“Hurry up. The bar is about to close!” I read Ryan’s text as my friend Sarah and I pick up our pace, only feet away from the entrance of the The Nines Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Ben Folds had invited us over to this fine establishment for some farewell drinks after the show. “Don’t let Ben go! Oh, and grab us a couple drinks please!” I text back, intending to thank Ben in person one last time for the incredible privilege of touring with him.
We had just played the most badass set of our tour, after which I had met up with a childhood friend for some reminiscing over delicious French food and wine. The evening had been beyond exceptional up to this point.
And then the clock struck midnight.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t get you up to the bar on the 15th floor,” says the very kind man at the entrance of The Nines. “The elevators won’t take anyone up there after midnight. But you can go to the lobby on the 8th floor and they’ll help you!”
This seemed like an easy fix in my book. After all, we had encountered far more problematic dilemmas on our tour thus far. Problems like buzzing guitars and the heater in our van going out. Now those were problems. Getting to the 15th floor of some hotel in Portland? Totally doable.
At least that’s what I thought. As soon as I open my mouth to explain my predicament, however, I discover just how little it matters to the people listening.
“We can’t get you up there,” the guards at the front desk immediately agree. The tightly suited man and woman both appear completely impervious to my pleas. “But I just finished this tour with Ben Folds, and he’s up there, and I just want to say goodbye!” I search their eyes for understanding and find no pity there.
“There’s nothing we can do,” the man replies. “Bullshit”, I think to myself but do not say, now more than slightly irritated by their unwillingness to work with me.
One of my part-time jobs in college had been in marketing for the Ritz-Carlton. I worked for them for two years, so I’d like to think that I have a pretty good sense of how fancy hotels are supposed to assist customers. And this was not it. If I had been at the Ritz, the attendant at the front desk would have actually wanted to help me. Someone would have called the bar and seen if a party was expecting my arrival, and then they would have let me up there.
But I was not at The Ritz. I was at The Nines.
I gave Ryan a call. The noise in the background indicated that way up on the forbidden floor the party was still going strong. So I returned to the front desk for round two.
“Are you telling me there’s no way humanly possible to access the 15th floor right now?”
“No. You cannot get up there.”
“There are no stairs for example?”
“Even if there were, you wouldn’t be able to open the door at the top.”
“So there are stairs, but you won’t let me take them?”
“No, I won’t give you access.”
“So it’s not that you can’t help me, you just won’t.”
I return to the elevators to find the card that indicates where the stairs are. You know…“in case of emergency”. But they’re just stairs. Nowhere does it indicate that they are for emergency use only.
“Come on, Sarah.” I say, determined not to let these drones ruin my evening. We head for the stairs, and hear the front desk yell after us: “We’re calling security!”
“Go ahead,” I answer cooly as a familiar face exits the elevator and approaches the front desk. OH SWEET RAY OF HOPE! It was Ben Fold’s Front-of-House guy, Leo. I explain the situation to him. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll just grab my room key and take you guys up there,” Leo says reassuringly.
Aware that the red security button has been pushed, we race to the elevators. I know our time is limited, but at this point, there is no way in hell that they are going to prevent me from reaching my final destination.
CURSES! We still can’t push the button to the 15th floor!!! Not even with Leo’s room key! But we can access the 9th floor, where his room is and take the stairs from there. As we run up flight after flight, my inner-child erupts with defiant giddiness, like the first time I escaped from my crib and my mom walked in to find me grinning on the floor with my toys.
Fuck yeah. We were doing this! When we get to the top floor the door is locked as expected, so I call Riki (our tour manager). He stays on the phone with me as he attempts to find the door to the stairwell. He succeeds. We enter the bar on the 15th floor. At this point (for the record) we have won.
“There’s no way they’re going to let you stay up here,” Riki tells me as a stout security guard rushes past us to take orders from a small-eyed woman nodding in our direction.
“Where are our drinks?” Two bourbon and gingers are waiting for us at the bar, as requested. Sarah and I take them in hand and cheer to our success.
The security guard makes his way toward us, attempting to look as tough as possible (even though he’s a good three inches shorter than both of us.) He has been warned by the front desk that he is dealing with two very disruptive girls who were “extremely rude to the other guests.” This was false. There had been no “other guests”, but I understand that we couldn’t just be kicked out of the hotel for “winning”.
“You have to leave.” He tells us. “Happily,” I reply as Sarah and I guzzle down the last of our drinks.
“We’re out!” Riki calls to the rest of the band. “They’re kicking us out. Let’s go.” So we begin the walk of shame, our heads held high. Riki smiles at me on our way to the elevators. “Now this is more like it,” he tells me. “Finally acting like fucking rock stars.”