Monday, February 22, 2010

Amanda and the Bee

(May 31, 2007)

I had an opportunity to help a fellow journalist out with his coverage of the National Scripps Spelling Bee in D.C.


6:10 a.m.

I start my journey to bee land by hopping on the Amtrak up to D.C. My company purchased a business class seat for me…pretty cool. Business class is nice and quiet, with the exception of the group behind me who insists on shouting back and forth with each other as to whether or not they should expense the lap dance one of them got the previous night. They think this is pretty funny so they keep repeating it. Dorks.

8:20 a.m.

Arrived D.C. and caught a cab to the hotel. The cab driver was so nice! Nothing like the cab drivers in NYC! This guy spoke English and actually talked to me during the ride. I was only too happy to oblige him in talking about how nice the weather was.

8:40 a.m.

I arrive at the Grand Hyatt Washington.

People, this hotel kicks arse.

As soon as I walk in I have this feeling of serenity overwhelm me. The lobby is just so beautiful and there are TONS of places to just sit and relax.

This was by far the most beautiful hotel I've ever stayed in. Unfortunately, I didn't have any time to enjoy it. More on the hotel later.

On to the bee.

I made my way to the bottom floor of the hotel equipped with my laptop, digital still camera, 6 or 7 wires, headphones and my wallet. It totally sucked having to go through the metal detector.

After getting my press badge, I lugged my equipment into the main hall. I was completely blown away at how big the spelling bee was. There were hundreds of kids and twice as many parents (see, I can do math).

I found my partner in crime for the event, Sean Mussenden of the Washington bureau and we quickly made a game plan. During breaks, we would track down spellers from our locally covered areas and get video interviews with them and during the bee I would try to get pictures of all our spellers. I think we had about 20 or 30 spellers from our areas at the start.

The game plan kind of fell apart throughout the day because I didn't have wireless (the press room which was supposed to provide it….didn't) and so I had to order it through my hotel room and kept running up there to upload images and videos.

Oh and the videos…what a nightmare. Sean's video camera runs on a card and I don't have a card reader on my laptop, so it was a huge mess. We eventually got things working, but the video is the worst I've ever produced. We shot everything on the fly and the camera just wasn't up to par. It pixilated all over the place, it's just not pretty. However, some video is better than none.

Sean was really excited to offer that on his blog this year, so he was happy. I had more luck taking pictures.

Because we were chasing down interviews during the kids breaks, we never got a break ourselves. It was exhausting! I will admit though, I didn't think a spelling bee would be exciting….it totally was. Some of the words were absolutely insane!

The bee started at 8 a.m. and didn't end until 6:30 p.m. I was tired…kids were tired.

I had survived on a zone bar in the morning, a coffee and chocolate chip cookie from Starbucks for lunch and one bottle of water. That was it.

I didn't actually finish uploading videos until about 9 p.m. At that point, I just needed to turn the computer off and get food.

I went across the street to the Capital Brewing Co. and ordered a big ol platter of food. It was a little on the expensive side, but the food was delicious. Or, maybe it wasn't but I had forgotten what food was supposed to taste like and so thought anything edible at that point was delicious. =)

I got into bed at about 10:30 p.m. and finally realized how wonderful my room was.

The bed was amazing; even softer than the one at the Hilton New York. And the pillows….oh my goodness if I could have gotten away with anything from that room, it would have been the pillows. They were the kind that just molded to your head. SOOOOO comfy.

I had actually fallen asleep pretty quickly but woke when I heard some kind of moaning at around 11 p.m. It was coming from the room next door. It was a woman moaning and I realized she must've been having sex. I giggled and went back to sleep. Another half hour later I was woken by the moaning again…this time it was louder, more intense. She was specifically moaning, "yes….yes…yes…YES!" It was hilarious!

Now I know I've heard other people having sex before, but this was different. These people just didn't give a damn if anyone could hear their love-making. It was kind of...exhilerating. It's just strange knowing there are two people literally 15 feet away from you having sex.

I wish I could say that was the end of my night…but it wasn't.

The sex-crazed couple kept me up all night. Seriously. All night.

Every half hour or so the moaning started again. Each session didn't last more than about 8 minutes. How do I know this? It happened so often I actually had the opportunity to time it and average it out.

Because I couldn't sleep with the noise coming from next door, I started wondering who these people were. Perhaps a businesswoman and a young paramour? Maybe a married couple who decided it was finally time to try that sex-marathon they'd been talking about for years. Whoever they were….my hat's off to them.

If I hadn't been so damn intrigued by their consistency throughout the love-fest, I would have banged on the door and shouted, "people are trying to sleep!"

At 5:15 a.m., I woke to the sound of moaning again. These people rock.

After the morning performance, I checked out of the hotel and caught another cab to the train station. My cab driver was from Ghana and was so totally cool. I asked him if he enjoyed being a taxi driver and he responded with a big hearty laugh.

"It makes you laugh, dats for sure," he says.

He proceeded to tell me about the time a 50 year old woman got out of his cab and ran away without paying.

"She was so old and frail and she couldn't even run really, but she tried and I let her go. I had to laugh watching this woman run down the sidewalk, looking over her shoulder every 3 steps to see if I would chase her."

This guy is cool. =)

Currently, it's 9:08 a.m. and I'm on the Amtrak heading back toward Richmond. However, our train is slowing down and the conductor is saying there is some kind of problem with signaling at the station ahead.

9:13 a.m.

My train is completely stopped on the tracks now.

Why does something like this always happen to me when I travel? =)

9:45 a.m.

Arrived home safe and sound. 

Time to go into the office.

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