Boarding a flight to New York City on a Monday morning, I had plans for three days of business and pleasure, promoting Bottles to Britches, my Baby Planning company, while meeting face to face with friends I’d made through my virtual work for years. It was a good break from my day-to-day life and a great opportunity to make some incredible connections an stay in a NYC hotel ALONE!
After a quick flight it was refreshing to see the city below us and even better as we came in for a landing at LaGuardia (the water below still scares me a bit, especially after the emergency landing in the Hudson last year).
I have to admit I was a bit nervous about getting from the airport to my hotel in Manhattan because I didn’t line up a ride in advance. I knew enough to ask around while waiting for my luggage and got all kinds of options from the native New Yorkers, from just taking a cab to jumping on a city bus and then the train. I did get a quote for a cab (40-something was too pricey for me), but headed outside to see what others would charge, thinking the guys waiting outside would be more reasonable. That’s when I got lucky and discovered the New York Airport Shuttle Service. This shuttle bus was a huge deal at just $5 for a one-way trip to Grand Central Station.
It worked out that my first meeting was just one street over from Grand Central so it was great to hitch a ride for so little money.
In New York it’s not so odd to walk around the streets rolling your luggage behind you, so I took it right with me to my first meeting at Better TV studios. I met up with the producer for the segments I was in town to tape, Marianne Mancusi, who is a celebrity in her own right, authoring more than a dozen books, including a series on vampires. We agreed to meet later that night for a networking get-together and I grabbed a cab (ok, she grabbed the cab for me) and headed to the hotel.
Less than $10 later I was pulling up to the Wingate by Wyndham, greeted by some guys who were hauling chairs out to the sidewalk, offering them up for free. I am a bargain hunter through and through and couldn’t believe they were putting these beautiful chairs ( a set of 6!) out on the street for anyone who could carry them. I knew getting them home would be pricey for me so I had to settle on just checking into my room, enjoying the new furniture the hotel was setting up for those who wanted to relax in the lobby. The Wingate staff was great, helping me get settled with a cart for my pile of belongings and pointing out the area where I was offered a free continental breakfast the next morning.
I found my room and was thrilled with the setup—a huge, cushy bed with soft linens and an ergonomical chair for the desk (though I never sat in it—I prefer working from the bed with the laptop on my lap). A frig made it easy to keep my special drinks refrigerated and I was all set. It’ll make you laugh but I didn’t discover my favorite part of the room until 5 hours later when I was getting ready to go out to meet friends. More on that in a minute. The 5 hours in between, I’m ashamed to admit, were spent in that bed working on a project that HAD to be done that minute. So I did it, knowing I had the next day to see the city. Before I knew it I needed to shower and get ready to go. And that’s when I discovered the coolest shower head ever. This thing worked magic with the water, working into a power stream that felt more like a back and scalp massage than any other shower head I’ve ever used. I’m tempted to order one for my own home. It was that good.
I finally pulled myself out of the shower and rushed to get ready to meet my friends. I work in a virtual environment, dealing with everyone over the phone in most instances. I’ve worked with some people nine years and met them only twice. The 5 folks I met for dinner on this night were people I had never laid my eyes on before but were some of my favorite colleagues, if that makes sense at all.
We all hung out in the Wingate’s bar/restaurant and ordered up some drinks. I ate some of the best crab cake of my life and enjoyed great conversation. It’s always so critical to bond face to face and tonight the connections were flying. Marianne met up with us (the Better TV producer and author). Nancy Lombardo, a comedian I had connected with earlier, brought along her PR friend, Gail Parenteau, who reps the band Boston, the company Hooters, and many, many other groups. A photographer/producer friend who has jumped in last minute on project after project for me multiple times, Peter Fitzpatrick, was the only guy of the group. And then Kim Orlando, founder of Traveling Mom, joined in on the fun. These are people who I worked with on different levels and in a true, six degrees of Desiree form, it turned out each of them had connected before, too. Kim had taken Nancy’s performance classes. Kim and Marianne had connected on previous projects. Marianne had shot stories before with Peter. And Peter had worked with Gail shooting Hooters’ Calendars in the past (tough job for a single guy, I know). It was pretty cool to see that even in the big city it’s a small world after all.
We eventually wrapped up our networking session with all kinds of great ideas and headed our own directions. I caught a couple hours of sleep and the next morning woke up to forecasts for some serious snow the next day. When the forecaster predicted a blizzard which would make it tough to see 20 feet in front of you, I decided to look into an early departure. The Airtran web site was nothing but wonderful. I had only paid $138 for my round trip ticket and fully expect to pay half that much to move my departure. However, Airtran felt like I did—that it was best to get out of dodge early—and posted on its site that earlier departures would cost nothing. I quickly grabbed the last seat available on the last plane out that night and hoped I wasn’t being foolish. I was supposed to get a one-on-one comedian’s tour of the city with my friend Nancy (including drinks at the Friar’s Club!) and this meant that fun was going to have to wait until my next trip to the city. Who knows when that would happen, but I had a 4 yr old with plans for a Valentine’s Party that I just couldn’t disappoint.
Minutes after changing my flight I quickly checked out of my hotel, knowing my second night stay wasn’t going to happen. They were very understanding about the need for me to leave and made checkout super simple. Minutes later I met up with Shannan Carr, the East Pennsylvania Bottles to Britches Baby Planner, who was kind enough to bring her two-month old son to star in our Better TV segments and agreed to get me from the hotel to Bellini NYC, the baby furniture store where we were shooting our segments. She, like me, wasn’t too crazy driving around the streets of New York, but we eventually got to where we needed to be. We had to find parking (that could have been an article all by itself), and met up with Peter and Marianne at the baby/children furniture store. We set up the products we brought along to preview in our segments (airing on Better TV in March) and got to work shooting the segments.
Two hours later it was a wrap and we said our goodbyes. Shannan dropped me back at Grand Central where I found the shuttle bus which had dropped me off and paid for a one-way ticket back to La Guardia (for whatever reason it was $12 for the same trip back, but still a bargain compared to the cabs). What was crazy was it was just 24 hours before that I was getting off at Grand Central. How was that even possible? The most sightseeing I got to do was from the front window of the shuttle bus, but it was still a successful trip! And as I checked in for my flight, surrounded by people who were going to try standby, I was so thankful I had changed my plans first thing that morning. And as we arrived back in Atlanta, I was so glad to be home.