It’s that time of year when the sun seems to set unexpectedly early and the city’s bright lights beckon you toward that one last adventure before the temperature drops. The energy in the Pfister Hotel lobby on this October Friday night, with all the possibilities of the weekend ahead, is palpable.
It starts slowly. Floral arrangements are bustled through the lobby mid-afternoon, carried by wedding planners in teetering heels. Staffers carrying potted plants rush to join their colleagues in the seventh-floor banquet halls; at this moment, all staff members are ensuring every piece of silverware is polished and wine glasses are in place for tonight’s awards dinner.
Suitcase wheels start to roll across the plush lobby carpet as a clock from the mezzanine chimes four deep tones. Garment bags draped over arms, luggage stowed on carts, guests’ eyes drawn toward the fresco overhead as they approach the front desk.
“What brings you into town?” inquires the smiling front desk attendant.
The responses excitedly detail the festivities — both large and small — that lay ahead. Dates that have surely been on circled on calendars for months. A father and son check in for a weekend jaunt through the city. A couple strolls hand in hand toward the start of their anniversary weekend.
“MU rah rah!” a man cheerily responds to my fellow-alumni call, telling me he’s in town for the Marquette University alumni reunion. “The championship class of ’77!” he exclaims proudly.
The din in the lobby amplifies. Ice cubes are scooped into glasses as family members snag seats at the lobby bar after a wedding ceremony, swapping stories over pre-reception cocktails. Two preschoolers, who moments before were somersaulting the length of the front desk in excitement, are deposited on soft couches in the lounge as their grandparents flag down family members entering through the side door.
Colleagues sit, laptops open, as they recap the day’s meeting; a late flight allowing them to work from a wingback chair with a cocktail. Parker, a feisty English bulldog, charges through toward the elevators to make friends with another guest’s pup, nearly taking out the concierge in the process.
The energy reaches a fever pitch as the sky outside darkens and the streetlights turn on. The bride and groom enter the lobby to the cheers of the crowd at the bar. Bellhops rush carts to the waiting line of valeted cars. A man greets his brother-in-law with a vigorous handshake and a cold beer. The award dinner attendees start to trickle in.
And then, just as quickly as it swelled, the lobby energy shifts as the long-awaited events begin.
The brothers-in-law down their beers and pay their bill. Slaps on the back and “it’s been so long!” echo across the foyer as a well-dressed group heads to their dinner reservation. The somersaulting children, who minutes before were whisked upstairs to change, return with neatly pressed button-down shirts and combed hair, proudly leading the way as their family departs for its big event. The wedding guests vacate their bar seats, headed for fresh cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the ballroom above.
A sudden stillness descends, like the lobby is catching its breath. The front desk attendants silently type at their computers with bowed heads; for the first time in hours there aren’t any guests queued up to check in. The bartender empties forgotten drinks and restocks her tray of garnishes. Everyone seems take a moment to appreciate the calm.
And then, out of nowhere, the piano starts. The soft notes welcoming the next round of weekenders to the lobby for their adventures to begin.