Grab a cup of coffee, because this will be a long post. Keep in mind, I write fiction so you may think some of these events are a figment of my imagination or have been embellished for story purposes – they haven’t!!
So, I was in Detroit last week and had quite an adventure. I arrived on Sunday and had driven there so by the time I got to my hotel, I was exhausted. I didn’t do any of the normal preparations, like hanging up / ironing clothes for the next day because I was spent. I grabbed my kindle, read a little and went to bed. I have this pesky internal alarm that wakes me up nearly every morning around 5 am. (Detroit is on EST so it was okay but it doesn’t re-adjust when I go to cities in different time zones). I set the hotel alarm clock for 6 am just in case – a habit I’ve had for years.
Monday morning I awoke, looked at my watch and sure enough, it was 5 am. I reached over to un-set the alarm clock and noticed it was flashing. I didn’t think much of it, other than there had to have been a “power hit” sometime during the night. I went down stairs, grabbed a newspaper and began my usual morning ritual.
When I returned to the room I turned on a light switch and was frustrated to find the light bulb had burned out. I went to another light switch and got the same dark response. “Crap, no power.” Oh well, I don’t need lights to take a shower, I went into the bathroom and turned on the shower and nothing happened. “GREAT, no power and no water.” I called the front desk and in my most polite voice said, “Hey, this is Nancy Straight in room XXX, I don’t have any power or water in my room.”
A hurried voice answered, “We’re going to make an announcement.” I heard – Click as the front desk promptly hung up on me. As I stood there looking at the receiver, the intercom in the hotel blared to life, “There is an emergency in the hotel. Please evacuate the hotel immediately. Do not use the elevators, use the stairs.” The person making this announcement made it no less than ten times and it’s surprising how loud the emergency intercom is in a hotel. I very methodically picked up my cell phone, my iPad, my kindle and my purse – always be prepared, right? I looked around the room to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything important. I smelled an odor that I hadn’t smelled since the day my husband and I installed a new oven improperly in our kitchen – that’s right, melting electrical wires. I joined fifty or so people on the stairs making my way the eight floors down.
As I stood outside I looked at the structure, there was no billowing smoke or spreading flames so I assumed whatever the problem was it would be fine soon. Then it hit me, my laptop was up in my room and the first draft of my latest book, Blood Ties, was on it and I didn’t have it backed up anywhere. YIKES! I kept watching the windows hoping not to see flames appear. Not too long after this revelation, we got the “all clear” and were allowed to return to the hotel. *Wipes sweat from brow.* (Incidentally, I have since backed up Blood Ties to a USB Key).
I called the people I had meetings scheduled with for Monday morning and successfully moved them to Monday afternoon. Two hours passed, the power and water were still not restored so I went down to the front desk and was told the hotel would have power by 9:30 pm that evening. Obviously, this wasn’t going to work for me so I had the hotel relocate me to another property in downtown Detroit and they worked it so that I could check in early in the morning rather than wait for the customary 3 pm check in.
I loaded up my car, programmed the address to the new hotel into my GPS and was on my way. Three blocks into my trip, the display inside my car gave me a message that I had four flat tires and told me to pull over immediately. Yes - this is the point that I nearly screamed.
I pulled into a parking lot with a few cars. I got out and looked, all four tires appeared to be okay to me. I turned off the car, turned it back on and the car was still convinced that my tires were flat and I shouldn’t be driving. I called roadside assistance and told them what was going on, that I believed some sort of sensor had gone haywire and asked for the address to the closest dealership. After finding my location, the roadside assistance operator said there was a truck that was only a few minutes away and he’d send it just to check me out. No problem, things are looking good now.
I picked up my phone and started checking out emails when I heard: KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK – there was a man standing outside my window. I rolled it down and he said, “I’m really hungry.” Without thinking I blurted out, “You know what, pal? I’m really hungry, too.” Now, when speaking to a homeless man, it’s probably bad form to complain about: a hotel fire, the fact that you’re in a city you aren’t familiar with, your car believes it should not be on the road, or the fact that you haven’t eaten in almost twenty-four hours. I politely told him, “I don’t carry cash” – which I don’t. (Cash mysteriously evaporates out of my wallet every time I put some in there.)
The homeless man who was hoping for a sandwich walked away. (I did offer him a bottle of water that I happened to have with me, but he declined). I looked off to my left and another homeless man was standing against a building, with a sword. Yes, that’s right. Not a switchblade, not a hunting knife, not a dagger - a sword.
Right about now a normal person would say, “Screw it, I’m outta here,” and drive away. Instead, I did a not so smart thing and called a friend of mine that was in Arizona. In my mind, if I was going to be attacked by the Samurai wanna-be to my left, I wanted the attack on record. Yes – a week after the fact and I DO know this was stupid, but at the time it seemed like a good plan. My window was still rolled down from the first homeless guy that had stopped by so I was sure Samurai-man could hear me. My conversation started with, “You’re not going to believe what my morning’s been like. . .” I told her about everything up to that point and added, “. . . and to top it all off, there’s some Fruit Loop with a sword standing 20 feet away from me.” (Yes, I called him a Fruit Loop and yes, I know this was a dumb idea, too.) Before said Fruit Loop could respond by gouging out my eye or scratching the paint off my car, the cavalry arrived – the tow truck driver. He confirmed that I did indeed have air in my tires and my car was mistaken.
The tow truck driver noticed the man with the sword and asked if he’d been bothering me. He hadn’t. He hadn’t brandished it, or asked me for money for a sandwich, or anything, but really – Who carries a sword in downtown Detroit? Isn’t there a city ordinance against something like that? If not, I think one should be passed because homeless people with swords have got to be bad for tourism!
So, I got to the dealership, my car checked out okay, they were able to get the message to stop displaying that I was driving on four flat tires, they washed my car, and even gave me a rose! All in all – this was a day that I will be talking about for years to come.
Can you believe after all that, Monday still wasn’t the most memorable part of my trip to Detroit? The most memorable part was, Wednesday night when I got to go to dinner with Amy Bartol – Author of the book: Inescapable. I am a huge fan and I was super excited to get to meet her! For any of you that are also her fans, YES – she is just as cool in person as I thought she’d be. We had a great dinner, great conversation, and made plans to meet at the Decatur, GA Book Festival over Labor Day!! (Swords will be optional).