A Night on the Town – A Meeting Planner’s Tale

I recently spent an evening out in New York City with my visiting parents.  It was a Friday night and we went to dinner and a Broadway show.  After the show I was exhausted and ready to head home and sleep in my own bed, but my parents had invited me to bunk with them in the city.  As a “bridge and tunnel” (aka NYC  commuter) I had no qualms about the late night 90-minute train ride, but knowing my mother would not sleep until she knew I was safe at home(likewise, I could not nap on the train knowing my mother was sitting up worrying) it seemed prudent to stay.

I opened the pull-out couch and quickly let the contents of my overnight bag spill onto the bed.  I noticed the sheets were wrinkled and untucked and mentally chided the absent housekeeper for shirking responsibilities.  I also spied a few pieces of abandoned popcorn scattered across the sheets around my bag.  Now, to be fair, I must note here that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that stray popcorn could have leaked out of my bag.  I wasn’t convinced it was mine, but I pushed the thoughts aside, brushed off the crumbs and got ready to sleep.

My mother was in the bathroom and my father was already half asleep when I climbed into the sofa.  As I lifted the disheveled sheet I saw them, tucked at the foot of the bed, balled up, cringing from the sudden light… a pair of black socks!  Quickly I put the covers back down, took a deep breath, counted to 10 and hesitantly lifted the covers again… they were still there.  Red lights, warning whistles and bells collided in my spinning head before forming one coherent thought – Ewwww!

Then the meeting planner instincts kicked in.  Pick up the phone and blast the operator, then housekeeping, fire off an angry email to my CSM, call the front desk and get a new room.  A few deep breaths later I countered with more rational thoughts – it’s not my meeting; I don’t have a CSM and I can’t uproot my parents late at night.  Instead, I calmly announced to my father, “Uh oh – these are not my socks in the bed.”  After a few moments of silence I could hear exhaustion and the wisdom of 50+ years of marriage as he quietly pleaded, “Don’t tell your mother.”  Resigned to my fate I popped a pill, extracted the stowaways with the aid of a towel, muttered a serenity prayer and hunkered down for a night filled with dreams of all who had slept there before, the socked and the sockless.

Over lunch the next day I announced my unhygienic find to my mother and couldn’t resist adding “Dad told me not to tell you.”  My mother was understandably mortified and outraged.  My father had informed the front desk about the “issue” when he checked out and received profuse apologies and reassurances of a renewed commitment to sofa bed inspection.  I knew that my indignant mother would make phone calls, write letters and emails, send smoke signals, whatever it took to achieve a more satisfactory outcome.  As a meeting planner who strives for immediate resolution I knew the damage had already been done and the only compensation after the fact would be financial or, more likely, credit toward a future stay.  For me, I will definitely think twice before booking that particular hotel again (not sure I could sleep there).

It was a couple of weeks later when I learned, from my giddy parents, the resolution.  My mother’s angry phone call yielded more profuse apologies, a $300 credit on a $400 room and a complimentary suite upgrade on their next visit.  They were very pleased with themselves but selfishly I wondered, “What did I get?”  Upon careful reflection I concluded that I got quality family time, dinner and a show and an amusing anecdote to boot.  Oh… and a pair of socks.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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