Another unpublished blast from the past. Time travel without a TARDIS is relatively boring… but it’s better than nothing.
Thursday, May 24, 2013, 11:36 a.m.:
It is an unseasonably, unbearably cold morning in Niagara and as I sit at my bell desk in an increasingly cold lobby, my mind wandered to distant, much warmer locales. A bellman’s days are a blur of passing vehicles, sliding doors, ringing phones, ridiculous amounts of fast food consumed at an even faster pace, and an inordinate amount of unusual situations that really aren’t all that unusual in this business.
Most hotels go through employees faster than Lindsay Lohan goes through lawyers. And cars, for that matter. The general tone and pace of the hotel biz wears you down, to say the least. I certainly feel the pressure at times.
And then I was reminded of just how fortunate I am to be right here, right now.
An angel, sent to me in the form of a toddler clad in a green hoodie and four-alarm crimson pants – some angels’ creators are color-blind obviously – is racing around the lobby with all the speed of the love child of a harrier jet and a Tasmanian devil. In between the seemingly -endless incoherent, unintelligible Kardashianesque rants are glimmers of the most beautiful smile you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Simply put, she is happy to be alive.
She doesn’t care about the temperature or the fact her parents didn’t take her to Disney; she is simply making the most of being young and freakishly- mobile.
A few minutes later a family of five barrels through the lobby. Mom and Dad are disheveled, bleary-eyed and groaning the love theme from The Exorcist. Their three kids Who coincidentally, were ages ten, eleven and thirteen (talk about needing a television in the bedroom!), are bouncing off one another like human ping pong balls.
“We want to see the Falls!” they scream, repeatedly, pausing only when my ears began to bleed. When their parents inform them of the obvious drawbacks to strolling the Niagara Parkway in frigid temperatures, they merely draw upon their collective youthful zeal and responded with, “But they’re awesome and we’re here now!”
They most likely have consumed their body weight in paste, boogers and Red Bull, but these kids have it all together.
I spend far too much time pondering life’s many mysteries, such as:
- “Why have my book sales actually reached negative levels?”
- “Is Justin Bieber a Biblical plague in near-human form?”
- “Why do parents tell their children to be careful after they’ve suffered an accident?”
- “What can I do next to drive lesbians into a murderous rage?”
Instead, I should be reminding myself of just how wonderful a place Niagara actually is, and why. Here are just five reasons why this region is truly worth exploring.
1) We can walk the streets safely and meet people from every corner of the globe, from all walks of life, from every generation. We can do this every single day, without fail. And unlike big cities like Toronto or New York, most of these people aren’t citizens, they’re visitors with unique backgrounds and motivations for visiting here. And while our streets aren’t completely crime-free, they’re safer than most.
2) Our ecosystem is relatively calm, pollution-free and unchanging. Sure we get the occasional blip on the radar screen – a cold snap in May being a perfect, bitter example – but overall, we rarely have to worry about earthquakes, tornadoes or other examples of Mother Nature’s righteous fury.
3) Millions of stories unfold in front of us at an unyielding pace. I was born to observe human interaction. It is my destiny – that, and consuming copious amounts of microwave popcorn while watching television for more hours than a human being should be able to tolerate – and I happily fulfill that destiny each and every time I don my bellman’s uniform. Never mind Vegas, if you want to observe the human animal at his most fascinating without risking your livelihood or marriage vows, head for Niagara Falls.
4) “Wine: The New Buzz of Choice For Millions”. Okay, so I’m no Don Draper, but you have to admit, wine is currently enjoying a wave of cultural popularity equaled only bacon. The Niagara wine region has become the place to be and invest in these days, with everyone from Dan Aykroyd to Wayne Gretzky investing in wineries.
Growing up, I remember riding my bike through Niagara-on-the-Lake (coincidentally, that’s something I wouldn’t allow my daughter to do these days, but this is supposed to be a positive message, so I’ll stop here), and staring out at miles and miles of wineries that consisted of a few barns, a guy on a tractor and his barking dog trailing behind. Now those same properties boast retail stores, art galleries, restaurants, and yes, the occasional barking dog, but cleaner and less mangy.
5) The awesome power of nature unleashed. When was the last time you actually visited the Falls? I know its been some time since I stood along the Niagara Parkway and stared out at one of nature’s greatest creations. We get so caught up in the business of living in a fast-paced, cutthroat modern society that we forget to actually live.
Do yourself a favor and make the time to see the power of nature at its purest. Trust me, it makes you feel small and helps to define your place in the universe. Even sober, its quite the experience.
A short time later, my epiphany faded and it was business as usual. That’s how life works, isn’t it? You let Fate pull you along until something snaps you to attention and you take control of your destiny, for a short while at least.
And on that note, travelers, I bid you farewell.
See you in the lobby, kids…