die on the toilet, Elvis Presley being, possibly, one of the most famous examples. I know this because I am a dry cleaner's daughter and was intrigued by an article in the New Yorker or the Atlantic (can't remember which) about the real cleaners...the companies that specialize in taking care of the messes left by the dead. By the way, getting smashed by objects falling from high rises is also not that unusual in New York City, and I imagine that kind of cleaning takes a special sort of skill set I do not possess.
At any rate, I went to Washington, D.C. for a conference on Tuesday.
D.C. isn't really a high-rise sort of place, so I wasn't on the lookout for falling pianos. I also wasn't paying attention to possible airborne pathogens, but they're a lot harder to see. And I'd had my flu shot. So when I developed a cough Friday afternoon, I was sure it was from smoking a cigarette with a friend after dinner and a couple drinks (don't scold, I maybe smoke once a year). When I woke up Saturday morning to fever, chills, and muscle aches...well, you can't blame that on half a cigarette. My thought was I needed to get home ASAP. So I picked up my phone to call the Hubs regarding my condition when I noticed the tiny blue dot was blinking, indicating I had a pending message.
What could it be?
Yeah, flights cancelled.
So I went downstairs and extended my stay by one day, telling the front desk person I was sick and preferred just not to be disturbed.
At the Sofitel (where they answer the phone, "Bonjour, you have reached le Sofitel"), "Do not disturb" means something quite different than at the Super 8. At the Sofitel, it means call Ms. Le Nom to make sure she doesn't need towels, tea, orange juice, sparkling water, oatmeal. And ring her door bell (yeah, the rooms have door bells) to see if her mini-bar needs restocked. (Seriously, Nikita [names changed to protect the innocent] and I are on a first-named basis now; I have half the hotel management's business cards.)
That was extended day one. Flash forward to extended day number three (EXD#3)...that's six cancelled flights...and I don't know whom to thank ironically because the weather problems were in Dallas and Little Rock, not D.C.
I know the good people of Sofitel were truly concerned for my welfare, and I appreciated the complimentary trays that kept coming to my room. But I was starting to feel like I was in the hospital...a super pleasant-smelling hospital where all the food (if you actually feel like eating) is along the lines of steak tartare and escargot and no one sticks you with needles...and you feel like you are never going to get better despite how lovely the place is (some of you will get that allusion).
Begin TMI Statement::
At 3:00 a.m. on EXD#3, I awoke hacking so hard I nearly coughed up a lung. That lasted about 10 minutes, and then I decided I needed to pee. It's no surprise, really, after all the tea, coffee, orange juice, grapefruit juice, San Pellegrino, and Perrier that served as the hotel equivalent of an IV drip...and the obvious pressure coughing would put on my bladder...nature would naturally call. So I got up, went to the bathroom, sat down, finished. And then I kind of looked at my reflection in the glass shower door and thought, "I think I'm going to throw up."
I haven't thrown up in a long time, so I had kind of forgotten the feeling...I reflected on this looking at my reflection. But then when the water came to my mouth, I was like, "Yep, flush, pull up the jammies now: this thing is happening."
I barfed twice.
End TMI Statement::
And then I sat back on the cool marble floor (the hotel is next door to the White House, what do you expect?), sweaty and exhausted and waiting to see if I should expect another round.
That was when I realized I had run out of toothpaste the day before.
You would think life couldn't get any worse at that point.
Wait for it.
So I flossed and rubbed my teeth with my finger and went back to bed.
And then I had a little bit of a dream. Because I read so widely and variously.
I dreamt that I died in "le Sofitel" sitting on the toilet.
My body was hauled onto a gurney by a bunch of people I didn't know dressed in white who threw around words and phrases like "stat" and "Valsalva maneuver" (another good reason not to use Wikipedia as a reference), while the hotel staff...Nikita, Raj, Abdul, Djeynaba**...cried over me because I was such a wonderful guest. As everyone looked on, I worried I had never completely pulled up my jammies.
My body went off to wherever bodies go in D.C., but my soul stayed on at "le Sofitel."
And I had to wrestle with every new occupant over my rightful place in the king-sized bed (right side, next to the windows) over and over again. Sometimes I had to give in to couples and lie at the foot of the bed on the scratchy carpet with the extra blanket and no pillow. Other times I shoved the two chairs together to make a bed and used the cotton robe for cover.
I would make a great ghost.
This went on and on until I woke up in a sweat at 5:00 a.m.
I checked my phone.
And then I checked the bathroom to make sure I wasn't dead on the toilet.
Thankfully, I was not.
But when I came back around the corner, the clothes I had stripped off earlier when I went to bed looked shockingly like a dead body. I got down on my hands and knees and nervously went about feeling around for myself.
My hands felt nothing but cloth.
And the only reason I'm telling this story is because I'm sitting on the divan in my own damned house watching my two cats fight over who gets to sit next to my stinky feet.
That is the only way to be 100% sure I did not die on the toilet at "le Sofitel."
*Photo courtesy of Earthworm via Flickr's Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.
**While I did change the names of the staff I came to know at the Sofitel, I tried to retain their cultural identities. Before I got sick, we had some fabulous discussions about life in D.C., coming to the U.S. for new opportunities, and learning to embrace difference. I wish they had a position for a tech writer.