The girl walked down the fifth-floor hallway with a mix of pride, embarrassment, wonder, shyness and curiosity. She was trailed by a woman carrying the train of her sky blue dress as well as two photographers. Her makeup was perfect, and she looked beautiful.
And she was headed toward the elevator that would take her down to her quinceanera in the ballroom downstairs.
Sorry, Brian Chesky, but this isn't something you'd see in an Airbnb ad.
Mention the idea of a Hyatt Place off the side of the President George Bush Turnpike in Garland, Texas, and the concept of "cookie cutter" may come to mind.
Six-story building. An architectural mix of earth tones with a dash of modernist glass in the middle. A shared parking lot with a Buffalo Wild Wings and an IHOP. Fairly standard stuff.
Live out of that hotel with your family for the better part of a month and a half on an extended family visit to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, though, and it becomes anything but repetitive. Because you will see something new every day.
The length of stay was 40 days and 40 nights. And on the warm July nights when a couple of Texas summer storms threw down torrential rains with an intensity this California boy had never seen, as well as a lightning show straight out of a Wes Craven flick, the Hyatt Place Dallas/Garland/Richardson was indeed our personal Noah's Ark.
It might not be "8 million stories in the naked city" material, but that hotel, with its 153 rooms, provided more than its share of memorable encounters.
We knew the trip would be a surprisingly unusual one on our first weekend when we realized that the hotel sometimes doubled as a church on Sunday mornings. That might be why the jovial gentleman my kids and I met in the elevator one of those mornings asked if we were "going down," then told everyone in the elevator that he hoped their ultimate trip would be "going up," because that's how Jesus would want it.
And the stories kept on coming. There was a poolside conversation I had with a Dallas-area family who'd temporarily taken residence at the hotel after selling their house. The Swedish father was about to start a job back home and was excitedly talking to his son about the garden they were going to have at their house a couple hours outside of Stockholm.
There was a girl sitting with her high school volleyball team that was visiting for a tournament, clearly amused as she fixed her gaze on my 6-year-old daughter gingerly carrying her boxed cereal and cup of milk across the hotel lobby one morning.
There was a concert at the Curtis Culwell Center behind the hotel by Indian singing star Devi Sri Prasad, and the preconcert line of headlights as far as the eye could see that was straight out of the final scene in "Field of Dreams" (only these folks were probably more into cricket than baseball, and they were ready to get their "DSP" on).
Spend enough days in the hotel and a ritual of sorts develops. The hustle to get downstairs in the morning before the breakfast buffet is taken in. The welcome site of the jug of fruit-infused ice water in the lobby and accompanying plastic cups when walking in from a scalding Texas summer afternoon. The decision to take the stairs up to the room for the daily exercise on the days when threatened thunderstorms made the pool visit potentially hazardous.
And on the flipside health-wise, it didn't take long for my 8-year-old son to get hip to the fact that the neighboring Buffalo Wild Wings had a 60-cent wing special every Tuesday night. Consider it an early lesson in economics.
Was it perfection? Well, nothing is. Free breakfast is a beautiful thing, but that same batch of fluffy yellow scrambled eggs, mix of bacon and sausage and medley of pineapple, grapes and cantaloupe can get a little monotonous. And while we're at it, hell hath no fury like a woman taking down a breakfast buffet at 9:28 on a weekday morning.
There was the lobby ice cream cabinet whose lock broke about a week after we arrived, depriving me and my family the ability to quench any nighttime munchies with a couple of Drumsticks ("The lock's broken? No ice cream? Noooooooo!!!").
Of course, too many consecutive days in a hotel can give one a case of something resembling island fever, with my wife giving me that wild-eyed look and saying, "We need to drive over to uptown and walk around. Now."
And every time you turned on the TV, you'd get that pay-per-view preview of the Seth Rogen-Zac Efron comedy vehicle "Neighbors." It was like living the movie "Groundhog Day," only the movie being pitched wasn't nearly as good as "Groundhog Day."
Because, let's face it, nothing replaces the comforts of the less hermetic surroundings of home, not to mention the greater sense of personal space, a fully functional kitchen, easy outdoor access and the familiar sights and sounds of neighbors, foliage, chirping birds and even the cars driving by.
Still, there's something to be said about sliding in your key card after a day's work (or, in the case of the kids, day camp), popping open the door and finding a freshly made-up room every afternoon. The perpetual supply of clean and dry towels can't be beat, nor can having the breakfast ready to go downstairs every morning and a greeting from the front desk when you come back to the hotel from dinner.
And, when all else fails, there's the beauty of a high-def TV for a reporter too cheap to foot the bill at home for one. Even better, the occasional Dodger game for this fan who's been shut out at home because of the Time Warner Cable snafu involving Los Angeles baseball broadcasts.
And did I mention kick-butt air conditioning?
As someone who grew up in the hospitality industry, I know the business, be it running a hotel or restaurant, is nothing if not repetition, and it's all about the act of making sure service standards, whatever they might be, are realized all day, every day. It might not be sexy, but it is reassuring.
Besides, as the loud party next door on the night before our self-imposed 4:45 a.m. wake-up call for the flight back home proved, for better or for worse, when it comes to living out of a hotel, you're never truly alone.