punching the 2 button.  As the door was beginning to close, the woman stepped on and stood facing the elevator door. I asked what floor and with a quick look at the panel gave a simple nod to indicate floor 2 was her floor as well.

I looked her over – a business woman traveling alone.  She was aloof and cautious.  Apparently she had waited until she was certain she would be traveling on the elevator with another woman…until she felt safe. Ram rod straight she stood and stiff as a board. When she exited the elevator, she turned right and hurried down the hall to her room where she fumbled with her door key before entering.

I wondered how often she travels. I wondered if she felt afraid. And, I wondered if she would leave her room before check out time the next day.

Back to my room I headed – this time with a spring in my step.

I had faced my fear and watched it flee.

I felt more myself – in charge, in control, facing the world head on, daring anyone to challenge me – or to prevent me from accomplishing my intended task.

I was alert and aware, but not afraid.

And, I was glad I would not need to spend the night alone in the hotel room and said a silent prayer for women who would be.

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