Saturday, December 10, 2022

Meridian, Mississippi

We got off on the wrong foot in Meridian, MS. We had reserved a room at the Meridian Threefoot Hotel, a renovated office building turned swanky hotel. It was right downtown, and only about a block from the start of the Magnolia Half Marathon. It seemed perfect. 

I love when landmark buildings are repurposed -- it's a sign that local government is promoting their town. Meridian had other things going for it, too -- a big splashy museum called the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience; a 150-year old restaurant called Weidmann's; and even a very cool industrial heritage museum housed in an old steam engine factory. 

And, in retrospect all of those things were just fine. 

But we walked up to the front desk of the Meridian Threefoot Hotel and had the most dismissive, cold-bordering-upon-rude treatment I'd ever received. 

The woman at the desk spoke very few words to us, handing us our key with a simple "Here" before turning away. She never gave us any info -- like, where to park, the hours of the restaurant, bar, or anything. She looked at us like she didn't want us staying in her hotel, and I still don't really know why. 

Given that she had fawned over the man ahead of us in line, giving him lots of info on parking (which is how we knew where to park...), we figured we must have somehow rubbed her the wrong way, and that she wasn't just rude to everyone. 

Anyway, we eventually got up to our room and started to settle in. It was when I went to get some ice down the hall that we discovered that our deadbolt didn't retract, so it wasn't possible to close the room door from the outside. Hmmm. We fiddled with it, but then called the front desk to see what we might be doing wrong. 

The woman at the front desk -- a different woman, amusingly -- first spoke to me as if I was an idiot, "Just turn the handle and it will retract." I pointed out that that worked when I was in the room, but not when I was leaving the room. We then progressed to her thinking that I was wrong, lying, or that I had broken the lock on the door. Eventually she said she would sent up someone on the maintenance crew to have a look. Fifteen minutes later, no one had come, so Wil went downstairs to ask. The woman shouted at him, saying "I CALLED SOMEONE. HE'S ON HIS WAY."

Eventually he arrived -- he was pleasant, and said in a friendly voice, "Oh, these locks. All you have to do is tap your card and the deadbolt will retract." To be honest, I hadn't tried that. So I did... and nothing happened. The man said, "Try it again" and then  "okay, try it again". Then he said, "Let me try my key." Nothing. Nada. 

He called down and told he woman at the desk the lock was broken, so would she set us up in a new room? This was frankly the vindication I needed, so I rode down the elevator with him and went to the front desk. Without looking up, or speaking, or apologizing in any way, woman 2 handed me a card. The workman, embarrassed by her behavior, said, "So sorry about that!"

I went back up, we moved to the room next door, and then were entertained for the next half hour by the workman attempting to fix the lock. The next morning, right after 8am, he was back, still working away. 

I will say that on that first night we went up to the Boxcar Lounge, a rooftop bar with lovely sunset views. We were the only guests (it was early), but the staff fussed over us and made us a pair of very good cocktails. 

Later that night we walked over to Weidmann's, and were happy to see it was bustling. 

We had friend portobello mushrooms -- which turned out to be delicious and a massive portion that we ate for dinner the following night. We also had fried green tomatoes, and a bunch of vegetarian sides. I will report that our server was friendly and attentive, too. 

On Friday we started our day with a visit to the former Soule Steam Feed Works. I was sad to see that the visitor's register shows that we were the first visitors in nearly a week. That said, I know that I am an industrial heritage nerd with a special love of steam engines, soooo....

The tour featured a selection of engines produced in the factory, restored to working order. 

I wish I had taken a video of this, slowly chugging away. 

We visited the foundry, where they used to cast the big gears and other parts: 

And the factory office, with some old office equipment next to parts manuals from the 1990s. So amazing! 

this is an "Addressograph", where a plate could be made of a customer's address for future use

can you imagine how revolutionary it would have been to record a message and send it to someone?

We also got to walk through the old machine shop. Though it was no longer steam powered, the belts that ran the equipment were slowly turning. So cool!

Later we visited the splashy Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience -- and wondered why it was in Meridian. Lots of investment here! We never really got a sense of the history of Meridian itself, apart from the fact that there were railroad lines and highways that all crossed there. The MAX had fun, interactive exhibits, but not many items in the collection. But the museum serves as a celebration of Mississippi and the artists from there -- like Jim Henson.

After the museum we wandered back to Weidmann's, this time going upstairs to the cafe and having pie, more fried tomatoes, and drinks on the outdoor balcony in the sun. 

We rounded out the day with a little wander -- Meridian is picturesque, but it also feels pretty run down, even though you can see that there's a lot of investment in the town. 

It's not often what we are away and I think, "Well, I'd rather be home." Not that I don't love our home, but it's usually fun to be away and live a different life for a while. But Meridian made me actively want to go home. Which, when I really think about it, is entirely due to the front desk staff at the Threefoot. 

We had an early night and got mostly packed -- because the next morning we would be running the Magnolia Half Marathon, the reason we were in Meridian at all. 

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