Ok, so I admit it. I have a ton to write about but I also have writer's block to high heaven. I haven't forgotten about the Creation Museum, but I have been rather stymied. I thought it might last forever, but then I came back to Chicago today. The last time I was here, a man smeared cocoa butter on my shoes. Chicago could not possibly deliver again...
I try my key card in the door for room 1111. The door makes a rude sort of noise, like R2-D2 might if he could pass kidney stones. I try the handle, and nothing happens. I try again, two times - three times - and then I turn to look at the massive atrium behind me. The front desk is 11 floors down. That's an awfully long way to go on a humid Chicago night when you've had two beers and want to refresh before you have a few more.
But what else can I do? I turn and try the key card once more, and then realize it is hopeless. My entire day has been one of madness and futility, almost as if the Gather gods themselves had scripted it.
My flight to Chicago Midway from Newark was delayed while we were physically getting on the aircraft. The reason? Storms in Chicago. Storms they had not noticed, apparently, until some time between the first passenger to get on the aircraft and somewhere around the folks from Aisle 15.
When we got back on the flight an hour later, I got to my seat and reveled in my luck. I had the exit row seat with no seat in front of it (frequent fliers will know the one I mean.) What this also meant, though, was that I had no tray table. Sure, there was one folded into the arm rest, but at my size, the thing would be tilted at a 45-degree angle instead of laying flat on my lap.
And this meant I was breaking my promise to myself. I had told myself I would take out my pad and write notes for a Gather article, because I had been trapped in a spiraling world of writer's block about my Kentucky visit. About the Creation Museum. About the-
"I'm getting my dog pregnant today."
This breaks my concentration. The woman in the row in front of me - the one next to the empty spot where a seat should be - is looking at me intently. I had ignored her completely because she had been on the phone for more or less the entire hour in the terminal, talking to someone about something. But it seemed that now she was trying to explain it to me, perhaps because she sensed I was ignoring her.
I processed what she said, and without a single change in facial expression I conveyed a look that said "I fear you and your sorcery. I will eat my own face before I respond to your lunacies."
She laughed, reading my expression as one of confusion, horror and mortality. "No, no, no," she said, "I'm getting it artificially inseminated, in California. It's a Tibetan Terrier."
This was the end of the conversation. She ended it, just like that. The cosmos had dumped the whole affair in my lap quite shamelessly. Little did I know it would only be the second-weirdest conversation I would have today.
The sound of a deadbolt being un-deadbolted. It snaps me back to the problem at hand.
The door to Room 1111 opens. Standing there, in a Mets hat, is a tall, gangly fellow who is dressed like a competitor in the Accountant's Olympics. He is wearing gym clothes, but they moreso look adequate for a good punt down the Thames or an invigorating ride on one of those bicycles with a huge front wheel (penny farthings, I believe.)
And then it happens, as quickly as the dog pregnancy conversation.
Me: "Uh...isn't this room 1111?"
Me: "Uh...my card says 1111 too..."
Him: "It must be a hotel error. Did you just arrive?"
Me: "Yeah...I'm in town to do training tomorrow at a client here."
Him: "Yeah, me too. You're in the wrong hotel. I don't think we were supposed to meet."
And then he closes the door.
I stand in the hallway, trying to figure it all out. Another Embassy Suites. Another room 1111. Another man in town to train clients - a man from New York, if the Mets hat has anything to say about it. I think about turning and leaping off the balcony, into the atrium, to splash dead eleven stories below in the fountain in this strange hotel that is my hotel, but is not my hotel. But I don't.
I go downstairs to the front desk, and decide to ask them for help in the only way I know how. The calm, cool and collected way of the road-weary cynic.
"What the hell kind of Twilight Zone hell goes on here?"
It is soon explained to me that I am at the Embassy Suites Downtown. The one with the elevators that go up to the 11th floor, and with curtains in every window. I want the Embassy Suites Downtown - Lakefront. The one with the elevators that go up to the 14th floor (I think), and with wooden blinds in every window.
It is about eight blocks away. A second Embassy Suites. As if Mr. Embassy Suites made one hotel and then was so fond of it that he sat down right away and built himself another.
I find my way back to my hotel, out of the Twilight Zone, out of the circles of Hell. I sit here, writing my Gather article. Somewhere, eight blocks away, my doppelganger hatches evil plans. Or perhaps he just sits down and writes something semi-humorous for a site called Acquire.com - a site only people in his universe can access.
Perhaps it is karma. After all, was it not two weeks ago in Kentucky that I got a knock at my hotel room door, and was asked to teach people how to play poker? Am I not the intruder this time - the weird element in the equation?
It's enough to make a man drink, and I'm going to. I'm off to the bars now, and yes, I will be walking across that same bridge again. If there is any justice in this world, I will see John the homeless man there, spreading nutella on the doppelganger's shoes, and I will walk by contentedly, a part of a universe they cannot see.