How Much Is Too Much?


Sometimes I set myself up for the redirection the General offers me because I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut. I tell her too much! We talked by telephone on Friday morning as I was walking to the conference hotel in Seattle. Of course, she wanted to know why I wasn’t staying at the conference hotel. I wasn’t staying at the conference hotel because the room rate was $359 a night. If I paid that price for a hotel room, I’d feel obligated to stay awake all night just so I could be conscious of my surroundings.

I explained that The Renaissance-Marriott hotel where I was staying had the same “4-star” rating and it was only about a mile or two away. I picked it up for a song. My rate through Priceline was $234 a night plus taxes. If I had paid the extra $125 a night for a place to sleep, it would have had a negative impact on my ability to sleep. I guess you could call it the Heartbreak Hotel.

My explanation to the General fell on deaf ears. She countered: “You are not staying at the conference hotel, so that means when you go out for dinner in the evening, you are walking alone. That’s not safe! She then asked a rhetorical questions: “Why don’t you think about the unnecessary risks you take to save a dollar?” Since she wasn’t quite done, she added: “You are not responsible as you think.” If she had only known how crowded the sidewalks are in Seattle, she would have recognized that at no time did I ever feel like I was alone. Actually, there was one exception and that was yesterday morning.

During our Friday morning telephone conversation, I was lamenting to the General my lack of options in getting transportation to the airport on Saturday because of the scheduled time of my early morning flight. That opened up another can of worms. What was I thinking? Like I said, “I tell her too much” and it always comes back to haunt me. I should have seen it coming. According to the General, “Not only do I take unnecessary risks by staying at the wrong hotel, but I irresponsibly don’t get enough sleep. I should have scheduled my flight at a later time”. Sometimes, you just can’t win. I hate it when she is right, but I should have planned for a later flight. Without access to a car, my options to get to the airport were almost nonexistent.

I had checked with the the concierge at the hotel the night before my conversation with the General and he told me I should leave at 4:00 a.m. in order to get to the airport for a 6:30 a.m. departure. He said, “You need to arrive two hours early. It is going to take you thirty minutes to get to the airport. From his perspective, there was only one option: “Taxi”. The one-way price for an eleven-mile cab ride was $40.00. He provided me the price as though it was exceptionally reasonable. Maybe it was. I don’t really know, but I think not.

The concierge’s attitude was: “Like it or leave it.” From my perspective, the taxi ride wasn’t going to happen. I’d walk before I paid $40 for an eleven-mile cab ride. It’s the principal of the thing, as much as anything else. Obviously, it was a classic example of price gouging. I asked about a shuttle and the concierge advised against it. He said, “This hotel is first on the pick-up, by the time the shuttle stops at the other hotels, you’re not going to get to the airport in time. I asked about Uber and the concierge got a little sharp with me. He said, “I’ve already told you that a taxi is the best way to get to the airport. You can do what you want. I don’t know anything about Uber”.

The light rail that I had ridden from the airport to downtown Seattle on Wednesday afternoon had only cost $3. Why didn’t I opt to do that again? Unfortunately, the light rail didn’t open until 5:00 a.m. and it is a scheduled 45-minute commute. I did the math in my head and thought the timing would be too tight. Out of curiosity, I walked back to the University Station Friday night just to consider how long the walk would take, if I opted at the last minute to try to save a dime and take the risk. The light rail might still be an option.

Maybe the General is right. Maybe I do take unnecessary risks. If I took the light rail and missed my flight, the posted one-way ticket back to Austin was $565. I would then have to hitchhike home because, that too, was price gouging.

I walked out to the sidewalk in front of the hotel at 3:45 yesterday morning. I still had not definitively settled on a plan, but it was time to choose a course of action. What was I going to do? The thing that frustrates me is why I allowed my stress level to get so high related to my perceived need to save a dime. It wasn’t even my money that I was saving. All of my expenses were work-related.

At 3:45 a.m., the sidewalks of Seattle were totally empty. There was not another person in sight. The absence of people left me with an eerie feeling. What if I opted to walk back to the University Station and take the light rail? Would I be taking an unnecessary risk? Was it more dangerous to walk the streets of Seattle when it appeared no one was out than to walk them in the midst of a crowd? The answer to that question was definitive in the decision that I subsequently made.

I took my iPhone from my pocket and found the Uber application. I was not paying $40 to take a taxi. I still thought it was price gouging. The Uber driver arrived within five minutes. As soon as I engaged the application, a picture of both the vehicle and the driver, came up on the screen of my iPhone. In addition, I was provided the driver’s name.

By the time we got to the airport, I knew a lot about the driver’s life. I didn’t even have to ask many questions. He seemed in a talkative mood. He is a schoolteacher who wants added income during the summer months. He describes himself as an early morning person and on most days makes an extra $100 long before noon. Consequently, he then has the remainder of the day to call his own.

He moved away from Seattle when he was fourteen to go live with his dad. He came back as a young adult and loved the sense of all that Seattle represents. He has very close ties to his brother who also lives there. I also learned that his mother is retiring this year and he plans to surprise her with an Alaskan cruise. She has never been and he thought a trip like that would be unforgettable for both of them.

I was grateful for the 4:00 a.m. ride to the airport yesterday. In addition, it only cost $28. Of course, by contrast, the light rail was a much better bargain. The General was wrong. I don’t take unnecessary risks. The thought of telling her I missed my flight because the light rail didn’t get me to the airport in time, was a risk I was not willing to take. I would have been reminded of it until my dying days.

All My Best!



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