“I feel terrible for you!” sighed Sherry, watching me lug my suitcase through the sultry New York streets. “I’m so sorry we have no place for you to sleep tonight!”
I chuckled. “Literally,” I said, “this is the hundredth time I’ve showed up in a city and had nowhere to stay. And yet, miraculously, it always works out in the end.”
Sherry looked dubious and murmured, “I really hope you’ll be all right.”
It was the first night of the massive TBEX10 world travel blogger conference in New York City, and we were headed to the gala meet-and-greet at Manhattan’s posh Omni Hotel.
We entered, and I stored my suitcase in the coat-check room (“Oof, this bag is HEAVY!” grunted the bellhop). Then we burst into a glorious scene of fancy dresses, marvelous munchies, and awesome travel world people. We embraced old friends, met wonderful new ones, and pounced on the waitresses every time the fried macaroni and cheese balls passed near.
“Man, I really hope I find a place to stay tonight,” I sighed loudly at every opportunity, just waiting for the person who’d answer, “It just so happens the East Wing of my mansion next door is free tonight!” But everyone just shook their heads and sighed, “I wish I could offer you a space, but I can’t! Five other TBEX people are already on my floor! Geez… I really hope you’ll be all right.”
My giddy, “Everything always works out” attitude began to crumble into desperation. I remembered my mother’s worried gaze as I waved goodbye in Boston. What had I done?!
Midnight hit and the party began to wind down. “Off to sleep!” blogger buddies announced as they gaily waved goodnight, rubbing in my pain.
I felt a lump rise in my throat and choked back the burning tears. Face it: Tonight there would be no bed, no place to put my bag, no shower… no rest.
I’d cockily taken a risk… and I’d failed, miserably.
Suddenly an Australian accent was in my ear. “Hey!” it said, “go to room 1834, quick!”
“Huh?” my friend Jodi and I said to the tall stranger, who turned out to be James Clark of the famous Nomadic Notes Travel Blog. “Why?!”
The man beckoned for our whole group to come towards the elevators. “It’s a promotion that ends in ten minutes,” James explained. “Just check out two of the Omni’s new room styles and get a free gift!”
With nothing to lose, Jodi and I trudged upstairs.
I was despondent, and upon entering the threshold, I was doubly so. The rooms were stunning… and that only made my temporary homelessness that much more crummy.
“Very nice,” we grumbled to the Omni employees by the door. “So what’s the promotional reward for checking out these digs, anyway?”
The sharply-dressed female employee handed us each a crisp envelope. “A free stay at any Omni hotel, of course!” she declared.
Did you just see fireworks exploding in joy and hear the tarantara of a trimumphant trumpet? YES!
The next two hours consisted of sprinting back and forth between the various help desks at the Omni, calling various regional and finally national managers in an effort to convince them to allow me to use the voucher, as a special emergency exception, one week before its activation date.
There was a solid ninety minutes there where it seemed fruitless.
I am not going to lie: tears started to glitter up my eyelashes. It was LATE, and I was tired and just wanted to flop onto a bed that didn’t exist. But rules were rules, and the paper I held was not yet potent. As my brother would type, I was “Scrooood.”
But then, at last, a blessed national representative spoke the following words:
“Clearly you are in a time of need, and the first rule of good customer service is to help a person in need.”
YES! Ten minutes later I was walking to the eighteenth floor of one of the most beautiful hotels in New York, a magnetized key in my hand and a giant grin on my face.
LOOK AT THE PHOTOS OF THE ROOM! AMAZING!
It was a glorious, glorious sleep, all the better because it was hard-won, much-needed, and, by miraculous luck… free!
And thus, for better or worse, my faith in taking leaps of faith was renewed.
Huge thanks to the Omni and to James for making the stars align, and big hugs to all the TBEX dearies for emotional support during this hectic night!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!