From a few days ago:
Alan is attending his first conference for leadership training to help with his new position as CMO of his hospital. Today’s module is on finances, which is timely, since they’re in the throes of budgeting for the next fiscal year. The hospital graciously sent Alan and is paying his expenses, so for the first time in our lives, we’re actually staying at the hotel where the meetings are being held. The price was high, but the corporate rate was actually lower than anything I could get by accessing on-line sources such as cheaphotels.com, and so we accepted the rate, and after Alan was able to get off work yesterday, we drove to Chicago.
Now, I had no appreciation for just how huge a gift Lizzie had been giving me all these years by putting us up when our family was “in town” (Chicago) for anything. Even if GR is the second largest city in MI, it’s definitely the country compared to Chicago! As we exited our car, we were approached by the immaculately dressed valet attendants. “Oh, that’s okay,” I said cheerily, “We’ll park ourselves.”
He smiled pleasantly, “The Hyatt Regency only has valet service.” Humbly, we allowed the bellman to whisk away our luggage and the valet to take our keys. The sign read: $48 per day.” Actually, it listed parking by the hour, etc. I think it was $22 for an hour and $36 for three hours, or something like that, but my eyes wandered quickly down to the bottom line where it said that for five or more hours, the price was $48. Hmmm. Five times $50 equals $250 to park…
The bellman showed us to the front desk, and we gave him a generous tip (or so we hoped, having no clue what would considered generous in these parts), thinking he would deliver our luggage to our room. However, he just let us to the front desk, and while we checked in, he passed us off to another bellman. “Oh, brother,” I thought to myself, “Do we have enough cash left to pay him too?” Cheery Charlie escorted us briskly down the hall like a tour guide, rattling off stats and orienting us the various wings, amenities, and opportunities at the hotel. Then, up the elevator we went to our room on the 11th floor. Charlie unloaded the luggage for us, turning on the lights, adjusting the blinds, highlighting the snacks and liquor cabinet and explaining how to connect to the internet, etc.
“Is the internet free?” I asked, by this time a bit warily.
“No, they get you on this one too!” he smiled with an understanding twinkle in his eye. “I think it’s about $14 per day!” (This, folks, is why it’s taken until now for me to write a post! I wouldn’t have hopped on today, except Joel needed me to proof one of his last papers for the year…and how could I resist that pleasant privilege? I get most of my current education free by reading my kids’ papers!)
Charlie, our bell hop, told us that the Hyatt has 2,013 rooms and they’re full every day. It’s a very popular conference center, maybe the best. At least, it has the world’s longest bar, which we’d be sure to really enjoy. We smiled politely, but since neither of us drink, the bar was probably not where we were likely to spend an extra fifty bucks each day!
“Breakfast is from six to ten,” he chattered on lightly.
“Is there a free continental breakfast?”
“No, but there’s room service!” He showed me the menu in the black leather case, and while Alan gave him the last of his money (well, maybe not all of it) and sent him on his merry way, I perused the menu: “Seasonal fruits and berries $12.00…Starbucks coffee: $8.00, Continental breakfast $16.00. Two eggs, any style: $15.00 Pepsi: $4.75 Strawberry shortcake $9.00…How about a bottle of champagne just to celebrate? $225. Well…let’s go for something cheaper…Vodka? $190. Red wine? Why, that looks like a steal at only $88. I take it back. It looks like you could spend a lot more than $50 at the bar if you wanted!
I smiled smugly to myself. Alan’s breakfasts and lunches are all provided at the conference, and I brought the entire 5 days’ worth of my food along, complete with granola, ultra-pasturized milk, fresh strawberries, oranges, sandwich fixings, snacky stuff, and various teas and beverages. Alan usually tells me not to bother bringing along food, but this time he didn’t complain at all. I think I would have refused to eat before I’d spend those prices for meals. Besides, every night we’ll go out for dinner and probably eat enough for an entire day anyway!
So, a bit of culture shock, but I do love Chicago! Here’s a picture taken at the end of our hall on the 11th floor. We’re right in the heart of town and easy walking distance to everything! It’ll be a great stay, but we may not come to Chicago for a conference too often. We don’t even feel comfortable having our beloved hospital foot the bill for this much luxury. We’re still country kids at heart!