Styling At The Ritz

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. 

I remember the birth of the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago in 1975.  I was 21, a senior in college.

The Ritz was not a place I would frequent. We were middle class but just barely and the Ritz was…well The Ritz. For wealthy people.

I was there a few short weeks ago. For a business meeting. I was dressed in a suit. On some level the distance between The Ritz and me did not seem as great as before. Yet in some ways…

The lobby of the Ritz is 12 floors up from street level. You come off the elevator into this great room. As you enter the restaurant, very chic, is on your left. In front of you on the other side of the room is a series of floor to ceiling windows looking north over the Loop.  There are chairs and couches near the window. A great vastness separates you from the other side of the room.

Slowly cross the room and what do you see.

Besides the kind of  well-appointed, yes stylish, room you expect from the Ritz, what I noticed most were the people. These were not necessarily beautiful people but they were definitely stylish people. And lets put the other business people aside, those like me who were well dressed but in costumes there only for a performance. I refer to the people who seemed to be staying at the hotel or were visiting or were there for lunch.

Each one was nicely dressed. Nicely appointed. Without being ostentatious.

Those who know me know that I am fashioned challenged. To some degree more accurately I am fashion ambivalent. Yet I appreciate clean lines, unwrinkled and color coordinated outfits.

In these outfits were women and men who moved with quiet confidence. I admire that even more.

Sure, maybe these are the privileged. Maybe they come from money and clothes and confidence comes easy. Maybe… maybe not. I did not sense an air of privilege.

It was cool. On this day, at this moment I stood in a large, airy, sun filled  room and took in nothing more than style.

The Value Of Time

“Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That’s why it’s called the Present”

Not sure whose quote this is. Sure time has value. It is a non-renewable resource and we either make something of it — or it’s wasted.

But calling time a present is spiritual and directional.  I seek order of magnitude.

Normally I do not have a basis for the dollar value of time.  I get paid a salary, but not an hourly wage. I allocate time to work as need and it tends to need quite a large portion of the available hours. I therefore value any time not working, especially vacation days.

So now to the point of this all. Between now and December 31, 2010 I know exactly how much a day is worth. For reasons that are not material to the story, my company will be cashing out any unused vacation as of the end of the year. I just found out a few days ago. Every vacation day I take between now and then is worth 1/260 of my base salary. I make a decent base salary.

I had some days off planned.  For example, next Friday to make a long weekend around our wedding anniversary. I knew the cost of the hotel and meals, etc., but now the money I forfeit by taking the day off will more than double the cost. Ok, its my anniversary.

But what about the wedding in Philly we are going to next month. Do we leave Friday or Saturday. Leaving Friday I not only have cost of the extra night in the hotel but I lose another day’s pay. The flip side is that I have friends in Philly I would spend the day with. How much is that worth?

Another day after Thanksgiving. Then my wife wants to take a week in December and go somewhere warm. If I wasn’t getting paid for left over vacation days in 2010, I would have considered this a good idea. The week’s pay I would lose would pay for much of the same trip taken in 2011.

I grew up in a family that counted pennies.  That formed my nature. I fortunately do not need to budget so closely. This is however real money and there are so many things we want to do to our house and I am still paying for college.

What’s the value of time? More this year than next. Curse my employer for doing something good.

Real Men Change Tires

The counter is that is why motor club service was invented.

I had not had a flat in years. Only once before with my VW and that was actually my son a few days after getting his driver’s license.

I left work that night at 9 with a 45 minutes trip home. On the usual highway when I hear a noise and then a constant thudding. It sounded more like I had rolled over something that stuck to the car than it sounded like a flat. I probably waited too long to exit. No, I definitely waited too long.

I pulled off into the parking lot of a small fruit store that was right off the exit. It was closed for the night.

History has taught me that you never know how long it will take for the motor club to send someone. It was late. I was tired. I had done this before.

Lesson One. Keep a working flashlight in your car. The lights from the store were of only modest assistance. After emptying the trunk enough to get to the spare  I struggled to find the tool kit and the jack. 15-20 minutes at least. The lack of light hampered the process several times.

My wife and I are all over our teenage son when he rattles off a litany of obscenities at the slightest provocation. My son could have learned a thing or two about spewing obscenities if he had been with me that night.

Lesson Two. Periodically check to make sure the spare has enough air. I got lucky, mine did. I have not checked in years.

I figure that the tire should have been changed in no more than 30 minutes. The whole thing took well over an hour. The lack of light and search time for tools contributed. So did the fact that VW includes one of the worst jacks possible.

I am accustomed to having the longest, widest part of the jack be on the ground. Such a design leads to stability as a couple of thousand pounds is lifted off of the ground. When after several minutes this clearly was not working, I checked the owner’s manual. Stupid me, I should have realized that the 2 sq. inch piece of metal at one end of the jack  would be what will ground the force of the two thousand pound car from slipping and crushing me. Of course.

The icing on the cake. I had the car up on the jack, the old tire off, the spare on the frame but could not get the lug nuts to screw in. I tried six times. By then I was sure that I was missing some crucial piece. Fortunately my brother had spent most of his adult working like as an auto mechanic. I called.

What he told me to do was exactly what I had been doing. Yet with him om the phone it worked. All I can figure is that his mechanic aura had come through the cell phone towers to my phone and made magic happen. Yes at 10:30 at night after a long work day and more than an hour struggling with the damn tire, it as MAGIC!

Admittedly at the end of it all  I felt a sense of satisfaction for taking care of something myself. I would not have felt this way if I had called the motor club. But I might have gotten home sooner.