The Romance Writers of America Conference Almost Killed Me
A.K.A. The Trip from Hell
By: Julie Ann Walker
The first day of the Romance Writers of America Conference started out well and good. Back in Chicago, I ate a nice breakfast, my bags were neatly packed - nothing forgotten and shoved in at the last minute - my flight status showed my plane to Atlanta was on time, and the sun was shining. For a gal who travels fairly often, this was how a trip should begin... uneventfully.
And then Fate, that fickle ol' battle-ax, thought I deserved a good bee-yotch slapping. Now, let me start by saying I have no idea why she chose this particular moment to turn against me. Just the day before I'd stopped in the middle of my bicycle ride to give a group of wide-eyed, obviously lost tourists directions. A week earlier I'd spent a day volunteering for the USO. And recently, I'd put together a rather heartfelt care package for a sick friend. Not that these small things should have assured my unencumbered entrance into the Great Beyond. But, hey, I figured they at least earned me some karmic points in the plus column. Apparently not...
The first catastrophe occurred as soon as the taxi I hailed nosed out onto the highway. Back-to-back traffic. Thirty minutes of stop-and-go slid into sixty. Then, my taxi up and died. Now, folks, I'm not sure the poor cabbie didn't just run out of gas... unprepared, as I was, for the piled-up traffic. But regardless, there I was, stuck on the side of the highway, waiting for another taxi to arrive. Forty minutes later, one did.
By that point, as I'm sure you can guess, I missed my flight. I fancy that I watched my United Airlines jet soar across that big blue bowl of a sky the moment I stepped onto the curb at the airport. But I'm nothing if not resourceful - wink, wink - so a bit of sweet-talk later, I was booked on the next flight.
I arrived in Atlanta in one piece, and I assumed my bad luck was behind me. Of course, you know what they say about assuming, right? It makes an "a$$" out of "u" and "me." Because while I may have arrived Atlanta, my bags had not. They were still... somewhere. Lost in that great luggage abyss that is Chicago's O'Hare airport.
After filling out the appropriate paperwork so the Atlanta airport personnel could deliver my wayward luggage to my hotel once it, you know, actually made the trip, I climbed into my third taxi of the day. Two miles into the ride, the air-conditioner gave up the ghost with a cough, cough, and a wheeze. Now, this is Atlanta in the middle of July, kids. We're talking steamy enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk. Needless to say, by the time I arrived at my hotel, I was a hot mess.
All I wanted at that point was to jump in a nice, cold shower. I had a book signing in approximately one hour, so that gave me just enough time. But, alas, I should've known. The hotel was not prepared for the influx of conference attendees, and even though it was 4:30 in the afternoon, my room was not ready.
Par for the course, I figured at that point, and went to my signing smelling like butt and looking like a twelve-year-old. (I'd braided my hair in pigtails that morning, assuming I'd have plenty of time to make myself appropriately authory before I had to meet any fans.)
After the event, I was relieved to find that my room was, indeed, finally ready. And once I'd cocooned myself in my own private home-away-from-home the first order of business was to locate my luggage. This is when I found myself talking to a lovely gentleman at the United Airlines' call-center in India. Now, imagine my chagrin when the answer to the question of, "Is there anything in your luggage that could help us easily identify it?" was, "Yeah, there are ten books packed inside, and on the covers are half-naked men." The lovely gentleman actually made me repeat my answer. I could picture quite clearly the snickering faces of those seated around him.
I wish I could say the tale ends here. Unfortunately, it does not. Because at 12:06 in the morning, I got a call from the bellboy informing me that my luggage had finally arrived. Ecstatic that I wouldn't have to make a mad dash to the gift shop and deck myself out in Atlanta Braves gear for the next day - I'm a Cubs fan; that would've been sacrilege - I raced to retrieve my luggage. But standing in the elevator, bag in hand, I was horrified to discover it was soaking, I'm talking soaking, wet. You see, we'd had a rather violent rainstorm blow through earlier and obviously my luggage had borne the brunt of it.
The next hour saw me using every hanger I could scrounge up in order to hang my sopping clothes around the hotel room. I woke up forty-five minutes early the next morning just in case they hadn't dried - which, of course, they hadn't - and spent that time using my hairdryer on the outfit I'd planned to wear.
And THUS endeth the tale of how the 2013 Romance Writers of America Conference almost killed me...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She'll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. Look for the first four books in her fast-paced series: Hell On Wheels (August 2012) In Rides Trouble (September 2012) Rev It Up (October 2012) and Thrill Ride (April 2013). For more information, please visit www.julieannwalker.com or follow her on Facebook www.facebook.com/jawalkerauthor and/or Twitter @JAWalkerAuthor.