Once A Pelican

Of all the memories of my former “life on the road” business travel, I’m going to start on the West Coast with a bird theme, circa 2008. With only 20 days since we sold our Charleston home…I’m missing the backyard birds that provided wonderful sights and sounds every bit as much as anticipated. I’m also missing my friend, who Charleston, Lagavulin Scotch and the USAF brought together and that same USAF career ripped apart. His flying role when we met was Captain in the 14th Airlift Squadron, flying the C-17 Globemaster III. The nickname of the 14th is the Pelicans…Their motto is “Once a Pelican…Always a Pelican” Here goes installment #1 of My View From 2A. 

One more thing…Those who know me best understand the meaning of 2A. It quite simply was my much-desired (almost an obsession. OK, an actual obsession) seat on any aircraft. First, 2A meant first class…and it also provided a semblance of consistency and normalcy. Everything looked right from 2A. More about 2A in a future post, but that is the basic premise. 

Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, Huntington Beach California

With an invitation by 3M’s Marine Division to train their sales and marketing teams on our recently-developed RV / Marine water filtration products, I flew from Charleston to the West Coast for two days of internal meetings. This was early in my road-warrior days and was thrilled at the First Class upgrade on such a long flight with only mid-level USAirways frequent flyer status. I asked for and received a sweet room with a balcony on an upper floor overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean was just a few hundred yards away. After a full day of meetings, I joined a dozen co-workers for dinner and cocktails before calling it a night. Standing on the balcony looking out over the moon lit ocean around 11:00PM, I thought of Lynn and how much she loves the Smash Mouth song Pacific Coast Party…”Get your motor running…California Interstate 1…Pacific Coast Party”. With scarce road traffic, the only sounds were of waves breaking rhythmically on the beach.

So…a clever idea had I. Why not leave the balcony siding doors open with the curtains closed to block out the morning light that would follow. That way I could listen to the ocean and smell the fresh ocean air. The idea was perfect….the execution was not. Somewhere around first light, I woke up to that world-class Hilton king sized mattress…those all-too familiar crisp, white Hilton sheets and awesome pillows. With my eyes still closed, I smiled, hearing the waves and smelling the salt air delighting in my idea of leaving the sliders open. 

That’s when I first saw the pelican.

He / she / it was standing a few feet away from me on the right side of the bed…. staring directly at me. The best I can figure is that with the sliders open, the bird just walked in and apparently the curtains created a barrier to the bird leaving. Either that or he heard about the thread count of these damn sheets. Was he there for minutes or all night?…I’ll never know. There’s lots of fun and interesting things to wake up to, but this clearly was not one of them. Immediately my clever “leave the balcony sliders open” idea crumbled as the issue at hand immediately became this pelican checking out of my room. 

I stood up thinking…like with other wild life, do I look at the bird or avert my gaze…do I grab it, push it or what? Do I call the front desk, the concierge, or perhaps a co-worker? The closer I got to the bird, the further it retreated into the room, then as it headed towards the bathroom I realized the situation was only getting more complicated. I’ve seen pelicans before, but not alone in a hotel room. 

Finally, I pulled back the balcony curtains. Stripping the comforter from the bed, I held it in front of me as a “wall of sorts” and like a pelican matador, maneuvered around the room until the bird walked near the balcony. While it didn’t put up much of an objection, it was in no particular hurry to leave. More or less it just slowly waddled to the balcony…then outside where I closed the sliders behind it and our time together came to a close. 

So much for a gentle, lazy wake up. I never told a co-worker as… unless it happened to me, I would never believe that one of the largest flying birds at 25+ lbs and a 9 foot wingspan would find its way into my hotel room and spend the night with me. 

If birds could blog, I’d love to read its’ account of the evening.

4 Comments on “Once A Pelican

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