My foot shook like a jack hammer while waiting for the lead singer of REO Speedwagon, Kevin Cronin, to visit me at the office.
Only one reservationist worked on slow Saturdays, leaving me deserted in our dank, windowless office. A slug would’ve moved faster than the second-hand of the clock.
The dot-matrix printer hummed and scaffawed in the background. I slumped in my seat and eyeballed the time—4:45. My shift ended in fifteen minutes.
I released a heavy sigh, then traipsed toward the front desk to drop off paperwork. I flung the door open to the atrium lobby where the aromas of basil and thyme seeped from a restaurant. Large, cushy furniture added a mix of new upholstery smells. Surrounding plants reached for the glass ceiling ten floors above. My eyes scanned the rooms overhead, then lowered toward the lobby near the glass elevator. There I saw a tall, skinny man with long, kinky hair. He spoke briefly to someone before striding toward the hotel store.
My throat fell into my belly button, nabbing my breath with it. Kevin! I lobbed the information for the clerks onto the counter and raced to the reservations office where I hyperventilated. How will I meet him without fainting?
The phone rang. “Reservations—”
“Hey, it’s me, Bill. I went to Kevin’s room and reminded him about you. He said he remembered. Get ready, because he just went to the gift shop, and he’s coming to see you next.”
“Oh geez, Bill. I’m freaking out and will probably make a fool of myself.”
“Don’t worry. He’s a nice guy.”
We hung up, and I took a few deep breaths. During the third slow exhale, a comforting energy flowed over me. I don’t know how, but the anxiety dulled to tolerable.
My shift had ended ten minutes earlier. No sooner did I realize I needed to clock-out, when the front office manager, Mr. Mancini, called out to me, “Lori.”
He plodded into the office. “Isn’t it time for you to go home?”
Just as I sucked in a breath to answer, Kevin stepped in right behind him.
Mr. Mancini shot me a teasing grin.
“Huh … hi, Kevin,” my voice quivered.
“Hi, Lori.” The rock star held out his arms and wrapped them around me in a full embrace.
I lowered my face, stiffened and pushed away. Behind us, a crowd of mocking eyes ruined the affectionate moment for me. Did the entire hotel staff show up to watch me choke?
I refused to let them see me fail and made light of the situation with sarcasm. “It’s about time you got here.” I giggled, then pointed to our oglers. “You proved all of these people wrong. They said you wouldn’t come down here to meet little old me, because you’re too big of a star.”
“Well, we’re human too, you know.”
I smiled at him, oozing adoration.
His jade eyes caught my wide-eyed browns. “As soon as I walked in the door, people started telling me about a girl in reservations. I kept hearing all about you, so I had to meet you.”
Bill, who stood among the gawkers, stepped apart from them. “Well, let’s take a snapshot.”
Kevin rubbed his fingers across his jaw. “I don’t look good enough for a picture. I need a shave.”
“Oh, I hate pictures of myself, but this is worth it today, Kevin.” My voice went a little higher than usual.
He put an arm around me, and for one flash of the camera, it felt like we were a couple.
I thanked him for taking time out of his day to visit me, and he waved goodbye to everyone.
My idol lived up to expectations and more. He obviously had a choice and didn’t have to meet me. His humble and gracious attitude equaled his talent as a singer, songwriter and musician.
A few hours later I saw him again … in concert. The music overtook me, enveloping every cell of my being. At the end of the long, thrilling day, something had shifted in me.
By handling the encounter with poise, I proved my coworkers wrong, and even surprised myself. It occurred to me others viewed me as pathetic because I did, too. Until I gained confidence, others wouldn’t respect me either.
Soon after, Doreen and a couple of the front desk clerks asked me to join them for a drink.
Teresa, a sales secretary, explained why she had been avoiding me for the past few weeks. She knew about REO staying at the hotel and didn’t want the secret to slip from her lips lest she be fired. Once it was all over, Teresa invited me out for a friendly dinner. We started clubbing together and became the best of friends.
Mary stopped using the attitude tone with me and even complimented my handling of the situation. We didn’t become friends, but civil coworkers.
With my own growing courage, I landed a higher paying job. It wasn’t quite my career choice yet, but because of one thoughtful rock star who believed I was worth two visits in twenty-four hours, I knew I’d find my way.
Thank you for reading this story taken from my diary.
I met my favorite sports idol at the hotel too and shared that story in my memoir anthology, Home Avenue. I didn’t handle that one quite as gracefully. Click on the book cover to the right to purchase.
Now, I wonder if there’s a way to meet Mike Rowe.