When Will It End?§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: October 11, 2007; revised: April 23, 2018; readers in past month: 589

Me During the Hurricane

It occurred to me recently that I still have mental health problems stemming in part from the hurricane. I still have a feeling of displacement and am very vulnerable. Specifically, I am afraid of losing my home. My home at this point is fairly vague: I live in Milan, but still have mental ties to New Orleans. I’ve accepted some fluidity on this point, but I have to have a sense of home wherever I am. I become uncomfortable if I stay overnight at a girlfriend’s home or with relatives and friends in New Orleans when I’m visiting my daughter. I can last maybe three days without becoming very disconcerted. I feel much better in my own space. More to the point, I’ve realized recently that I can be easily rattled if my home — however temporary it might be — is threatened.

This past month I went to a conference in Heidelberg, Germany. It was a meeting of about one hundred-fifty of the people that I work with at MySQL. Many of them I’ve met before and have known for two or more years now. It was nice seeing them. Our usual arrangement at these conferences is that the company has us pair off and share hotel rooms to save money. I’d prefer my own room, but I don’t mind sharing so much. Fortunately, I’ve managed to get the same person each of the last few meetings, someone that I’ve become friends with: Jonas Sundin from Sweden. He and I get along well together and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by my snoring. At this meeting in Heidelberg, I arrived at the hotel on September 16 and stayed until the 26th. However, when I checked in, the staff at the hotel didn’t realize that I was supposed to check in so soon or would stay so long. It wasn’t a problem at first because Jonas had arrived the previous day. However, they had Jonas scheduled to check out on the 25th and meet a few days before that. They said that it wouldn’t be a problem, though, and that they’d fix it in their system.

The hotel was a Marriot. The rooms were decent and the staff very nice. I spent a lot of time in the lobby area, so much of the staff at the hotel came to know who I was amongst the many other people from MySQL. I often sat at the registration desk they had set up for us, just next to the front desk of the hotel. In short, became comfortable and felt safe there.

On the 25th of September, after Jonas checked out and left, I went into town with a few other people for lunch. I walked around and did some shopping. Then I came back to the hotel and took a shower and thought about the fact that I had the hotel room to myself for one night and it was going to be nice having that comfortable bed and quiet room to get in a good night’s sleep before heading back the following day. I went back into the lobby and spotted one of my colleagues, Stewart Smith. Stewart wasn’t leaving until the following day either. Then one of the front desk managers came up to me and said that there was a problem: they thought I was checking out that day. I atttempted to remind him of our conversation when I checked in, but he didn’t remember the details enough. I also reminded him that there were two other managers involved when I checked, one of which was a woman who was in the back office at the time. He went and spoke with her. While he was gone, Stewart told me that I was welcome to stay in his room since his roommate had checked out and left already. I thanked him and told him to let me try to work it out with the hotel first and would reveal this idea to them if needed.

The young manager came back out and I met him at the front desk. He said the other manager remembers me saying that I wanted to stay until the 26th but she was unwilling to extend the reservation. She admits that she didn’t tell me that at the time and was sorry, but I had to check out. They offered to find me a room at another hotel in Frankfurt — the hotels in Heidelberg were all booked. I wasn’t the only person they had chased off after our conference ended. I complained a bit on principal, but wasn’t angry. I then told him about Stewart’s offer and he was pleased with that idea. He then began switching me to Stewart’s room on their computer system. While he was doing that he offered to call the bell boy to help me move my bags. I told him that I could do it myself and thanked him. He pushed this offer again. I told him that I needed to pack my bags first and that I’d rather do it myself and that Stewart’s room wasn’t far from mine and didn’t need help carrying my bags. He asked me if I was sure. I said yes in an irritated tone. He then asked me if I could move my bags right away. I told him I would do it as soon as he gave me a key to Stewart’s room. He said he would do that now and reitterated that it was important that I move right away. I told him fine. I was getting stressed and he could tell now. So he looked down and worked on getting my key card. I sighed and then told him that I had just taken a shower and that he would need to get the housekeeping people to give the room a quick cleaning before letting another guest in. He said that it was alright that they didn’t have anyone checking in that day. I wanted to scream, but I kept my mouth shut. After he gave me the key, he offered to call the bell boy again. I refused the help and went to my room, or rather their room and packed my bags rapidly and moved to Stewart’s room.

While I was talking to the desk manager and especially when I was in the room packing, I felt on the edge of crying. I wouldn’t have minded so much if I had known from the beginning that I would have to change rooms for the last day. Being told so unexpectedly and being rushed to change rooms as I was, it felt like I was being chased out of my home. I was an emotional mess while I was packing. If Stewart hadn’t taken me in, if I had had to try to go to another hotel, given that I had almost no money on me and no money left on my debit card, I wouldn’t have been able to have checked in. I feel sure that the result would have been a bit of an emotional break-down. I would not have been able to have hidden my emotions and tears any more. I would have been devastated inside. When I returned to the lobby and tossed myself into a chair across from Stewart I told him that I still have some serious emotional problems from the hurricane that I didn’t realize that I still had with me. He kn

When will this all end? When will I feel safe again? When will I feel at home again? Sometimes I say to myself, “I just want to go home.” But I don’t know where that is. It’s not in New Orleans any more. My daughter is there and I love her very much. My mother and other relatives are there, as well, but my relationship with them isn’t as it was when I was a boy. Many of my friends have left town. My sons are in Massachusetts. Several of my relatives have died over the past few years or so. A couple of my best friends have died, one indirectly as a result of the hurricane. And, of course, a few years ago I divorced the person that used to be one of my longest standing best friends and she now depises me. The point is that I realize that home is not just a place but a feeling that involves a place and people. For me, what used to be home has been slipping away from me for years until now there’s very little left of my home. I’ve been trying to create a new home for myself here in Milan, but it’s not quite right yet and I don’t know that it ever will be. I always have the sense that the landlady might run me off for being late on the rent or maybe the government will deport me based on a technicality with some paperwork with my residency permit. It’s a constant stress point for me that I’ve grown to live with. However, I’m now realizing that it’s a psychological bomb that could easily explode one day if I’m not careful, if I don’t defuse it first. I have acquired excellent coping skills over the years, but I don’t know what to do about this situation. I don’t know how to get comfortable, how to adapt. I don’t know where the pressure release valve is for this. More importantly, I don’t know where home is and I desperately want to go home.