Florida vignettes, part I: The work chronicles

I recently returned from a trip to Florida. An industry conference brought me to The Sunshine State and since my folks spend their winters there, I tacked on a couple of days to visit them. This trip produced a number of blog-worthy moments. But many of them could be considered incriminating to myself or others, so I’m just going to share with you some random and relatively harmless vignettes.

A room with a view

Generally, when I travel for work, I end up in a room overlooking a rooftop and related heating and cooling systems or perhaps hotel rooms in another wing of the hotel.

Room with a view

Room with a view

This was my view on this trip. Beautiful, right? And even better, I could leave the drapes open the whole time and wake up to the gorgeous sunrise. (Okay, someone on a passing tanker or cruise ship may have caught a glimpse of my naked-out-of-the-shower self, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.)

First-world problems

A consistent problem when I travel is what to do about my caffeine addiction. As you may have gathered from my confession about drinking coffee in the shower, I need my morning cuppa merely to cope with the onerous task of getting showered and dressed. I’m also very particular about my joe. My standard coffee is a dark roast, brewed strong (brewed coffee should be completely opaque), diluted with a generous splash of half-and-half, with the addition of a teaspoon of sugar (regular old sugar, not some new-fangled substitute) and a teaspoon of Ghirardelli ground chocolate. Sugar and chocolate are optional (though preferred), but half-and-half is not (although cream, whipped cream and ice cream can be used in a pinch). Bailey’s is also an acceptable substitute, but not recommended on workdays.

A coffee shelf!

A coffee shelf!

So how do I make-do with in-room coffee? I put two pods into the single-serving machine for a nice espresso-like base and, thankfully, Westin’s provide real half-and-half vs. the wretched powder. In fact, after two days of noticing me using up all four little containers, the maid got wise and left me six. (I left a good housekeeping tip in exchange for this thoughtfulness.)

And guess what? This Westin even had a coffee shelf in the shower!

Miami Vice: A classy joint

At our industry conferences, we typically host dinners for clients and prospects and this event was no exception. The last evening, we hosted a large dinner party. We had rented out the lounge of a fine-dining establishment and planned a generous menu of wine, seafood and other delights. For transportation, our event manager arranged for pontoon boats to shuttle guests to the restaurant along the intercoastal waterway, so everyone could enjoy the beautiful evening and see the various mansions that line the route. Everything was carefully planned to ensure a lovely evening.

Being on the first pontoon to arrive at the restaurant, I ducked off the boat and headed to the restroom to see how windblown my hair was after the boat ride. That’s when things took an interesting turn. I opened the ladies room door to two strippers changing clothes. How do I know they were strippers? Well, to be honest, I’m merely making a judgment based on visual evidence: Fur thigh-high boots, sequined bra, hot pants. You decide.

Our intention was to provide a first-class experience for our guests, so this was an unexpected wrinkle. I stood outside the restroom sending panicky texts to our event planner and sales staff. I wasn’t sure whether they were changing into or out of the attire mentioned earlier, and I was trying to decide whether I should act shocked or amused if the women walked out in full regalia and were spotted by our guests. But eventually the ladies left in their street clothes (vs. street walker clothes) and I breathed a sigh of relief. Crisis averted.

However, that introduction set the tone for the rest of our party. From what we could gather, the restaurant is frequented by those in the import/export business (wink, wink) and their regulars are accustomed to living large. The cars in the parking lot were a motorhead’s fantasy and the bar tab for the 60-person private party in the next room totaled $50k according to the waitstaff. (That’s $833+ per person, if anyone cares to do the math.)

Oysters were served in a giant tub, shrimp cocktail appeared on a ceramic elephant two-feet high, and desserts were served out of a giant silver spoon. (The same size as the tacky wooden one in my mother’s kitchen!) Everything was completely over-the-top in the blingiest, Miami Vice sort of way. Ironically, the whole experience became the night’s entertainment–an unexpected bonus. The food was great, our guests were jovial and a good time was had by all.

After the conference ended, I spent an afternoon on the beach with a few coworkers and clients to rest up for the second half of my Florida adventure–a visit with my elderly parents in the heart of the state. Stay tuned for part II…

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