Valentine’s Day snowstorm leads to second chance
“Shit!” Melanie slammed down the phone and walked over to the window. Staring out at the ominous clouds blanketing the lake, she said it again. This can’t be happening, she thought. I can’t be stuck here, today of all days. But she’d heard it for herself: The airport was closed for the rest of today and possibly tomorrow, depending on how hard the storm hit.
She went back to the phone and called her office. Her secretary told her that the storm had already shut down most of the airports from the Great Lakes through the Ohio Valley and that she was better off staying right where she was.
“Why is that?” Melanie wanted to know.
“Look, kiddo,” Peggy was sixty-two years old, had been with the company forever and called everyone “kiddo”, including the CEO, “They’re calling this a ‘once every 10 years’ kind of storm. You’re lucky to still be at your hotel. You could be stuck sleeping in one of those very uncomfortable chairs at the airport, fighting with the other passengers over who gets the pillow. I know; I’ve done it.”
Though not convinced, Melanie had to laugh. “I guess you’re right, Peg. Listen, call my clients and explain about the delay, will you? And tell Bill that I’ll spend my time going over those quarterly reports he wanted. I’ll email them to him la—”
“I’ll tell Kaiser Wilhelm nothing of the sort,” Peggy snorted.
Bill Campbell was the third company president that Peggy had served under and the one she least respected. She called him Kaiser because, as she put it, “His pointy head reminds me of the helmets the German officers wore in those old WWI movies”.
“You listen to me, kiddo,” she continued, “this whole layover has serendipity written all over it. Forget about work and treat it as an unexpected holiday. Enjoy yourself. Do something wild and crazy.”
Melanie laughed harder. “Peg, I’m stuck in Vermont in the middle of a winter snowstorm. I don’t ski, I don’t ice-fish, and they roll up the sidewalks at noon. What am I supposed to do that’s wild and crazy, go out and rent “White Christmas” in the middle of February?”
“You’ll think of something.”
Melanie hung up, still laughing, and called down to the desk to extend her reservation. Her good mood quickly faded. “What do you mean, you have no more rooms? What’s wrong with the one I’m in?”
“I’m sorry,” the woman on the other end of the phone sounded young, “but it’s Valentine’s Day and the start of President’s Day weekend. This is one of the biggest ski weekends of the season and most of these rooms have been booked for months.” She added, “With the storm and all the fresh powder coming down, the phone’s been ringing off the hook with people trying to make reservations.”
Melanie was tempted to ask how those people seeking reservations were planning on getting to Vermont, what with the airport closed, but she thought better of it. Anyone crazy enough to want to visit during this kind of weather would no doubt find a way, she thought. But as for those of us who are stuck here against our will…”You mean to tell me that even though I can’t leave because the airport is closed, I don’t have a place to stay, either?”
“We can try to find you a room at another hotel, ma’am, but that’s the best we can do.”
Melanie wanted to scream at her. Ma’am? You’re calling me ‘Ma’am’? What are you, twelve? Instead, she took a deep breath and said, “Is there a manager on duty?”
Goddamn it! If she calls me that one more time—”What’s his name?”
“Will you tell Mr. Hailey that I’ll be right down to straighten this out?”
“Yes, I will, but ma—” Melanie cut her off in mid-ma’am by hanging up.
Less than ten minutes later, Melanie stepped out of the elevator and entered the crowded lobby. She flagged down a bellboy and asked him about Mr. Hailey. He pointed to a crush of people standing near the reception desk. She stared at the crowd of ski jackets and snowsuits and felt a momentary pang of guilt. God, I’m glad I don’t work here. This guy’s got real problems. Then she straightened her shoulders and walked purposefully toward the desk. Fuck it. I need a room.