Lobby of the Biltmore, Providence

Lobby of the Biltmore, Providence

I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel, waiting for my friend, Instagramming pictures of chandeliers.

The hotel was from a time gone by, restored to its original 1922 grandeur. It was from the age where industrial barons brought wealth to Rhode Island. Manufacturing was booming in the place where Samuel Slater–America’s first industrial spy–stole cotton milling technology from the British in a final post-Revolutionary FU, bringing manufacturing to America. Rhode Island built lots of mansions, hotels, and cool chandeliers for its citizens to Instagram.

But I was in the wrong place. It wasn’t my fault–my Connecticut friend couldn’t give “Rhode Island directions.” I don’t blame her–most people can’t. We need an app for that.

Providence is home to a growing startup community. Turns out it’s cheaper to live here than New York City, and who wants to fight Boston traffic? Since the economic downturn smashed Rhode Island more than the waves on our beaches, people are starting their companies here. It’s a nice thing. Surely one of those startups can do something to translate English to Rhode Island directions and visa-versa? A hybrid between Rosetta Stone and Waze for Rhode Island? We’d pay big money.

Directions are never clearcut in New England. Bostonian’s will send you the wrong way because it’s funny, Mainers take a really long time to send you anywhere, and who needs directions in Connecticut? It’s not that big.

But Rhode Islanders, while sincere, only give directions in terms of where things used to be. This means we are in desperate need for a platform to get us where things currently are. I bet there’s a ton of entrepreneurs that’d like to have a part in telling Rhode Island where to go.

“Go to where the old Almacs used to be. Take a left.”

“Follow the road past the old DMV.”

“You know the old Apex building? It’s right there.”

If I knew where the old anything was, chances are, I wouldn’t be asking directions. I’d be there.

And there I was, waiting for my friend in the lobby of a historic hotel, Instagramming pictures of the chandelier the industrialists built for me. “I’m here,” I texted.

“I’m here,” she volleyed back. Only one of us wasn’t “here.” Generally being the one who’s not all here, I asked. “The Omni-Biltmore, right?”

“No, the Omni.”  Turns out, the Omni wasn’t the Biltmore anymore. The Biltmore was just the Biltmore, and the Omni was where the old Weston used to be. If she’d said that, I’d be in the right place, but she’s from Connecticut. She didn’t know.

I’m from Connecticut, too, but at that very moment, I knew I’d become a Rhode Islander. I could make marinara.  I thought about buying and bread before our impending March storm, as I walked over to the right hotel lobby, and I mixed well with the worst drivers in the nation.

And now, I could finally give directions in terms of where things used to be.


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