People have referred jokingly to Florida as God's Waiting Room. I was just there, and I'm not convinced that the office visit we're waiting on is upstairs.
Miami was a humid, foggy swamp for my day's sojourn at IT Expo, but it's not the weather that had me down. It was my hotel room. It wasn't even the hotel room itself; it was the fact it was provided to me by another hotel, one that doesn't care what I think of it.
I had booked a room for one night at the Newport Beachside Hotel and Resort, a lovely little spot with parakeets and very nice ceiling fans in the lobby. Quite lovely, really; I felt as though I was in luxury's palm from the moment I arrived. Of course, it wasn't to last. They told me, upon my arrival, that "unforeseen difficulties" meant I couldn't have the room I booked, or indeed any room at the place whatsoever. The concierge was nice enough to provide a letter of introduction (and $10 car fare) to the Ramada Marco Polo, further down the road. I was already rather far from the Miami Beach Convention Center and the new hotel would be even farther, but I saw no point in arguing. After all, the guy said they had no room, and the Ramada was "very nice, just like this place" in his words.
Note to travelers: "very nice" means in hotel-speak just what it means in dating, dining, or any other human endeavor where you don't know what you're getting ahead of time. It means "I am lying to you; the (person, place, thing) sucks, but once you're gone it's no longer my problem."
The Ramada was to Miami Beach resort hotels what boy bands are to modern music. While it qualified as such a place—it was in Miami Beach, within a reasonable distance of the ocean, and had rooms to stay in—it felt more like a retirement home. I always thought the elderly who lived in Miami owned homes there, but it seems I've been wrong all these years; they hang out in crappy hotels and play bridge. Yes, there was a bridge tournament being played in the basement when I arrived. The elevators had old-person smell.
(Please note that I have nothing against the elderly, and in fact I managed a few nice conversations while I was confined to this little corner of purgatory. It's just creepy when I go on a business trip and see, in great profusion, what time and gravity have in store for me.)
The hallways smelled less like old people, but only because they smelled more like an old dog that had been left outside in the rain. The room was clean, technically, but it felt old, used, second-hand. Kind of like me, actually. The air conditioner was largely non-functional (in Florida, yet) and thrummed like a farm tractor on idle. There was not enough light. There wasn't even a desk. The wireless Internet barely had enough signal to get me connected—and I couldn't without calling tech support. That was complicated by the fact that my phone couldn't call outside the building until I had it fixed. No room service. A view of the pool. Plumbing fixtures that were only minimally attached.
Now, everybody's had bad hotel experiences, myself included, so this wasn't actually the low point of my life or anything. And I know that not all accommodations are created equal (Ramada Inns being somewhat lower down in the rankings), so I can't say I resented what they provided me per se; if I'd booked the Ramada, I'd have expected less than the best. But I booked the Newport, and they smiled and apologized and sent me to the ass end of hotelry. I will not be angry with Ramada; I will save my ire for the Newport, because their backup option absolutely sucked and I have no way to set things right except by writing them this poison pen blog post.
That said, the food at the Ramada was surprisingly good, though I admit I only had one meal there. The menu was fairly limited, and the restaurant was more like a tremendous Elk Lodge with tables, but I had a perfectly-cooked 12-oz. sirloin strip, juicy, tender, lightly seasoned with cumin (possibly chili powder with an excess of cumin) and very well trimmed. It was better than some I've had at honest-to-goodness steak houses. The vegetable (broccoli, since they'd run out of mixed veg) was steamed perfectly and very tasty. That dinner surprised me so much that I regretted not being able to get my free breakfast the next morning. Alas.
IT Expo, or what I saw of it
My reason for being in Florida was to moderate a panel discussion at the aforementioned conference. I can't say for sure why I was chosen, since my topic—"Leveraging VoIP in the Contact Center"—is not one with which I have a lot of experience. Fortunately, I didn't have to have much beyond my normal level of business technology competence, as my panel was a gifted bunch. We had never laid eyes on one another until 10 minutes before the session (which was at 8 a.m., incidentally, further proof that the coordinators didn't know who they were dealing with), but the discussion went off smoothly. Thanks to panelists Brian Spraetz of NICE Systems, Rachel Wentink of Interactive Intelligence, and especially to Srinivas Mantripragada of RedShift Networks, whose slide deck got things off on the right foot and also ate up a good 15 minutes.
The big question seemed to be data security. While voice conversations have never been truly secure, what with the old-school Phone Phreaks and anybody who can get hold of a technician's butt set, they're even worse now that voice is just another kind of data. In the end, the consensus seemed to be that the war between hackers and security vendors will remain more or less at parity, and the most important places to tighten up gaps are in business processes and social exploits. Most security breaches are inside jobs, or are perpetrated by people who know how to take advantage of another person's natural inclination to be helpful.
I think I'm done venting for the moment, and I thank you for humoring me. My next post will probably back to the usual CRM goodness; I'm trying to work out a message on that topic that fits my outlook and isn't just repeating what other, smarter people have said before me, and you fine folks will be the first witnesses. My previous post was the start of that; now that this gripe-fest is out of the way, perhaps I can get back on track.