A few weeks later, I lumbered out of bed to prepare for my job at a posh hotel in suburban Chicago. While showering and dressing, I lamented over my pitiful life.
At nineteen-years-old, I lived with my parents and worked full-time at minimum wage—$4.25 an hour. Two night classes left the five remaining evenings for dance clubs, rock concerts and parties. Not to mention dating, although unfocused college men with octopus hands didn’t keep me interested for long. None were grounded or thoughtful enough to hold my attention. Not surprising, since I didn’t have any direction either—no career plans or college major. Who the hell was I, anyway?
I doubted my ability to achieve the grades needed to major in psychology at a good university. It’d be even more foolish to think I’d ever accomplish my other interest—becoming a published author. I could only hope to someday stumble upon a career matching some hidden talent not yet discovered.
Despite the doldrums, I liked being a reservationist, but my insensitive coworkers dampened the experience.
Lucy, the first supervisor of our department, had short black hair—sleek like a panther’s. She towered over me, peering down her turned up nose, bragging about driving a Saab.
Sandy, who replaced Lucy when she quit, treated me like one of the girls. That was great, except for the fact, she didn’t work. Even when the phones rang continually, Sandy sat at her desk painting ceramics or playing solitaire. After months of hectic workdays while she slacked off, I confronted her about helping us out. Bad idea. She treated me with disdain from there on out.
Me and my big mouth somehow got in trouble even when I tried to do the right thing. Not knowing how to go about handling situations tactfully, I probably deserved the attitude from both her and my peers. I knew myself well—a person with a bundle of flaws and nothing more.
Under the weight of my own self-condemnation, I applied make-up, snaked into panty-hose, then slipped on a gray skirt. A blue blazer completed the required uniform.
The mild September morning warranted open windows on the three-mile drive in a maroon 1981 Dodge Mirada, bought with my own hard-earned money. The pleasant day helped me to refocus on things I enjoyed about the job … chatting with customers and harmless flirting with the bellmen.
Our office hours staggered. Thank God Kyla worked seven-to-four, because with my late nights, I barely made it in time for the ten-to-seven shift.
In our reservations office, I greeted coworkers and settled in front of the computer. Our stations set against an L-shaped counter.
The scent of Sandy’s coffee filled the room. I never acquired a taste for the stuff, but loved the smell. I leaned back, setting my eyes on the bulletin board hanging in front of me. In my own hand writing, the large letters R E O stared back at me, along with a photo of Kevin Cronin holding his acoustic guitar. In a couple of days, I’d be seeing him in concert. My tummy fluttered, and I restrained a giggle.
Two phone lines rang. Kyla and Mary answered, proceeding to click reservations into their computers.
Sandy scribbled something on a piece of paper at the only real desk in the room.
Placing the headset on, I adjusted the mouthpiece in front of my lips. An inter-office call rang on my extension. I plugged in the cord. “Reservations. This is Lori.”
“Hi, Lori. It’s Bill.”
“Hey Bill, what’s up?”
I found most of the young bellmen attractive. Bill, however, was the one with the good personality. Only about five years my senior, his Humpty Dumpty shape and bald spot made him appear much older. His endearing, mild-manner drew me into a close friendship with him.
“Listen, pretend we’re discussing a guest in case anyone hears you.”
“Okayyy,” I dragged out the word with one corner of my lips curled. Was Bill losing it?
He sounded like a covert spy whispering into the phone. “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but REO Speedwagon is checking in at our hotel later today.”
I held my breath, muzzling a scream.
“It’s obvious how much you love them … the lead singer … didn’t think it was fair not to tell you.”
I coughed to let him know I heard him … or because I couldn’t speak.
“They’re supposed to arrive between six and eight tonight. I thought you’d want to stick around after you get off work.”
Oh, I would do more than just stick around.