Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Wi-Fi and Wayport Neighborhood

I came to Omaha Thursday to present on a humor panel at the Omaha LitFest (if you are anywhere near here next year during LitFest and like to read or enjoy art, this is a MUST STOP! and am now gearing up to pack up to fly home today. I am happily tired (stayed up three hours past my bedtime last night), creatively refreshed and still wallowing in the afterglow of this successful and eclectically ripe gathering. Yes, it was a business trip for me, but one which smacked of vacation since I got to rub shoulders with Those I Read, attend juicy, informative, brave, vulnerable and lively panels and hang out in Omaha’s Old Market area, which itself is worth the trip.

Packing up is no small chore for me since tidiness isn’t my mantra. When I arrive in a hotel/motel room I fling things here and there in an attempt to create a familiar nest of sorts. If I’m only in for a night or two, no housekeeping, please. Don’t make me pick up my stuff (cram my makeup back in a bag, “hide” -- HA! Like THAT is humanly possible in a hotel room! -- my valuables and undies) just so you can make my bed. I like things ruffled.

As I gather and pack this morning, I remember my newest and latest half-hour friend. We first met the day of my arrival (hers, too) in the internet café off the lobby of this Embassy Suites, she a tall lanky blonde, me a short fluffy salt-and-pepper head. We were looking to slam a good dose of caffeine while accessing the “free” Wi-Fi which we were errantly, as it turns out, told existed in the internet café.

By happenstance we two strangers parked our backsides and laptops in contingent work stations and discovered out loud and together that all internet roads led to payment. “You got anything?” “$9.95 for twenty four hours.” “Wait, I’m picking up another . . .” “No, not gonna work.” “They’ve got us.” It fries my hide to pay extra for Wi-Fi or Wayport in spendy hotels. Yes, there was free internet available in the internet café just off the lobby, but it's on one computer back in the corner, the one with a landline, the one with the human line. “Might as well pay the $9.95 for the Wayport in my room. Time is short today.” “Yes.” Ta-ta.

The next morning at breakfast (the one included with the price of all Embassy Suites stays and which seems much more difficult to supply every morning than a port), there was my new friend. “Well good MORNING!” We smiled, shared a breakfast table and pieces of our lives as though we’d known each other for decades. Turns out we have numerous things in common. We exchanged website info, promised to keep in touch and off we went, she to finish her work, check out and head home, me to move on with my next Big Literary Day. Life on the road is a strange beast. But sometimes, just sometimes, two temporary nests built in the same tree on the same night make for a friendly, albeit ever so temporary, neighborhood.

When I finally pick up my hotel bill , the one I’m looking at right now on the floor, the one they slid under the door in the wee hours like a stealth bird adding one more twig to my messy nest, I shall find thirty bucks tacked on to it for my internet services. I could grind my teeth over this again, but hey, I’m going home today and I’m working to leave these niggling nags behind. My husband’s been holding down the Family Nest and he’s dealt with his own issues.

Besides, I’ve already checked out my new friend’s website (Wow! I’m IMPRESSED!) and sent her a quick e-mail, and now I’m sending you this Traveling Laugh. If it hadn’t been for the unfulfilled promise of free Wi-Fi, none of this (new friend, writing in my PJs) would have happened. These memories and that attitude, my fellow traveler, are what I’m most hoping to pack up and take home with me. Life’s too short to lug a load of sour grapes around. My suitcases are already heavy enough.

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