Playing Hooky

hotelWhen was the last time you played hooky?

Once, on one of those spectacular fall days where Mother Nature offers up the perfect combination of sunshine, warmth, humidity and an abundance of color, my wife and I did just that: we played hooky.  We decided on a road trip and headed away from the hustle and bustle of the big city to explore rural America – no constraints and just the following rules: “No phones & let’s enjoy”.

The hours passed almost without notice. My visual sensory department was operating at maximum, processing the ever changing scenery and colors. Midday we rolled in to a typical “small town America” locale. At the corner of First and Main stood the distinctive turn of the century, three-story hotel.  I’m not much into architecture but this building was a beauty. Immaculate in condition, wonderfully preserved, it presented itself with the same elegance and stature as the day of its grand opening.  We had to see inside!

As grand as the exterior was, the interior was more spectacular as it oozed with the classiness of that era.  Dumbstruck, we stood motionless absorbing the craftsmanship of a different time.

Apparently, this was not the first time visitors remain paralyzed in the doorway.  Almost imperceptibly, a gentleman approached us from the left. With a controlled, practiced and warm voice, he brought us back to reality without a startle.  “Welcome to the Grand Hotel. May I assist you?”  Imagine, if you will, the typical English butler presenting the same wardrobe, pomp and ceremony as if he were addressing royalty. Yep, it was “Jeeves” and his breast badge proudly announced his position as “Head Concierge”.

Without hesitation, Jeeves was eager to provide a short tour of the main floor accompanied with a history lesson attached to any question related to the hotel. Jeeves moved us through time, like peeling back the layers of an onion, from the turn of the century to modern days as we moved further away from the grand entrance. All I could think of was “you can’t judge a book by its cover”.

What amused and fascinated me even more than finding a “Head Concierge” in the middle of nowhere was the “Telegraph and Telephone” room. Actually it was a series of three rooms interconnected with a central hallway leading away from the grand entrance. The first room was the hotel’s original “Telegraph” room – fully equipped with two telegraph devices along with an “overstuffed” operator (hand poised to transmit) sporting a black topless sun visor protecting his wire rim glasses and dressed in period costume. The middle “Telephony Room” transitioned us into the audio era where a collection of phones conveyed the innovation and evolution of the wired phone. On display were very early wooden wall mounted devices with hand cranks, polished brass, two-piece handheld desk models. In the corner was the hotel’s original manually operated switchboard along with a motionless operator, jack wires in hand, about to complete a call. And then there was the very familiar desktop rotary dial phone. The opposite wall was a bank of coin-operated “silver bandits,” many still operational. Some were rotary dial while others were push-button. It reminded me of my career as a territory sales person when I stood for countless hours conducting business from one of these ubiquitous banks of phones in the lobby of some hotel, long before cell phones and email. The third room was simply titled “Today”. It was an ultra-modern business center managed by one of the familiar nationwide names. It offered just about everything including two big TV monitors streaming world news from several stations.

So there we were in the middle of nowhere, in a turn-of-the-nineteenth-century building, thinking that we were comfortably out of reach and out of touch only to realize that technology has shrunk our world to a point where playing hooky is more theoretical than practical.

Spitfire lives in the fast paced world of technology where new phrases are coined daily.   “Anytime – Anywhere – Any device” has been a core message in cloud marketing blurbs for several years now.  It was comforting to know that by signing on to any of the business center computers, I could get an up-to-the-minute status on the high profile project we closed earlier in the month from our Spitfire Project Management System – just like I could normally do with my smartphone that I had to leave at home on “spouse’s orders”!

So the next time you get asked to play hooky, you might as well bring your own mobile devices.   But if you are caught without there are still plenty of options in today’s connected world.

“Anytime – Anywhere – Any Device”.  It is a win-win situation.