By Sue Washburn
After a long day of sitting and talking and sitting and listening, the first official day of GA drew to a close with the evening election of our new co-moderators: Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, a ruling elder from Presbytery of Tropical Florida, and Rev. Cindy Kohlmann from the Presbytery of Boston. Their lively and loving energy infected the cavernous convention hall.
As someone who goes to bed early, I was packed and ready to head out as soon as the plenary session was over sometime after 9 p.m. I crossed the street to the hotel room, took the elevator up to the 19th floor and fell into bed so that I’d be ready for the Woman of Faith Award breakfast at 7:30 a.m. I look forward to that event because there are so many inspiring people in one place.
I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, but suddenly found myself sitting up a few hours later wondering what the loud noise was. Then, a serious voice came over the intercom.
“This is an emergency. Please exit the building by using the stairs. Do not use the elevator. I repeat, do not use the elevator.”
Suddenly I was wide-awake and a little panicky. I slipped on my sandals and grabbed my glasses and joined some older ladies in the hallway. We were all in our pajamas. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking from the adrenaline surging through my body after the alarm jolted me awake.
When we got to the steps and there were a few people there that I knew, including one woman that I interviewed for an upcoming story for Presbyterians Today. She was in yoga pants and a shirt. Two other men were fully dressed and had on sport coats, as if they’d been hanging out in their rooms fully dressed for work.
After a bit of debate, I decided to walk down the steps. I stayed behind my new PJ-partners and took it slowly. By the time we had walked 18 floors, I heard noise.
By the time I got to the bottom I stopped to listen carefully. I realized the noise was people talking and glasses clinking. The restaurant and bar were still in full swing with people socializing. Where was the emergency? Why were only a few of us exiting the building?
I realized that some of my colleagues were probably among the socializers. People that I would be working with on my GA committee were probably there and there I was IN MY PAJAMAS. No way I was going to go out that door that led to the lobby and restaurant.
I ducked back in the stairway and peeked through the door to the outside. I thought there might be a whole crowd of folks who had evacuated the hotel milling about. Maybe a pajama street party where I wouldn’t be so conspicuous. But no, there were a handful of fully dressed folks and my two new pajama pals looking confused. I opened the door further and saw the fire truck drive off. There was no emergency.
So I had a choice, walk up 19 flights of steps or walk past the restaurant to the elevator in my pajamas.
I took a deep breath, hid my face and made a beeline for the bank of elevators, which were thankfully empty of people that I knew. I slinked to the back of the elevator for my ride up 19 floors. I made it back to bed and made a vow to myself: From now on when I stay in a hotel, I will sleep in my clothes.
Sue Washburn is a teaching elder commissioner from the Presbytery of Redstone.