This last weekend my husband’s company had their annual Christmas party in Atlanta. The gathering spot, and site of almost all the weekend activities, was the Midtown W Hotel. I’ve never been to a W hotel, nor had I even heard of them, a fact greeted by much surprise from several friends, who all said, “Oh, I love W hotels!” The website showed a fairly swanky, urban place, and I looked forward to checking it out.
We arrived rather late on Thursday night with a co-worker of Evan’s. The outside was unassuming enough. We stepped through the sleek, glass Star Trek doors and entered a dark den of cool. Loud club music (UN-siss UN-siss UN-siss) played, lights danced over black walls, distressed concrete floors sat under our feet. Three desks, that both did and did not look like check-in desks, waited smugly in the corner for our approach. We shouted to the desk clerk (UN-siss UN-siss UN-siss) in order to be heard, got our room keys (and our very cool swag bags) and bolted for the elevators.
“Do you feel like this place is above our cool pay grade?” I said to Evan’s co-worker. “I think they should set up a force field around the outside, and only if you’re cool enough can you enter. I definitely think I would have been bounced back.”
The elevator doors opened. “Good Evening” said the mat on the elevator floor. “Huh,” I said. “Do you think they change out that mat three times a day?” I thought of the minimum wage worker whose job it was to change said elevator mats, and wondered how he or she felt about that.
Inside our room, which was spacious and lovely and had a great view, I found myself confronted by an aggressive faucet, made of metal blocks. “Go ahead,” it sneered. “Try to figure out how to make the water come out. I dare you.” Chimpanzee-like, I slapped at the metal blocks until water began to flow. I could not figure out how to make it hot. The shower, which had no door, similarly taunted me. “Are you cool enough to turn me on?” it demanded, like a high priced escort. “No, shower,” I immediately confessed, “I am not.” As it turned out, it was actually much more difficult to turn it off, an act requiring jet fighter-like precision in order to find just the right place to shut it down.
We went back to the lobby bar, The Living Room, to meet Evan’s co-worker for a drink. On account of a misadventure the day before, I ordered an orange juice, and marveled at my surroundings. Above my head were oblong cut-outs, containing backlit pictures of trees photographed from below. It was pretty, but again I lacked the cool to truly understand the juxtaposition of the depiction of natural beauty alongside black, oval swings you were supposed to use like chaise lounges.
And this is when the people started arriving. A great herd of hipsters, the likes of which I’ve rarely seen in the wild, flooded through the doors. It was a herd of male hipsters, perhaps young bucks not yet ready to claim their own females. Their magnificent calves were caressed by the best skinny jeans money can buy, their ankles highlighted by upturned cuffs. Decorated with faux hawks and black framed glasses, sleek scarves and army jackets, one can only assume, from an anthropological perspective, that these displays were to assert dominance within the group.
Not that these were the first hipsters I’d ever seen. I actually count as one of my dearest friends a hipster. His name is Axel Gimenez. That is his actual name. Clearly, he had no choice. It was his destiny to become a hipster.
Soon the hipsters were joined by young businessmen in ties and expensive shoes, toting with them even more expensive women. The contest here was an interesting one, with each expensive woman trying to simultaneously show as much leg and as much cleavage as possible. Contrary to the hipsters, however, the expensive women hid their calves in giant, oddly fluffy boots.
Eventually, Evan’s co-workers arrived. These are all people I dearly love, and who I enjoy immensely. They are neither hipsters nor expensive shoe and tie-wearing young businessmen, though I don’t know if I’d call them exactly normal, either, which, coming from me, is a compliment. As we chatted in The Living Room, standing on the hard, distressed concrete floor, I watched the cocktail waitresses with pity. They were required to wear skintight black dresses, show much cleavage, and wear very high-heeled boots. I became concerned for these young ladies’ joints. “Sweetheart,” I wanted to say, “don’t you know what you’re doing to your knees?” I actually thought this, and in thinking it, became aware that I am now, officially, old.
The next morning I waited for the DING of the elevator. “Good Morning,” said the mat. Down in the lobby (UN-siss UN-siss UN-siss) I found another herd of hipsters cavorting in their natural habitat. I decided to text Axel. Here is an exact transcript:
ME: Dude, I am in ATL @ the W Hotel & I have found your people. There are Axels everywhere.
AXEL: I like the W Hotels.
ME: No kidding.
AXEL: I love the elevator mats.
ME: Here I thought you were unique, one of a kind, but there are millions of you, all here in Atlanta at the W Hotel.
AXEL: Disappointing, isn’t it?
After my text talk with Axel I took the complimentary car to the mall. The driver was the most wonderful man. He tried to make me sit in the back and I was like, “Can I sit up front with you? I can’t handle the backseat thing.” He laughed, and opened the front seat door for me. African-American, he had striking slate blue eyes, a genuinely happy smile, and plenty of time. He showed me around and we chatted about this and that.
As I was about to get out, his tone changed. “This is a drop off service only. You’ll have to take a cab back. Now, they’re gonna take one look at you, put the meter on, purposefully get stuck in traffic, and take you for all your worth. You tell them you want the flat rate to Midtown.”
Alarmed, I took in everything he said, grateful for the advice, but also wondering, “When did I become this uncool? Since when do people feel they need to give me advice on taking a cab? Am I wearing a sweatshirt with bumblebees on it?”
While at the mall, I watched The Fighter with Mark Wahlberg. HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. I love boxing anyway, always wanted to be a fighter myself, and the movie, on top of the guy’s advice, got my blood up. After the movie, I picked up two accessories for Evan’s (female) co-worker at Express. I got two because a placard said Buy 1, Get 1 Free. The woman rang it up as buy 1, get 50% off on the second. I called her out on it, she started to fight me, and I reached back, grabbed the placard, put it down on the counter and read it aloud, just in case she missed it, “Buy one, get one free.”
That victory behind me, I got a cab back. “I need the flat rate to Midtown!” I barked at the man. “Of course,” the cabbie said, confused. “I always do a flat rate to Midtown.”
By the time I arrived back at the W, (UN-siss UN-siss UN-siss) it had started to feel like home.