Sunday, September 16, 2007

Have you been upgraded to the Valley Wing (and not realize it)?

When I was checking into the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore a couple of weeks ago, I asked the front-desk person, “Is it possible to get a room with one king-size bed rather than two double beds?” I get kind of creeped out sleeping by myself in rooms with two beds.

He looked doubtful. But then after clicking on his computer for a few minutes, he announced that he could comply with my request and that I’d been upgraded to the Valley Wing.

“That’s nice,” I said, though the phrase “Valley Wing” meant nothing to me. Still, you gotta love the word “upgrade.”

My room in the Valley Wing was really nice. Extremely spacious and sort of classic-looking but brand new at the same time. The bathroom was divine. There were many interesting things to investigate, like the automatic blackout curtains and shoeshine kit.

Since I was spending a relatively large percentage of my earnings upgrading my airfare and hotel, I decided that economizing was in order. So, the next morning I made coffee in my room with the free coffee provided, and deferred eating until later. Internet access was free in the lobby, so I hung out for some time in the lovely gilded Valley Wing lobby checking up on things. Several times I was asked by the exquisitely coiffed lobby hostesses if I would like a coffee, cappuccino or tea, but I smilingly resisted their blandishments. I didn’t want to spend seven bucks for a cup of coffee after spending three hundred dollars a night on my room.

The second morning I splurged on the breakfast buffet, since felt it important to be well-nourished in order to perform several hours of workshops. I’ve seen a lot of breakfast buffets in my time, but nothing like what the Shangri-La provided. It really defies description. There were a lot of food choices, very artfully provided. It cost about forty bucks, but I felt it was a reasonable investment.

The fourth morning, as I checked email in the lobby, I was again asked if I would like something. My workshops done, I decided to treat myself with a cappuccino. The cappuccino came in a little Wedgwood cup, with a glass of water and a cookie on the side. Yummy! Afterwards, I asked for whatever I needed to sign.

“No, sir, there’s nothing to sign.” It turned out beverages were free in the lobby of the Valley Wing.

The fifth and final morning, since I was flying later in the day, I again went to the breakfast buffet. However, I wanted to be intentional about my spending. After the waiter asked for my room number, I asked, “Do you have an a la carte menu?”

“We do have an a la carte menu,” the elegantly dressed waiter said. “But you are staying in the Valley Wing and your breakfast is included. So you can have the buffet if you want. Either way.”

So there you have it. All week I had been resisting the offers and entreaties of the Shangri-La. “Not for me,” I’d thought, marveling at my self-control and financial focus. “I’m spending three hundred dollars a night and not a penny more!” Yet all along, the free, lovingly made beverages and buffets were mine for the taking. It just never occurred to me that such things were possible.

It’s easy to think that we are only going to get things in life if we struggle for them, and that the outside world is our opponent rather than our collaborator. But what if it’s more complex than that? What if we’ve already been upgraded to the Valley Wing? What if the world is waiting, in some way, to help and support us. Can we let ourselves see it?