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I’m in South Carolina this week for a business conference (pictures to appear on Flickr upon my return). It’s been… interesting. The following are a few experiences that’ve happened during the trip.
Upon arriving at the hotel I discovered that I didn’t have a room. Out of 121 rooms in the hotel our company had secured 109 (or something like that) and I was left out. Apparently in the jumble of things my room was given to somebody else. Not a problem, I thought—there’s another hotel two miles down the road and I can stay there.
However, as we were figuring things out the CEO of the company came walking in and asked if there were any problems. When it was mentioned that I was sans hotel room, he said he had an extra room in his suite and I could have it. :::Awkward pause::: Sure, that’d work. :::Awkward pause:::
And so, throughout the conference, the President of the company I work was my roommate. Fortunately, the extra room he mentioned was indeed a whole separate room, with its own bathroom. Not bad shacking up in the Admiral Suite. The balcony has a great view.
The Good Word
During one of the conference sessions somebody came to sit down next to me. As I moved my backpack for him to have room, he caught a glance inside and saw some of my books (I carry too many books everywhere I go). “Brought your scriptures, I see?” Yeah, he noticed my standard blue carrying case for my quad. Mormon alert! We got to talking afterwards, and it turns out he too is LDS and he served his mission in the Arcadia, CA mission, north of where I’m from.
When he learned that I was from the Utah portal (subsidiary) he asked if there were any other members that came with me. Out of six people there are two members in our group. Our company is about 1/3 to 1/2 LDS from what I gather. Salt Lake City’s number of members per capita is far different than it is inside the bubble. Amazing how different life can be 30 miles away.
The people at the company I like to work for love to drink. Every meal and social event is highlighted by the open (free) bar for everybody to take advantage of. Avoiding the appearance of evil, I always make sure to get some H20. Water rules! (Gatoraaaaade. H20! Gaaaaatoraaaade! H20!) During the first night it was interesting to see how loosy goosy everybody was after a few hours. Definitely a different environment than the one I’m used to.
During dinner on the second night, some of the people at our table were asking each person if they drank or not. The subject of conversation for a good twenty minutes was alcohol: the taste of beer, ingredients of wine, what combinations of drinks are the best, and which are the “wussiest” for a certain co-worker of mine to be able to tolerate. As it came my turn to reply that I didn’t drink, one of my co-workers indicated I’m “from Utah” (which I’m not, I’m “from” San Diego, but I digress…) to which the other person responded “oh yeah.. I forgot about that…” Gotta love when other people take care of the explanations for you! The only problem that exists there is the potential for misinformation and misunderstanding. Oh well.
So dinner was pretty weak on the first night. We ventured out 7 or 8 miles to a Wendys to grab some more grub. Wanting to get back to the hotel, we opted for the drive thru… big mistake.
The girl on the other end of the microphone must have spoken another language… it sure wasn’t english. We had to repeat our order (for five people) a total of three times. When we asked for an “extra frosty” she replied in confusion “…extra broccoli?” When we asked for a “five piece chicken nuggets” she said, bewildered, “we don’t have spicy chicken nuggets”. When we suggested that we pull forward to the window to clarify our order and make things easier, she stubbornly declined.
After a looooooong time we pulled forward, and received our food, praying that the girl hadn’t dropped a fat loogie in it. Half of the food was missing. Half of what we did get was wrong. Ugh. Worst fast food experience ever.
Four Glasses a Pop
During our last night here in Charleston we thought we’d head downtown to grab a bit to eat at a local restaurant. We thumbed through our magazine here at the hotel to decide on a place, and then headed out. As I walked into the restaurant I observed that it was… nice. We were led to a table where each setting had four glasses. Yup, four. A water glass, a champagne glass, a wine glass, and then some other glass. This place was expensive. One of my other co-workers and myself felt very out of place, and would rather have eaten somewhere much cheaper, while the other three were soaking it in, reveling in the “experience”, and soaking it all up, all the while trying to convince me and the other out-of-place guy that it was meant to be enjoyed. Whatever.
Dinner for five ended up costing about $350. For food. I can’t stand spending that much money on food, even when somebody else (in this case, the company) is paying for it. Food is so temporary, so transitory. I’m going to crap it out in a few hours, whether it be a 10 oz. filet (best one I’ve ever had, for sure), or an Outback bloomin’ onion. But $350 for food?! Think of how many people around the world could benefit from half of that money, and have food for a month. The cost of my steak could probably feed a family for a week in a third world country. Makes me feel uneasy…
The other thing I disliked is the southern servant mentality. Our servers at the restaurant were very proper, very polite, and far too rigid. They were fake. One of my co-workers felt out of place because he had on a t-shirt (in a high class restaurant) that said “I hack my mac” (yeah, he’s a nerd, but hey.. we all are) and you gotta know that our servers were in the back room laughing at him and the rest of us when out of sight. And then out they waltz in their fine linens, one hand tucked squarely behind their backs, treating us like royalty. Barf.
The highlight of the evening came when one of the servers (the water boy, I guess) was filling our glasses and overheard part of our conversation about natural instincts and reactions. He started to comment about it, but then the head server came over and cut him off to serve dessert, sending him on his way. The kid wasn’t able to finish his story.
So before we left, we made sure that Shaun (the water boy) was able to finish his story that was so rudely interrupted. He proceeded to fill our waters as he shared with us a part of his life. He lived in the slums of Ft. Lauderdale and saved for a year to come here to South Carolina where his sister was going to school. The neighborhood he lived at here was pretty dangerous, as was the one in Florida. He knew something of primal rage and human instinctual behavior, having witnessed murders and assaults for petty things such as food or jewelry.
He talked for about ten minutes, captivating the attention of the five of us at the table. It was great. Here was a server with substance—one that actually talked to those he served, treating us like human beings instead of royalty. All during his presentation I could see the head server at the front podium getting quite uneasy that this guy, Shaun, was ruining their “mood” and atmosphere. At one time he walked over to shift the chairs at the next table in an attempt to catch Shaun’s attention and have him leave. Finally they had another server come and tap him on the shoulder and bring him back to the kitchen where he was reprimanded by the head server who had gone into the back to meet up with him.
I was furious. Here was the best part of our dining experience, and they were in a “tissy” over it. So I went up to the woman at the front and told her that they shouldn’t be upset with Shaun in the least, because he was the best part of our evening, and he was the reason they were going to be getting the tip they were. Shaun was talking to us because we had asked him to, not because he was imposing on us in the slightest. Shaun came over after a few minutes and apologized for talking so much, to which we replied that we loved it, he did no wrong, and that we hoped the best for him in getting on his feet. I looked around for the head server so I could give him the evil eye about it, but he was nowhere to be found. Alas.
After the $350 dinner we headed to the parking garage where we had left the Jeep we rented, only to find a big ol’ dent above the right front wheel well. Looks like somebody took a foot to it and dented it in manually, because there were no paint marks or streaks that come from car-to-car contact. Crazy teenage punks…