Thursday, January 15, 2004

A bayou panic 

Of all the Pictures from an Institution, this one had me shaking with laughter.
William P. Wetmore has the number of the suite written down on a piece of paper. He knows he is looking for suite 1848. The problem is that he has not written down the hotel where the suite is located. There are over fifteen hotels in the immediate area.

William P. Wetmore's wakeup call did not come that morning. He woke with a start twenty minutes before he was supposed to arrive at Chairman Stan's suite. He has not showered, or shaved, or successfully tamed his bedhair. He has not had any coffee, nor has he looked at the dossiers of the candidates to be interviewed. He had been planning to do that over coffee.

It does not occur to William P. Wetmore to use the phone to find out which hotel Chairman Stan is staying in, nor does it occur to him simply to skip the interviews. The problem of finding the suite is not, for William P. Wetmore, a practical problem to be solved by practical means. The problem of finding the suite is, rather, one of substantial spiritual significance. William P. Wetmore's fragile pride is at stake. He does not want anyone to know that he cannot find Chairman Stan's suite. He especially does not want Chairman Stan to know that he cannot find his suite. And so he races on flat feet from one hotel to the next, sweating in the humid bayou air. Change jingles in his pockets, yesterday's tie flaps over his shoulder, and catcalls follow him the length of Canal Street.

Stepping into a dim Fairmount elevator and pressing a button, William P. Wetmore closes his eyes and gulps air, hoping against hope that the third hotel will be the charm. It is some time before he realizes that the elevator has stopped moving. Sweat runs down William P. Wetmore's temples. Steam fogs his glasses. Standing in a bayou of his own making, the Starbucks Professor of Romantic Literature reflects that this is quite possibly going to be the longest morning of his life.
"Standing in a bayou of his own making..." is priceless. I love going to conferences in New Orleans, but not because of the close and easy walk between hotels.