“Can I help you look for something?”
The voice startled me for several reasons. The least of which was that I hadn’t done too much US-based traveling within the last year and hearing a familiar dialect while wheeling luggage was becoming a novelty. The most jarring reason was that I was standing in the middle of a Starbucks with a coffee, staring intently at my iPhone’s teeny little map, searching for the street that would lead to my hotel. Someone being nice? In a Starbucks?
I politely declined with a giggle I couldn’t help but suppress as the kind stranger began asking me a series of questions about my flight, where I was from, and what business I had in his town. I left the conversation to head to my hotel giddy from the first full conversation I had engaged in with another human being all day.
Four hours and I was already feeling at home in Seattle.
I arrived in Seattle in the middle of the week for an event at Elliott Bay Book Company. My fellow travelers and I had found an amazing weekday rate at the Sorrento Hotel, a gorgeous Italianate building with a lobby bar fireplace that became my home for the next few days. I came with no expectations save for a wealth of coffee and rain. Ask and you shall receive.
My team woke up early and covered ourselves in hoodies and sweaters as we followed a scribbled line on a paper map down toward Union Street. We followed the tourists and foreign crowds into Pike Place Market, taking in the melting pot of pungent smells, fresh tuna and tulips alike, and famished, stumbled into Lowell’s for breakfast sandwiches and yellow yoked eggs. We were tired and slightly stressed, coming out of a project that you wouldn’t call a slump but wouldn’t call a success either. Outside tug boats called out to each other and the wind howled against the windows. We filled coffee cup after coffee cup from a tiny faucet on the restaurant counter and talked shop in an easy way that’s impossible when you’re counting minutes and double checking email subject lines. It was an easy beginning to an easy day that ended with a continuation of that shop talk around that very comfortable fire at the Sorrento and a night cap or two.
I tucked myself into my bed and wrapped myself up in those thick, creamy off-white hotel sheets – the best part of traveling, always. I involuntarily smiled, happy and satiated. I walked off a plane with no expectations except a busy work week ahead: much to be done and on a different time zone, no less! And as I spent some time walking from wifi hot spot to the next, meeting writers and making friends, my armor melted away. I have no photos of the Space Needle. I have no shots of the infamous original Starbucks. I wasn’t traveling, I was in town on business. But somewhere between a TSA check point and checking out of my hotel, I allowed myself to get away.