Don’t ask me what’s up with this blog. Instead, read a story that I arguably should have written two years ago.
I’m at the Hyatt Hotel in Buckhead. It’s the toney spot where the local Emmys take place every year, last I heard. The year is 2016. It’s election night.
I’m assigned to cover the Donald Trump victory party in Georgia.
Of course, at that particular moment in time, few thought Trump would win. (I’m an exception; the weekend before that election, I shocked friends by predicting a Trump victory. My prediction was based on poll trajectories that showed Trump gaining enough during the last week of the campaign to achieve a statistical tie with Clinton. I also thought Trump’s late “drain the swamp” messaging was brilliant. That final weekend, the news media overwhelmingly maintained a “no way can Trump win” storyline despite that statistical shift.)
Anyway. I’m among Georgia Republicans, a well-heeled group mostly. The mood is festive yet somewhat fatalistic. They, too, largely assume Trump will lose, yet seem buoyed by the idea of regaining control of the Republican party post-Trump.
Early in the evening, I see an aide to Sen. David Perdue. I had established an easy rapport with Perdue covering his 2014 election, but hadn’t seen much of him since. I’m told Perdue is arriving momentarily.
The front door to the hotel is nearby. There’s little to do, so I go to it and wait. My photog is in the ballroom downstairs. I have no gear except my iPhone.
A woman appears nearby. I hear her say something softly, but I’m facing away from her. After a moment, I realize she’s talking to me. She’s barely in her twenties, if that. She’s lovely, dark-skinned, wearing a white faux fur overcoat.
“Were you talking to me?” I ask her.
“Are you here alone?” she asks, barely above a whisper.
I undoubtedly gave her a quizzical look, then answered honestly. At that moment, I was solo. I said yes.
She whispers again. “Want some company?”
No doubt, my quizzical look returned, followed by the proverbial light bulb going off over my head. After allowing a moment of self-indulgent flattery, I realized hers was strictly a business proposition. I was wearing one of my better suits. We were in a nice hotel. I may have looked something like money.
I stammered politely, declining the offer, then turned back toward the entrance. Feeling a bit sorry for the young woman, I turned back to initiate smalltalk and perhaps learn more about her circumstances.
She had disappeared.
Perdue walked in two minutes later. We greeted each other, and headed to the ballroom where a long and memorable night was slowly getting underway.
I didn’t write about it two years because the scourge of human trafficking is real. And I didn’t want to imply that this was somehow linked to the politics of the evening.
It’s certainly not typical of my business. I’ve interviewed people in the sex trade before, and have had occasional klunky encounters with women (and men) soliciting while out in the world. But I had never experienced this type of commercial inquiry while on the job, nor since.
I’m writing about it now because – well, a friend of mine posted something similar on Facebook. I started to comment on it, and decided to write this instead. It’s a weird story. This blog was overdue for a new post. Here it is. Now you know.