Friday, January 14, 2011

Harry Connick, Jr., a crazy lady in a bathrobe, and a hotel fire

I love going to workshops, seminars, and conferences for work. I love learning new ideas and strategies that will help me to improve and perfect the craft of teaching. I also love networking and meeting new people from other schools to hear about their experiences and work. And I love hanging out with my colleagues in a setting outside of school. So I was really looking forward to the last two days at a workshop in Ludington with three other formative assessment coaches from my school. Unfortunately, one of them ended up getting sick, but Stacey, Marla, and I had a fantastic time and we are returning with some great stories.

The workshop had a relatively small group and as many of us drove some distance and were staying in hotels, ten of us got together for dinner. It was a lovely time, full of conversations that had us laughing and connecting with each other. The ladies among us (9 of the 10!) fawned over the waiter, who bore a striking resemblance to Harry Connick, Jr. Sadly, we could not convince him to sing for us and the restaurant had no piano. He insisted that Harry Connick, Jr. looks like him.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel. Nine of the ten were staying at the same place. As we keyed into the back door of the hotel, we all noticed a bad, almost burning, smell. But we continued on to our room, joking with Linda, who was headed up the elevator, that we would let the firefighters know she was in the elevator if the building really was on fire. In our room, the three of us made calls to our families and got comfy in our jammies. Stacey decided to walk to the lobby to check her email, but when she opened the door, we could hear the smoke detectors buzzing loudly. I have been in hotels when the smoke detectors went off before, and my behavior has always been to ignore them. But this time, Stacey reported that there was smoke in the hallway, so we decided we probably better head outside.

As we waited in the back of the hotel, we chatted with Joel (the lone male at dinner) who said that someone had told him we would be evacuated to another hotel. We were not happy to hear that! Then, from the far end of the hotel two figures emerged. It was Jane, the workshop presenter, and Sara, the facilitator from the organization that sponsored the workshop. These two women are classy and smart and it is truly a pleasure to learn from them. But now, Jane was bundled in her winter coat and Sara...oh Sara! Sara had on flannel kitty pajama pants, a pink fuzzy robe with monkey faces all over it, and winter hat that came down over her ears. Best of all, she was carrying a bottle of wine and a stack of dixie cups. We stood there for a bit, shivering and predicting what might have happened and when we would get back into our rooms.

Finally Jane said, "Let's pour that wine and then drive around to the front of the hotel and find out what is going on!" Oh my, we laughed so hard that this woman who we so admired was encouraging us to climb into a car with open intoxicants! But of course, we did it! Sara parked at the door to the hotel, and strode purposefully into the hotel to find out what was going on, and see where the promised cookies (set out by the hotel staff from 8pm to 9pm each night) might be. Sara was only in the hotel for minutes before she emerged, carrying a tray of cookies. The four of us waiting in the car were laughing again as Sara passed a gentleman wheeling his suitcase into the hotel to check in. We weren't sure if the look he gave her said, "Why is there a crazy woman in a bathrobe leaving the hotel?" or "Hey, where is she taking the cookies?"

After Sara came back out to the car, we discussed where Linda might be, hoping she had not indeed gotten stuck in the elevator! As we drove around to the side of the hotel to watch the firemen who had shown up while we were out back, we saw Linda. We found out that it was she who had first seen the smoke billowing out of the pool room when she got off the elevator after dinner. She had gone to the front desk to tell them to call 911 and was frustrated by the young workers who didn't seem to want to listen to her. Luckily, in the end, they did listen to her, the firefighters were able to take care of the rags smoldering in turpentine in a pool room full of paint fumes, and we were able to return to our rooms. We couldn't use the pool, obviously, but we sure got a workout from laughing!

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