THIS AND THAT – TRAVEL IN TRYING TIMES

We are going to a wedding this weekend. And staying in a nice hotel in Boston overnight so we can enjoy the wedding without worrying about the long, dark drive home. A few days ago, I got a bunch of emails from the hotel’s parent chain. I assumed that amidst all this communication there would be a reservation confirmation. I already gave them a credit card, so there was no reason for problems.

aloft hotel aerialshot

Except it wasn’t. When I opened the email, it was not a confirmation. Instead, I’d been sent a login screen for their “club.” You know how it works, right? Your airline, your hotel, your rental car are all part of large corporation. They hope your single night reservation will evolve into a steady customer relationship. Not likely, in our case, but I understand that it’s their job to generate business.

The problem was that this login screen required a username and password. I had neither. The email also lacked the hotel’s address, phone number, directions, and information about parking. All of that information must have been accessible inside the application which I couldn’t access. All they gave me was a corporate phone number. No address. No reservation number. No confirmation number. Oy.

aloft lobby

I called the corporate office. They couldn’t help me. Couldn’t transfer my call to the hotel, but they gave me the hotel’s phone number. So I called. After being put on hold for a ten or so long minutes, a man got on the phone. I explained the problem and he said, “Sorry, I’ll send you a confirmation now.”

Which turned out to be 5 or 6 web pages. In full color with animated advertisements.

My printer has never in its life refused a direct order, but in the face of this massive overload of data, it totally would not load. It tried. Gamely kept trying. Locked up my computer and absolutely would not print.

I called back. “Can’t you just send me a plain text confirmation? And please, this time, include the address, phone number, and any other information I should have at check in?”

So he sent me another email. Without an address. Or email. Or telephone number.

I called again. “Uh … an address … and the check-in, check-out times … and your phone number … would be really helpful.” I paused, pondered. “What’s the parking situation and are you walking distance from the Sheraton?”

Turns out parking costs $40 and is several blocks away. In a lot not adjacent to the hotel. The Sheraton is on the other side of Boston, so we’ll definitely need a taxi. I was getting a headache. Why was this so complicated?

“I’m disabled,” I said. I really hate having to explain, but if we have to haul our stuff blocks from car to hotel, there’s no point in staying overnight. Good bye convenience, hello expensive inconvenience.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, we have disabled parking at the hotel. You could park there. There would be a lot less walking.”

“Can you promise me there will be a space in the disabled parking area?” I’ve had problems with this before, where they have maybe two disabled spots and they’re taken … leaving me totally screwed.

“Oh,” he assured me. “There’ll be space.” And I’m wondering how come he’s sure because I’m anything but.

aloft guest room

Eventually, I copied and pasted the plain text email into a document, manually typed the address and phone number. Then printed it.

Supposedly, they’ll save a handicapped space for us. Orange cone in the space. I’m counting on it. All of this adds up to why the joy has fled from traveling. A night in a good hotel should be fun. Easy. Why make it so complicated?

I’m old enough to remember when travel was something to which we looked forward with happy anticipation. I called a hotel, made a reservation, then off we went. Yes, those were the good old days.

A final note of transcendental techno-weirdness: While I was writing this, I Googled the hotel. My reservation came up online with a note that only I could see it. Why didn’t I think of that? How did it get into the Google cloud when I couldn’t get it into my own computer?

PARTY PHOTOGRAPHY – NOTHING TO SHOOT?

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Parties are where they invite you to take pictures but don’t make it easy. Cluttered locations, poor light, too many folks in tight spaces. I hate battling crowds under any circumstances, but especially when I’m shooting.

So, there I am. At a party. I know one or two people (maybe), and I have to take some pictures. Who are these people? Unless it’s my party … and we don’t give parties anymore … I hope someone will come by to tell me who should be in the pictures.

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Looking around. People are talking in groups. Eating. A few laughing. Some loners. People talking in pairs, in groups.

M's 60th-058

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Mostly of the other cameras are big ones, Canon and Nikon. I’ve got the funny little camera, my Pentax Q S1 with its lenses, plus extra batteries and accessories. It weighs less than a standard point-and-shoot. They sneer, but I don’t care.

Kaitlin 15th birthday

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Parties are stressful. Garry can’t hear in crowds and I can’t remember names. You can tell me your name and within a breath, I’ll say, “I’m sorry, what’s your name again?” If it happens more than twice, I’m too embarrassed to ask again. I shoot and hope Garry can identify the people in the shot. Later.

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There’s always a picture somewhere. Somehow. You have to look for it, sometimes very hard, but it’s there. And it’s better than sitting in a corner demolishing the brownies.

SUCH GOOD FRIENDS

Yesterday, we gathered to celebrate the life of a friend who passed away earlier this year.

Our friend was Joe Day. Joe’s name should be familiar to those who’ve lived in New England during the past forty years. He was a highly respected TV news reporter for four of Boston’s major television stations (WHDH, WCVB, WGBH, WBZ). Joe specialized in politics. He covered presidents, governors, senators, congressmen and local elective officials.

But many of us fondly remember Joe’s “people” stories, vignettes about everyday folks living their lives in relative obscurity. That was Joe at his best. On and off camera, he was a modest, plain-spoken guy despite the richly deserved awards he received which recognized his career.

Yesterday, there were smiles and tears as people shared stories about Joe. We were mostly the generation of “old fart” journalists, recalling the days when news wasn’t just a business. Joe Day was at the core of all those memories.

It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. We have drifted apart geographically and socially in many cases. Sometimes we paused before hugging because we no longer look the way we did in our “head shot” days.

Joe Day’s family marveled at the size of the gathering. It’s one thing to send an email or video tribute. But to turn out in impressive numbers on a hot August Saturday, that says so much about how Joe touched the lives of people around him.

Fame is fleeting and transitory in TV news. Friendship is another thing. Usually it fades quickly after changing jobs, states and retirement. You always mean to stay in touch but it rarely happens.

That’s what makes the celebratory gathering so special. All those folks bonding in their memories of yesterday when our world was young and Joe Day touched our lives, making each one of us a little better just for knowing him.

Such good friends.