Sunday, August 5, 2018

Hotel California

A couple of years ago, I attended a work retreat with a bunch of co-workers where we were introduced to Insights Discovery training.  I will let the Insights Discovery organization describe themselves:

What is it? At the very start of the self-awareness journey is Insights Discovery. A psychometric tool based on the psychology of Carl JungInsights Discovery is built to help people understand themselves, understand others, and make the most of the relationships that affect them in the workplace.

Yes, this was some sort of employee bonding bullshit that many of us are forced into and dread.  The kind where we have to talk about our feelings, split into groups, play games, and pretend that we’re there for more than the paycheck that keeps us afloat.  At least there weren’t any trust falls.  Overall, it actually is pretty insightful (I guess that’s where they got their name), especially since the pre-session questionnaire was short and simple, while the personality profile they conjured up was, for me, fairly spot-on.  With this collected information, they place each person’s results into a color wheel that is made up of four general categories.  Obviously, they all bleed into each other and we all carry some of each color, but most of us have a dominant quadrant that describes our dominant personalities.

One of the exercises that we all did, was wear a color wheel taped on our backs, while we all moved about the room to initial the place of wheel we perceived everyone else.  Some people had marks all over their wheel, while most had a common position.  No surprise, everyone marked me as a blue.  Cool blue.  And, yes, my test results also placed me in that category.  What I found personally interesting is that the test results scored people’s personalities for both work and home.  Everyone that shared their results with me had two different versions of themselves.  For example, they may be more Earth Green at home, but ramp up their Fiery Red attitude for the office.  In my case, my scores were essentially identical (fractions of percentages off).  I’m not sure what exactly this means or how to take it.  I’ve always felt trapped inside myself.  Apparently, no matter the situation, I am inescapably me.  Over the years, when I’ve asked friends for suggestions on how to win over whatever current crush I have, the most common answer is: “Just be yourself.”  I’ve never understood this, because being myself has never worked with any success previously, and now I know, that I am ALWAYS myself.  It’s no wonder I get so sick of my own company.  Having said that, we’ve had a few follow-up Insights sessions since, so it’s fresh in my mind.  It has me considering my sameness.  It has me considering how I’m perceived by others.  It has me thinking about others – not just colleagues – and why they do and say the things they do.  What are we?  How many versions of ourselves do we all have?  I know I’m not sure what to make of my own actions sometimes, or my motivations.

In a recent conversation with my friend Mindy, she was telling me about her hotel accommodations during a recent visit to Portland.  I began to reflect on my own history of motel/hotel stays in my life from the small freeway truck stop towns and their one or two run down motor lodges my family stayed in on our occasional pilgrimages to Spokane to visit my mom’s side of the family; to the sleazy dives my friends and I would cram into on road trips to play golf or go to Confusion Hill as a joke; to the more business class style hotels I’ve chosen as I’ve grown older.  I no longer have any interest in sharing a room with pals to save money.  I still cannot afford fancy, but I do now demand a much higher grade of place.  It has to be clean and the bedding needs to be something I feel comfortable crawling into.  We’re talking your Courtyard’s, Double Tree’s, Garden Inn’s, Clarion’s, Comfort Inn’s, and Embassy Suites’.  You know the type, they have conference rooms on the main floor, a strange bar that seems to only open when an employee feels like going over to it, and they have those little breakfast areas, where one can load up a plate with mini muffins, burn yourself on the tiny waffle iron, choose amongst several juice dispensers, and if you’re super lucky get a cooked to order egg.

The first one of these I remember staying in a place like this was in Honolulu for Wil’s wedding in the early 2000s.  The hotel would leave the daily newspaper outside the door of my room each morning.  While I was there, I was still undergoing three times a week dialysis treatments, so I took to reading the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in its entirety during the four hour session.  I have never been a regular newspaper reader.  My family only subscribed occasionally, and I would only check a few comics, the sports pages, and the entertainment section for ads for concerts when we did.  But, as I was asking Mindy about her current room, I began to realize that I have developed strange habits in these business hotels over the years.  Things like reading the newspaper, and drinking coffee.  I know it is sacrilege to a lot of people, but I never acquired a taste for coffee.  I think it tastes freaking awful!  Plus, I have a very limited desire for hot beverages.  And yet, often while waking up early in my rented business class room, I will sit down at the desk, read from a newspaper, maybe have CNN on the TV, and make a tiny pot of coffee that they provide.  Even for a single night’s stay, I will unpack my clothes and utilize the empty dresser drawers.  I will hang shirts in the closet, and most of the time, I will actually work up a sweat trying to unfold the seemingly always ancient, difficult to manage ironing board that is usually hanging in the closet.  It will screech and howl its discomfort at being roughly stretched and manhandled, but I become determined to wield the hot steamy iron and smooth out all of my clothes that are not used to being cared for.  I also must take advantage of the free (I know it’s not free) breakfast spread down near the lobby and likely will have to deal with the others doing the same thing.  There will inevitably be uncomfortable greetings as we watch someone take the last two biscuits, and some awkward small talk possibly about the headlines from the free newspaper I just boned up on. 

Why do I become this person?  Is it some kind of need to fit in?  My history does not suggest this.  I’m fairly positive that I’ve been the only person in a black clad crowd at goth, punk, or industrial concerts before wearing a golf shirt and shorts.  I’m not sure why I become this person.  Is this someone still the same one from my color wheel?  Is it a part of my thrifty nature to suck every last amenity out of my hotel stay purchase?  This seems likely.

In a few weeks, I will, once again, be attending the annual LPGA tournament both as volunteer and spectator.  I seem to become another person in this environment too.  I become outgoing (a big ole’ Sunshine Yellow!) and engage all kinds of strangers in conversation.  I actively seek out areas where people are congregating, as opposed to avoiding them like the plague, as I would normally do.  Even while I’m out there in the summer sun for entire days on end, I wonder who I am.  Maybe I should tape a color wheel to my back while I walk from hole to hole and ask people to guess my color.

This piece is dedicated to Mindy Crandall who encouraged me to write about my strange hotel behavior, but also because she and I share a mutual hatred for the Eagles and their song “Hotel California.”  Sorry, Mindy, thiis piece took a turn I did not plan for and I could not resist utilizing our favorite song for the title.