Gap Year — Scottsdale
It was a geographically driven decision. When I booked the W in downtown Scottsdale for a family friend’s wedding nearby, I had no idea that this particular location was not the quiet business hotel I expected. That became obvious the moment I reached the pool deck.
I could hear it before I could see it — music blared from huge speakers cornering the pool area. When I arrived at the entrance, all I could see were bodies — everywhere. Groups stood out, particularly those wearing “Bride Tribe” hats. At that moment I realized I had reached the bachelor/bachelorette mecca of the nation, with a party scene second only to college spring break in Ft. Lauderdale — complete with bikini-clad waitresses carrying full trays of shots. This was a well-oiled machine, just like the bodies that occupied it. What am I doing here, I wondered. Where would I sit with not a lounge chair to be found and barely enough walking space to even set a towel on the ground?
Feeling completely out of place, I debated retreating to my room, but the beautiful skies above and the book in my bag beckoned me to stay. “Excuse me, are there any chairs available?” I politely inquired. Little did I know how that one question would change the course of my afternoon experience. His name was Chris, and he happened to be the pool manager. Of the hundreds of people piled around us, he took time to help little ‘ole middle-aged me. Within a few minutes, I found myself getting settled into a comfy cabana couch as we chatted. “This place is crazy. Is it always like this?” I asked. “Yes, on the weekends it draws a lot of young people. The nightlife strip of bars is right next door. I never have my mom stay here when she visits on the weekend,” Chris responded. As I settled into my new home with a mountain-scene backdrop, Chris returned with a complimentary peach Bellini. Was he hitting on me or channeling his mother? Whichever it was, I had somehow scored a comfortable shaded seat with a delicious cold adult beverage in hand. Life was good — at least for the moment.
Unfortunately, my luxurious accommodations came to an abrupt end before I could even finish my drink, as Chris returned to tell me that the cabana had been rented (for $1k!), so I had to relocate. Chris was apologetic and immediately found me a vacant reserved chair by the pool. As I placed my towel down, I noticed the 20-something bodybuilder next to me, who sported a tattoo on his arm that read “Regret.” I was tempted to ask, “So what do you regret?” but I only had one drink down. Instead I joked, “I just got 20 years younger,” as I sat down with our chairs touching. He said not a word and did his best to ignore me.
There was too much excitement to even consider cracking open my book. As I took in the scenery a few things became immediately obvious:
-- Most of the occupants of the pool could have been my children. -- Having a tattoo would have made me instantly cool. -- Eating the orange slice off the rim of my peach Bellini would have made me instantly uncool. -- If my iPod music were mistakenly streamed out of the pool speakers, the party would have promptly come to a halt. -- Bubble machines are brilliant marketing tools to sell champagne, especially when scantily clad, stiletto-wearing waitresses drink it with their customers. -- There was a group of older men smoking cigars in the corner — nary a wedding ring.
I’m not sure if it was a hot flash or the Arizona desert heat, but an afternoon of the people-watching made my body feel combustible. And with Happy Hour approaching, it became time for me to get ready for the wedding. As I exited through the masses I smiled knowing that my idea of a quiet day by the pool didn’t quite work out as planned — instead I had free drinks, ongoing entertainment, and the royal treatment!
Life is filled with unexpected adventures. Sometimes it just takes the courage to show up and let the day unfold while the peach Bellinis flow.