Lookin’ OutI just spent the last three nights in a hotel outside of Philadelphia.  A Comfort Inn to be exact. People who travel a lot have scoffed at my choice of accommodations but in all honesty, I have a philosophy about hotels; I’m unconscious ninety percent of the time I’m in one.  I don’t care about anything except a clean bed and a private bathroom.

My room had a TV in it (Yes, I know, they all do).  Most everyone who knows me has had a taste of my opinion about television.  I loathe it and find it alarming that monitors are popping up everywhere.  Last time Ray and I visited Lost Angeles, we went to a bar in Pasadena.  I forget the name of the place but I remember how cute it was.  Great lounge, nice furniture and a modest dance floor (OK, modest and dance floor hardly go together in a gay bar but I’m trying to set the tone here).  There was also a big shiny flat screen television mounted up high on the wall over the bar.  Everyone was sitting there transfixed like a gaggle of well dressed zombies gazing at the screen.  No one was making any sort of eye contact with each other.  There was no talking, no music and no laughter with the exception of the occasional outburst directed at the television.  Within five minutes, even Ray and I ended up just sitting there…transfixed.

Doesn’t that sound like a good time?

While in my hotel room, I found myself turning the on the TV every night. That’s not so bad except…I couldn’t turn it off.  What did I watch?  Everything and nothing—and now I have a whole new understanding of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  No wonder people have problems paying attention!  Everywhere you go, in people’s homes, in bars and in restaurants, there are TVs.  In some places they have multiple sets going all at once with different channels playing.  It’s total sensory overload.

I’d like to propose a new movement to the hospitality industry; Get hotels to offer No Television rooms.

“Bonjour, Comfort Inn Paris (Hey, why not?), may I help you?”
“Yes, I’d like to book a room for the 16th of next month.”
“Great, would you like a single or double bed?”
“Single.  King if possible.”
“Smoking or non-smoking?”
“Non-smoking please.”
“Would you like a TV?”
“No thank you.  I’m trying to quit.”
“Very good sir.  We have you down for the 16th, king size bed, no smoking and no TV.”
“Thank you.”
“Au revoir”

I know, I know; I’m living in a dream world—but it’s my dream world and I can make it whatever I want.

After three nights of TV at the Comfy Inn, I was ready to go home.  I got to the airport on time and waited by my gate.  I normally travel with Ray—actually, normally isn’t the word; I always travel with Ray who has flown over one million miles on American Airlines thus achieving a lifelong Grand Pooh-Bah status in the Frequent Flyer world.  When we lived in Chicago and he traveled a lot on business, we used to relax in the Admiral’s Club before our flight.  If he had a gazillion miles banked up and we had a nice attendant at the gate, he would occasionally upgrade us to first class.  We’re always in the group that got to board the plane first.  He (we) no longer have the club and the first class privileges but he is forever part of group 1 and since I’m with him I get to board at the same time.

The attendant finally arrived and started calling out groups.  Everybody got up and started shuffling towards the gate.  I examined my ticket.

I was group 6.

At first I was sort of let down, put in my place as it were.  Then I realized, the plane was going to take off at 9:20 regardless of who boarded first.  It really didn’t matter what group I was in and me being a total exhibitionist now had the opportunity to model my tight black t-shirt and fabulous knock-off Tumi briefcase down the center isle on the way to my seat. 

I was in 9F—a window seat.  The two people already snuggled in their seats reading their complementary shopping catalogues had to get up and make way for me.  You just know the guy in the middle was praying for the door shut so he could scoot over to the window.  I’m sure the lady in the isle seat was as well. 

I sat down and to my horror, noticed the couple in front of me had a baby with them.  The kid was OK during most of the flight but as the plane descended she got rather fussy and I got annoyed.  I hate screaming children.  In fact, I’m not of a kid person at all.  Her father (who was kinda’ cute) had her over his shoulder and was bouncing her up and down so basically her little screaming mouth was aimed directly at my head.

Then, something strange happened.  I felt a pang of empathy.  I smiled at the little girl.  Shot her a real big Cobban grin.  She immediately stopped crying and looked at me with her big beautiful eyes.  We connected.  We were online with each other.  I know babies don’t talk but I think they understand facial expressions so I gave her a “I know how you feel.  Your ears are all plugged up, huh?” look.  She seemed receptive to that.  I was amazed.  Were we actually communicating telepathically?

She started to fuss again.  Next thing I knew she was crying.  I thought “This doesn’t work.” but then I realized the pressure was still changing in the cabin and her little ears were getting even more plugged up. 

The flight attendant’s voice came over the PA system instructing us to shut down our electronic equipment. (I was writing this entry.)  I suddenly realized that when I blog, it’s a form of communicating what was happening in my life.  The little girl’s crying was the exact same thing but on a much different level.  Her experience was having an effect on her ears and to communicate how she felt she did the one and only thing she knew how to.  She screamed.  It was like she was doing a live Podcast.  I had a whole new respect for the little girl and her crying ceased to bother me which is totally unusual.  I admit whole-heatedly that I am a very selfish person.  Suddely I was feeling compassion for this…this…baby.  Could it be, that at the tender age of 41, I’m finally growing up?

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