Well That Was Embarrassing

I love to travel, and have collected some great stories over the years. But one of my best – or at least most popular – makes me cringe even to think of it, much less tell it.

So of course I’m going to share it to the world.

A couple of years ago, I went to Winnipeg. Now, most Canadians would say, “Wait, you went where, why?” to that – even the ones that live there. Winnipeg’s not got the best reputation in the country, and it’s very much not the kind of place I’d normally go. But there were a couple of reasons I wanted to visit.

First, my mother was a proud Manitoban. Growing up in Ontario, any time we saw a Manitoba license plate in a parking lot, my mother would approach anyone around the car to talk to them. She used to go home to visit family several times a year, and sometimes I would go with her. Home was a small northern town, and most times we would land at the airport in Winnipeg and go straight to the bus station. Once, though, when I was 16, in what was a massive treat, we stayed in Winnipeg until the day after our arrival in the province. We took what we called a limo, but I expect was more likely a town car, from the airport to the hotel, which was the hoity-toity (to us) Westin at the corner of “Canada’s Windiest Intersection,” the famous Portage and Main.

I have six entire photos from this trip, and one of them is of the hotel entrance, that’s how big a deal it was.

My mother always seemed more at peace in Manitoba than she ever was at “home” in Ontario. She was a very nervous person, and overprotective of me to boot, but on that trip, when she’d settled into the hotel room for the night and I was restless, she let me go out to explore on my own. After dark. In what has always been considered one of Canada’s most dangerous cities.

After my mother died, I started thinking I’d like to take a trip to Winnipeg, as a sort of homage to her. I had no interest in going to her small northern hometown – it’s very isolated, and I’ve had no contact with that part of the family in decades – but I’d been hearing for several years that Winnipeg has worked hard to enhance itself, to the point that I even saw it listed in an article as one of the world’s hidden travel gems. Between that and my desire to visit the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, a trip to Winnipeg was tempting. But even with all those things piquing my interest, I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Although when I did see the museum, all I could think was how proud my mother would have been, that her beloved province had been chosen as its home.

Which brings us to the second reason for my visit: my friend Liane was there, and we hadn’t seen each other in around 25 years. But she wasn’t going to be there forever, and I figured if I was going to go, now was the time. And so, some 30 years after that special stay in the Westin Hotel, I landed once again in Winnipeg.

And here’s where the story gets embarrassing.

As the Westin was no longer there, I’d gotten a room at the Fort Garry hotel, which Liane had told me was both very nice and supposedly haunted. (I don’t believe in ghosts and hauntings and the like, but the rumours will shortly become pertinent to the story.) The plan was for me to get settled, and Liane would pick me up for supper when she finished work.

The getting settled part is what proved to be a challenge.

When I got to my room, I could hear this crazy loud buzzing noise. Think the kind of noise fluorescent lights sometimes make, but dial up the volume to 11. Now, I’m pretty good at ignoring annoyances, but I have tinnitus, so my ears are always ringing. And the one thing I simply cannot block out is buzzing noises. They actually aggravate the tinnitus, and can cause related issues like headaches over time, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay in that room.

I called the front desk, and the staff member I spoke to could hear the buzzing over the phone, it was that loud. She said that maybe some work being done on the hotel generator could be causing it, so she’d move me to a room around the corner, upgrading me at no charge.

Could hear the buzzing noise there, as well.

After another call to the front desk, a staff member came to collect me and take me to a room on the other side of the hotel.

That one was buzzing, too.

We made our way back to the desk, and the buzzing noise was super loud in the elevator, to the point that others were asking the staff member what the noise was.

There were no other rooms available, so I was given a voucher for the bar, where I settled in with a beer and a snack, and no buzzing noise, until one opened up.

The one that opened up was blissfully silent – until I touched the thermostat. After that happened, a maintenance employee came to check things out, poking and prodding at the room’s switches, until finally deciding there was nothing he could do.

By this point, I was very upset and anxious, and not thinking straight. My hearing was already being affected by the noise, and I could feel the headache beginning. So when I got moved to one last room, and the buzzing noise was there, too, I phoned Ron in some distress, and asked him to talk me down.

And while we were on the phone, the television set turned itself on.

Yeah, there was no talking me down after that. While I may not believe in ghosts and hauntings and the like, I was in no frame of mind for any extra weirdness. So Ron suggested I just move to another hotel. The desk staff, who by that point I am certain were happy to see my ass out the door, found me a room at a nearby hotel, and I went on my way.

Only to freak right the fuck out at the new hotel, when I got to my room and heard the exact same buzzing noise as at the last one.

Lucky Ron got phone call number two of the day, this time with me in a tear filled, full-blown panic. There wasn’t much he could do to help, what with me being thousands of kilometers away and all, but he listened as I talked myself into a course of action, where I decided I’d get out my travel speaker and put on some music in the hopes of drowning out the noise.

We hung up, but before I could carry out my plan, I started going around the room unplugging things, hoping maybe it was some sort of electrical fault. When I got to the television, which I had to bend and stretch awkwardly to reach as it was plugged in behind a dresser, I lost my balance and caught myself with a hand on my suitcase.

Which was vibrating.

That buzzing noise?

It was my fucking toothbrush.


I’m not sure I’ve ever been more embarrassed. I can’t blame Ron for laughing his ass off when I phoned to confess the whole fiasco was my own damn fault. But I do appreciate Liane, whom I’d been texting with updates and to let her know I’d changed hotels, for keeping a straight face when she picked me up for supper.

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