Sunday, January 20, 2008

Things that went wrong in Duluth

Our hosts tell us that we were staying in the newest hotel in Duluth. We later learned that they were wrong. There is in fact a newer hotel.

The first time I went to the front desk was because I couldn't figure out how to turn on the bathroom lights. There was a switch directly outside of the bathroom that didn't do anything. I later learned that you have to turn on the two switches by the room's door in order to activate the electricity for the rest of the room. There was no sign explaining this procedure. That's fine but why would you put the light switch for the bathroom outside of the bathroom? Had that been the case when we were vacationing as a family I can only imagine how many times we would've turned the lights on and off to annoy the person using "the facilities."

The second time I contacted the front desk was b/c my message light was on. The Sheraton has this tremendously annoying voicemail system that you need to set up before retrieving your messages. That took about 5 minutes to get through and then I pressed 1 to listen to my messages as I was directed. And the recording said "To leave a message press 1..." So I called the receptionist. No one really knew where I was staying so I wasn't expecting any messages. She said, "That's a new one. I've never heard of that happening." And that was as helpful as she could be. So for the rest of the weekend my message light flashed.

The Sheraton also has this lovely soap in the bathroom. It's delightful. It smells like mangoes or kiwis or something. And apparently it's packaged to survive nuclear attacks, because it took me about 5 minutes of pulling and gnawing to get the damn thing open. I finally did and was whisked away to a steamy lavender (or maybe it was sandalwood) holiday. One of the other judges admitted that he too had to open it with his teeth because he hadn't packed his tin snips.

The best part was that it's a fairly sizable bar of soap and it would take me several weeks to use the whole thing but I returned to my room to find an entirely new bar in its ironclad package.

The people in Duluth were lovely enough although we didn't really do much except judge and eat and look at a lift bridge from several angles. In fact, they gave each of the judges a gift basket of Duluth treats. One of the gifts was a jar of spaghetti sauce from a restaurant called Grandma's. Not thinking I packed it into my carry-on (I had no choice as I didn't want to check baggage for a four-airport adventure.)

Just a note to any would-be terrorists: don't even think about trying to get through security at Duluth International Airport. They were really excited to see my out of state ID. They even pulled out a manual to make sure my Ohio license was authentic right down to the hologram placement. They also ensured there would be no weapons of pasta destruction by making me throw away my gift of sauce. My computer bag got tagged for an additional search. I love the question "is there anything sharp in here that will cut me?" Do you mean besides the rabid badger I keep with my laptop? They found a small sample sized aerosol can of axe deodorant that I had managed to unknowingly smuggle through 3 airports on the way into town, but you can be damn sure it wasn't coming home with me. To add to this joy consider all of this was going down at 5am and I didn't sleep much because I kept waking up to check the clock to ensure I wouldn't be stranded in Duluth.

The Minneapolis Airport was even better because I had to repeat my two-tram-ride-terminal-hoping adventure and once again go through security. I got tagged again for a bag search but this time it was my clothes bag that contained my non-threatening gifts. The guy searching my bag, judging by his accent was fresh to America. I didn't understand a lot of what he said. He did ask me if there was liquid in my bag. I told him no and he said there was. I said, "No, there's not."

He said, "They said there is."

"I packed it myself and there's no liquid."

My bag was neatly packed but not for long. He kept pulling items out. He held up the bag of bread mix that my hosts have given me and asked what it was.

"Bread mix." He didn't understand. "It's flour, to make bread," I explained.

He kept feeling the bottom of the bag for dampness but found only linguine (another gift.) He made a half-hearted attempt to put it back together and then left it for me to figure out. My gate number totally summed up my feelings for the whole air travel situation.

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