Where I Really Earned My MBA (a Denny's on The "Shady" Side of Town)
Don't let me kid you, Fort Collins is hardly a ghetto. It's a lovely university town that sits up next to the mountains and has a charming and vibrant downtown.
However, there is one area out by the interstate that has fallen into some bad hands. A few of the hotels out there got run down and instead of renting rooms to travelers like in the past, they began renting rooms to transients by the dozen. So naturally more of them came.
The area has become known for prostitution and drug trafficking.
Yet, there I sat night after night at the 24-hour Dennys in a booth banging away on the keyboard doing my assignments for class, headphones in jamming to music and drinking coffee well past midnight.
I never kept track of how many cups I had. I just always knew that it was an unhealthy amount.
So, why in the hell did I spend my time there?
I work from home and if I was going to work nearly 24-hours a day, I needed a change in scenery at night.
It was important for me to have dinner with my family every night and put the kids to bed. That meant I wasn't getting started on my work for my MBA until 8 p.m.
That meant I needed a place that was open 24-hours. The trendier and hipper coffee shops in town closed at midnight. That wasn't late enough for me.
The food sucked but the service was exceptional. The entire staff got to know me and I was always treated with a very personal touch. I don't know if my coffee keep was ever empty.
I enjoyed the conversations I had with them. Many of them opened up to me about their problems in life. Some of them had abusive boyfriends they wanted to figure out how to get away from, others had drug problems, and other broken dreams that led them to working the night shift at Dennys.
I offered them a sympathetic ear and advice when I could summon it.
I especially hit it off with the manager. We became friends and I would go outside with him sometimes on his smoke breaks. Even though I don't smoke.
Then one night he sat down in the booth with me. He had tears in his eyes. He told me that seeing me come in night after night and work towards my MBA and the conversations with me had inspired him to quit meth and go back for his GED to complete high school.
That next week he moved out of the hotel and away from his heroin and meth dealing roommates into a halfway house that was going to help him get clean and finish high school.
I gave him a big hug on his last night at Denny's and told him how proud of him I was.
Two months later, I graduated.
Academia took me to some unexpected places, none more so than a run down Dennys on the shady side of town. While I don't go to Denny's anymore, I will be forever grateful that it was part of my journey.