SALT LAKE CITY — I will never win an Olympic gold medal. But I did, last week, make an Olympic-sized mistake.
I caught a flu. In the middle of these Olympics. OK. It happens. I was sneezing and wheezing and blowing my nose all over the Alpine world.
One night I got back to my hotel room early, hoping for a long sleep to knock the bug from my body.
I should correct something. I said “hotel room.” This would suggest that I was staying in a hotel. In truth, it was a motel. In truth, it was the TraveLodge. And not the world’s greatest TraveLodge.
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were in the Canyons Resort every day, where you arrive via chairlift. We were at the TraveLodge. What else do you want to know about newspapers?
(I will give you one example of my room: There was a decaying heating-air conditioning unit on one wall and a vertical furnace on another. The first blew only cold air. The second burst into flame and heated the room to a Guatemala summer. The only way to set a temperature was to turn them on simultaneously and sleep in the middle.)
Anyhow, I drop into bed.
And the phone rings.
An unexpected call
On the phone is a producer from CBS’s “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.” He asks if I could take part in a comedy bit with Craig for a few seconds over the phone.
Now I’ve known Craig a while, so I say sure, as long as we can do it fast because I’m about to pass out. They say they’re ready to go, as the show is being taped in L.A. for airing later that night. Fine, I say. Call me back.
When the phone rings again, it’s Craig. I hear the audience making noise in the background. And the first thing he says to me after hello is:
“Mitch — the TraveLodge?”
I try to demur.
OK. Eventually, he does his comedy bit. It lasts two minutes and that’s that. I reach for the lights.
Before I do, however, I take every cold medication known to man. Nyquil. Sudafed. Robitussin. I don’t want to see the conscious world for a good nine hours.
Gulp. Gulp. Off go the lights.
A delayed reaction
A few hours later, in the darkened room, between the furnace and the cold air blower, my mind is deep in a medicine haze when I hear a noise. A rrrrr. A rrrrrrriii. What is that?
I grab clumsily for it, knocking over bottles, and try to find where my voice comes from inside my body. I finally whisper “hmmp?”
“DUDE! IS THIS MITCH?”
“ARE YOU REALLY STAYING AT THE TRAVELODGE?”
There seems to be a whole frat party on the phone. I hear “DUDE, WE CAN’T BELI–“
I hang up.
Rrring! I knock over another bottle.
“Is this really Mitch Albom? Why are you at the TraveLodge? I thought Craig was jok–“
“Hi, Mitch? The TRAVELODGE?”
You see, what I failed to figure is that “The Late Late Show” airs really late, late. I also didn’t realize that Craig apparently has a nationwide audience of 20-year-old guys, all living in one apartment, with nothing better to do than call information for the TraveLodge in Salt Lake City.
And see if I’m there.
“Mitch? You got SHAFTED!”
After the 10th call, I literally yanked the phone out of the wall and tumbled into blackness.
When I awoke the next morning, the floor near my bed was covered in a green liquid (Nyquil), a red liquid (Robitussin) and a bunch of pills. The phone looked as if it had been strangled to death. And, of course, the two blowers were whirring away, fire and ice, me in the middle.
Anyhow, I learned some valuable Olympic lessons. Never reveal your whereabouts on a national TV show. Never get sick.
And if you are going to bring a whole lot of negative attention to the motel where you are staying, do what I did just before filing this column.