Friday, June 13, 2014

Empty Hotels

"The life of the artist is, in relation to his work, stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill. He has turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. His working life is marked by intense application and intense discipline." - John F. Kennedy

When I wore a younger man's clothes my family moved around a fair amount. My Father was a Corporate Leader and his thirst for progress took his family to various locations. We moved down the coast from Northern California into Orange County when I was mid-way through grade school. It was the first reflective transition in my life. I was aware enough to sense the sea change. It was exciting! During this trip we stopped at a hotel off the highway, it was a transient affair. I remember being in the lobby in the middle of the night. Though the hours were odd, there were a collection of weary travelers in the common area. They shared stories of their travels and where their lives were taking them. I sat with my sister among these strangers and took in their knowledge. My senses were amplified by this massive room that people (by their own doing) could turn from an empty resting stop into a community. I've never forgotten that feeling. 

Every morning I sit in an empty coffee shop before most people are awake. As the sun begins to smile upon us, people begin their days and trickle in with half-shut eyes. Most of the time when I am departing others are just beginning their days. My willingness to catapult myself from my slumber into each morning gives me a 2 hour head start into a day of limitless possibilities that are mine to create. 

I spend a fair amount of time traveling. I'm not one to strike up a conversation with fellow travelers yet I spend very little time in the sanctity of my hotel room. Before most are awake, I find my way down to the lobby to get some work done in the company of the human race. 

Wes Anderson's extraordinary set design of the film Grand Budapest Hotel personifies this feeling of emptiness in a place built for crowds. It was so comforting to take it all in. This film brings out the forgotten element of customer service: when serving people was job #1, when you could enjoy a meal without being shuffled out the door, when people knew your name and your preferences. And then there is the element of dwelling among a common area knowing you can relax without being confronted for loitering.

With each morning I see people come and go through the coffee shop. Some wear their troubles on their sleeve, others can't wait to talk to the Baristas, and there are those who simply want to enjoy a few moments within their own mind before they run off to form the making of their day. 

Whether I am in an empty airport, a forgotten restaurant, a lonely coffee shop or an uncrowded conference hall; there is no more peaceful feeling to me than being among humanity. It's even more pleasing to dwell among them with their theme songs in my headphones writing the story of their day. 

Don't Forget to Remember!


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