Generally, I am a very well-behaved work traveller. I fly in, do my job, try to eat something delicious and local, and possibly hit up happy hour with local friends or colleagues. This was not the case last Wednesday. The evening started out as usual, running out to do some shopping in New Orleans for chicory coffee and gifts in the Quarter as soon as work let out for the day.
And then, as I had just decided to go back to the hotel and get some much-needed sleep, I ran into a group of colleagues who were hitting the town and hitting it hard. They asked me to join them for a drink, so we meandered to the next bar and had two drinks each. Those led to some dancing, and a few more. Which led to a few more. Finally around midnight, I decided I needed to toss myself in a cab and head back the 20 blocks or so to the hotel.
But, my perfect plan was thwarted by a very persistent male colleague. He insisted that we walk back to the hotel, together, making some noise about how it would help us sober up, what a nice night, etc. And then, when I wanted to get a cab anyway, he teasingly insisted on carrying my purse and shopping bag back for me. He was so persistent, and my naive self decided he must be the one making better decisions, so away we went headed to the hotel.
But somewhere along the way, I got an odd sense that all was not as it should be. I pretended to dip into a hotel to use the restroom and snuck out the back door- only to realize that he still had my purse and bags and I had no money to get a cab, or even a cell phone to call anyone with. When I rounded the building, he had ambled on, but there I was. Drunk alone after dark- with no keys to my hotel room and at least a mile from the hotel.
My brilliant drunken self decided I could still make it on foot and headed off in the general direction of my hotel, but after a mile had come and gone, I realized I didn’t see anything I recognized anywhere. So, being the powerful woman I am, I promptly sat down on the curb and burst into self-pity tears. Having sobbed it out of my system, I trekked on, but by the time I realized where I had gone wrong, I was at least 15 blocks off course. By 2 am, I wandered into the h0tel lobby, face streaked with mascara tears, begged the front desk for a key to my room (which they kindly granted), called my friend S and left a tear-filled voicemail explanation that I had lost my phone and was all alone in the world and crawled into bed.
By daybreak, I regained a little more equilibrium. I pulled my aching self out of bed, got washed and dressed for the workday, and made a call to my colleague’s room to see if he still had my things- no answer. As I was just about to walk out the door, my hotel phone rang. The front desk said some man was down there claiming to have my purse. I assumed they were confused and it was my co-worker. Nope. It was a guy who apparently lived nearby. He had found my purse outside his house because my 6:00 am alarm was still set from the day before and he heard it beeping. Inside- my id, my hotel key card (which he used to figure out where I was staying), my credit card, cash, and my cell phone. The only thing missing, unfortunately, was my six month old digital camera. I thanked him profusely and offered him cash, which he declined… because he was clearly a saint from heaven.
After a meeting, I ran into my other co-workers looking somewhat hungover, minus my walking “friend”. They asked if I knew what had happened to him. He had apparently woken up in his room covered with mud, scratched up and with a gash on his forehead. He also claimed to have no idea how it happened. He made himself scarce for the rest of the conference, and I called him to see if he had my other bag. Nope. And in his recollection, he had never had it.
The best I can figure out, working it out with S by phone and with much more mature and sober eyes, he had plans to put the moves on me when we left (which my naive self never considered). Why else would he try to get me alone from the group and then insist on walking instead of letting me pay for a cab like I wanted to? And then, after I ditched him, he apparently either stumbled around, losing my things, and fell or picked a fight, resulting in his injuries.
All this is a scary reminder of how very lucky I was this didn’t turn out any worse and how I’m grateful that I trusted my own instincts enough to get away from him, even if it meant wandering around for hours and losing my camera. The co-worker? It’ll be too soon if I never hear from him again. Luckily, we work in different states and rarely see each other or have any projects in common, so avoidance won’t be a challenge.
For now, you can find me at the bar- sipping a Diet Coke. It’s not forever, but unless I’m with very responsible friends or in my own home, for now, I feel a bit safer that way. And as lucky as I was, I don’t want to test my luck again.