The company is flying a group of us up to Seattle for a job interview.
The company wants to make a good impression on us, understanding that the interview is as much for us as them.
Avis rental cars smelling faintly of damp are waiting for each us; please sign here and go.
We have been provided with detailed directions from SeaTac to our hotel, the enigmatically named "W."
Without the explicit injunction to take a left off I-5, we would have breezed straight past downtown and gotten hopelessly lost.
Granted, then we would have blended right in; most Seattle drivers navigate as though perpetually on the verge of knowing where they are.
Going down two blocks and taking a left into a virtually unmarked building, we find ourselves encased in the womb of the W.
The moment our body language conveys that, yes, we intend to be here and are not confused drivers trying to execute a three-point turn, a team of valets launch themselves at us.
Imagine an entire football team coming after you, except that the players are all skinny guys wearing black.
It's not exactly scary, but it's certainly more than I can take.
Quelling my urges to run or placate the rushing hoard with massive tips, I stand my ground until the ordeal of transferring luggage and car keys is finished.
A chrome and glass door marks the Entrance, the Gateway, the Threshold.
The inside is so dim that the glass acts as a perfect mirror.
Passing into the lobby, I found myself transported to a world of preposterous strutting pretension, almost endearing in its vigilant attention to ostentation.
Recessed blue lights provide the sole illumination.
Yesterday's downtempo music fills the space (Thievery Corporation's "Mirror Conspiracy").
Interesting art, mostly large blocks-of-color pieces interspersed with small representational oil paintings of body parts, line the 25 foot high wall behind the desk.
Brown-so-dark-it's-black is the dominant color theme.
Coifed, sleek, sleazy, non-tie-wearing thousand-dollar suited types lounge in the back with their $7 minimum cocktails.
I am checked in with emotionless precision, supplying my name, driver's license, and credit card.
The room is already payed for, so I'm not entirely sure why they need a credit card; I assume to cover the mini bar, which they call the "honor bar."
Walking past the "W.C."
towards the "Lift" (both advertised as such in a tasteful bronze sans-serif), I almost crash into walls I can barely see in the excessively dim light.
The ultra-hip hotel staff must enjoy sneaking up on guests, their black uniform fading into obscurity.
I get the impression that there are nice black and white photos on the walls, but it's hard to tell.
The elevator ("lift") has precisely the right acceleration, neither smashing your stomach around your ankles nor taking half of eternity to reach the higher floors.
I am deposited in an empty, featureless, vaguely blue space which eventually resolves itself as a hallway.
Putting one arm out to feel a wall, I eventually navigate towards my room.
I fumble with my keycard for a while, trying to get my door to accept me.
I dread having to go back downstairs and feel the scorn of the clerk as I confess that my key doesn't work.
I imagine that he'd stare levelly at me, then lift up a matte black telephone to call my potential employer and tell them to not even bother with tomorrow's interview.
Fortunately, I finally figure out the card reader; the text should be upside down, not right-side up (silly me).
A green LED and comforting 'snick' sound let me know that my room is ready for me.
Before me is spread a tableau of "modern wealth."
The bathroom counter is half-inch glass surface suspended on chrome struts, in which is sunk a hemisphere of stainless steel.
Six plastic bottles of various stuff -- shampoos, conditioners, lotions, mouthwash, burmese mink oil, and the like -- stand at attention.
The bedchamber is dominated by a massive walnut hutch housing the television, a pile of snacks, and the "honor bar."
A pile of fluffy things marks the bed: a fluffy featherbed under a fluffy comforter under ten fluffy pillows.
I'm afraid to sit on it without having a rope to pull myself free.
I throw my stuff down, wincing slightly at the sight of my plebe backpack dimpling the otherwise smooth surface of a distinguished leather armchair.
There are two magazines in the room, 'Wired' and a catalog telling you where you can buy your room's furniture.
I notice that every snack item on top of the honor bar carries a discrete, tasteful price tag; bottled water costs $7.
Images of the Ikea scene from Fight Club flash through my mind.
I want to unwind from my flight and prep my brain for tomorrow's interview, but I just can't cope with where I am.
I alternately feel like some maitre' d type will open the door and tell me I don't belong, or that my friends will call and accuse me of selling out to unabashed yuppiedom.
Too wired up to sleep and unwilling to absorb the room, I draw a tub of hot water.
Well, lukewarm water; is it part of the self-consciously classy gig to protect guests from the water heater?
I want scalding hot water to wash away the day, dammit.
I bet they filter their water, too, denying me that special "calcium deposit" feeling.
Vaguely refreshed, I don their flannel bathrobe and brush my teeth, the first step of the going-to-bed-ritual.
Oddly, there's no complimentary tube of toothpaste.
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