An acquaintance sent me the following message relating her last weekend’s experiences at a hotel:
“I am here to tell you a story because I think the message is important. My name is Lauren and I am a 52-year old attorney in Los Angeles, working for a well respected law firm. I am known to my friends and colleagues as a smart, hard working, responsible, and animal-loving individual. I help take care of my mother who suffers from dementia. I have a strong network of family and friends. I have never been arrested. I have never been disciplined by authorities. I can afford to stay in five-star hotels. Up to now, I have never considered myself “political” in terms of getting involved other than showing up to vote every 2 or 4 years in elections. However, none of that mattered on Saturday, January 29, 2011, when I was humiliated by the powerful and ubiquitous organization that calls themselves the Tea Party and more specifically, by the backers behind a particular event, the Koch Brothers. In fact, until last weekend, I am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of the Koch Brothers. Boy, has that changed.
Last weekend I drove to Palm Springs solely for the reason to spend some time with my father who has a terminal illness. I had no idea that a political group was going to be staying at my hotel as the hotel never told me when I booked my room. Wanting to spend as much time with him as possible, I chose a hotel as close to his assisted living facility as I could find. Rancho Las Palmas which was just a few blocks away, so it fit the bill perfectly. I spent hours with my father on Friday before retiring to the hotel. I wanted to see my father again for as long as possible before driving back to Los Angeles on Saturday. I inquired about a late check-out in hopes of having more time, but was told it was not possible. I was told that the hotel was fully booked for the next night and we were expected to check out at Noon.
I didn’t take the time to shower, and just threw on a shirt and sweat pants before leaving for the visit—attire I assure you is NOT unusual for a hotel resort in Palm Springs. Had I known then what the afternoon would bring, perhaps I might have given my attire some more thought.
Obediently, we checked out at the specified hour, but not having eaten anything earlier, we decided to have lunch before the two-hour drive home. Tired and hungry, we were not in the mood to drive around looking for a place to eat. We asked the concierge for a recommendation and wound up at the outdoor restaurant at Rancho Las Palmas. At no time did anyone tell me that we could not stay at the hotel for lunch before departing.
We sat down outside, chatted with the waitress, and finally placed our order. I did say to my friend that I wondered if some ”dignitary” was checking in as I noticed what looked like secret service guys running around with sunglasses and ear pieces; however, we gave it little thought. There were several other people eating at the restaurant and nothing seemed out of place. Our iced tea arrived along with the bread basket, and we began what we thought would be a relaxing meal. I was one sip into my iced tea when the restaurant manager appeared at our table. I assumed he was going to ask us if we were having a nice time. I was wrong. Instead, he told us he had a delicate subject to discuss. Without hesitation he then told us that we had to leave! No warning, no excuses, no polite discussion. Just the message that we were no longer welcome at the restaurant!
We were beyond flabbergasted. What on earth had we done to get booted out of the place? When we asked why, he then told us that the Tea Party had booked the entire hotel for the weekend, bought every available room, and anyone not part of their group or otherwise checked in (and apparently cleared by security), had to leave. I told him that I had just checked out; that we were going to eat, and then we would be out of there in about 30 minutes. He went to ask someone in “security” (and now I believe that it was outside security, not the hotel security) and he said that we had to leave. He told me that he would pack our food to go, if we wanted. I told him I ordered an omelet and I was not going to eat that on the curb or in my car. In fact, I was then told the waitress had already been instructed not to even put in our order, unbeknown to us. Frankly, not wanting to cause a scene (and not having the energy or emotional well-being for a confrontation), we peacefully left, feeling completely and utterly shocked and humiliated as to how were treated, as we were essentially escorted to the door.
As the day went on and I went over the events in my head, I actually got angrier and angrier about the incident. I was wearing a t-shirt which said “Earth” in large letters across the front. Now that I know that the infamous Koch brothers were behind this Tea Party gathering that weekend, I am wondering if we were singled out by the outside security due to my unintentional, pro-environment display.
I can only reasonably assume that the “security” pegged me as a leftist protester who was only at the hotel to disrupt their event. How could they know that I was actually a responsible professional who was only there visiting an ailing father and simply too hungry and too tired to drive elsewhere to eat? I believe that I was profiled due to how I was dressed, and, more importantly, based on what my T-shirt said. Plain and simple. Maybe if I had been wearing my Bob Marley t-shirt and the Koch brothers were Reggae fans, things would have ended differently.
The message of this story is that it does not matter who you are to the Tea Party or their powerful money source, the Koch Brothers. If you appear to be someone who may express dissent to their views, then you must be “rid of.” What is truly ironic is that the Tea Party is supposed to be about individual freedom and less “government” interference, as long as you play by their rules and represent their beliefs. Apparently, the Tea Party and their financial backers can buy hotel rooms, buy air space over Palm Springs (to prevent a Greenpeace blimp), and buy Supreme Court Justices, as in Clarence Thomas (whom I saw standing around in a cowboy hat and boots). But, the Tea Party and the Koch Brothers cannot and should not buy America to suit their greedy, corporate agenda.”4:11 pm on February 3, 2011 Email Butler Shaffer