The Sound of the Paper

When I was younger, straight out of college, I took a trip to Washington, DC for a conference. I thought reading the paper in a chair in the lobby of my hotel was the most glamorous thing in the world. I crossed my legs, open up one of the papers stacked in the lobby and thought I was living large. As a regular business traveler now, I know that the only people sitting in a lobby reading the paper came in to use the restroom and are waiting to pick someone up.

When I started traveling in earnest for work, I remember waking with a start at a scraping at the door deep into my REM state. I’d flip on the light, look at the door I thought was being infiltrated by a burglar, and realize it was the daily newspaper being slid under the door. In hotels with a narrower gap between the door and threshold the paper would be dropped neatly in front of the door like a doormat. You’d open the door and there it was, welcoming you to a new day. I’d tune in to that sound too, and track the progress of the night manager by the thump of paper moving down the hall.

In some hotels that scrape of paper was the invoice being slid under the door on your last night. Folded neatly, it would politely serve notice that it was time to pack up and leave. That paper would slide right into my plastic envelope of receipts for my next expense report.

Everything is done online nowadays. Receipts are easily downloaded or emailed to you. News is scanned on your phone now, and if you want the paper it’s usually stacked in smaller piles near the elevators or in the lobby. Business travel has changed as the world has changed, and I’ve changed a lot too. But I still like to slow down and read the paper now and then.

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