What to do when you are the “not-quite-Out-of-Town guests?”
To anyone reading this who lives in a BIG metro area like Los Angeles, New York City, Toronto…. let me ask you this:
If you are invited to a wedding/Bar Mitzvah/christening/fill-in-the-blank life occasion across town with a religious service in the morning and party at night,do you get a hotel room for the weekend?
I didn’t think so.
If you are the planner of a big life event occasion and invite many out-of-town guests, do you pull out all the stops in providing them with extra special treatment: (reserve a block of hotel rooms, extra dinners and brunches, goodie bags in their hotel rooms)?
Of course you do, they are the out-of-towners!
This past weekend, my whole family was invited to the Bat Mitzvah of a friend my son made in Camp Ramah. My daughter is friends with the girl’s sister, and our two families have developed this great Camp Ramah connection over the years. We were very honored to be invited to this happy occasion as a family. There are too many sad occasions in life that we juggle our lives to attend,so why not do a little schlepping for the happy ones?
As a kid growing up in Staten Island, I remember going to weddings and bar mitzvahs, and later on youth group dances “out on the Island” – in this case Long Island. My dad had a special name for this stretch of suburbia that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. It didn’t matter where your destination was on the Island. Any trip from SI to LI was to a place called “all the way out” on the Island.
I remember the traffic as we traveled and my dads angry muttering at the wheel. There was traffic on the Belt. The BQE. The LIE. And the GCP. (If you don’t know what these stand for, you are not from NYC.) It would take what seemed hours to get anywhere. And still does.
In reality, the distance in miles was only 40 miles or so, but it was the traffic that made the journey take hours. But never did my parents think about getting a hotel room or consider staying overnight. Because LI was still considered “in town.” I remember drowsy drives back to the other island, Staten Island, when my brother and I would fall asleep in the back in our party clothes, my parents singing doo-wop oldies tunes to their heart’s content in the front seat.
Drive over an hour in the New York Metro Area, you are still in the New York Metro area.
Drive over an hour in Rochester, you are in Buffalo
So, at the beginning of the weekend, when we parted with friends at a Friday night dinner and announced to our Rochester friends we were headed to Buffalo for a Bat Mitzvah, they actually said to us “Have a nice trip!”
When you are transplantednorth, traveling an hour to go for a visit is nothing. Staying at a hotel overnight was out of the question.But the question remained, how were we going to pull this day off?
The day came with logistical challenges. We left our house very early Saturday morning to get to the synagogue in Buffalo**. We had to pack two extra sets of clothes for each family member, one casual outfit for hanging around the hotel, and then more formal attire for the evening party. Plus bathing suits because the kids were invited to swim in the hotel pool, so that meant toiletries too, but where to shower?
When we got to Buffalo, we sat through a very nice warm service and at the luncheon reception, known as the kiddush, we made fast friends with several couples who all were from out-of-town to bring their children, also campers, to celebrate their friends’ Bat Mitzvah. I told them we were “from” Rochester, but as conversations went on, our native accents revealed themselves.
As we relaxed that afternoon in the hotel lobby, one of the dads spoke up and asked my husband and I: “You didn’t grow up in Rochester, did you? Where are you really from?”
That night, after eating and dancing to the sounds provided by a DJ company called the Bar Mitzvah Boys – who are from Rochester – we didn’t get home until 1 a.m. For my husband and I, it was now our turn to stay awake and sing while the kids slept in the back all the way home.
**Yes, we drive on Shabbat. Conservative Judaism has a decree that allows one to drive if it is to worship at a synagogue. There was some irony to all this, because once we arrived in Buffalo, we had nowhere to go and nothing to do but read and chat with some real “out-of-town” guests who invited us to spend the afternoon at their hotel. So, we did drive, but in the end had a very relaxing Shabbat.