It is tourism season and as a public service I am about to offer you my thoughts about hitting the road and staying in beds other than one’s regular one. And yes, I confess that this is a repeat blog.
I am repeating an oldie because, aside from the fact it’s brilliantly witty, I am also a bit uninspired today, not to mention feeling indolent because I’d rather be out in the sunshine than at my computer. So, I hope you enjoy (again). Oh, and if you’re a newcomer to my blog you might not have seen this before.
The current vogue is to refer to upscale hostelries as ‘boutique’ hotels, giving the desperate-to-impress traveler visions of shopping on Rodeo Drive or some other equally posh Mecca of extravagance. The word boutique is simply French for small store, or department within a larger store, but it exudes, in translation at least, a hint of having arrived. Something very important to arrivees. ‘Arrivee’, by the way, is French for pretentious bastard with more money than sense.
A few years ago hotels and motels (which used to be called auto-courts until the owners of such decided the term was a little too reminiscent of images of the Joad family making their way to ‘Californy’) came to be called ‘inns’. Actually there are still a lot of inns around. Most of the places that aren’t boutique hotels still stick with the nomenclature.
A few years ago we stayed in a boutigue hostelry in Palm Springs. We loved it. The place was a completely revamped and redecorated 1950s motel, but now boasting king-size beds and lots of other fancy-schmantzy accoutrements like Jacuzzis, etc. It was wonderful and we would stay tthere again and immerse ourselves in its retro ambiance willingly.
But, I say call hotels, motels, or flophouses what you will, they are ultimately just places that for a certain paid sum, one can hit the sack and hope for a reasonable night’s sleep, without being too distracted by noisy guests in adjoining rooms, drunks in the corridor, sirens in the streets, screams in the streets, or developing obsessive thoughts about just how stained the mattress might be beneath all this seemingly spotless linen. Oh, and why should items in the mini-bar cost more than a case of the stuff in a liquor store?
The less expensive rooms of my experience are basically cookie-cutter in accoutrements. They all generally have the same chenille bedspread, with the only variation being in color, as long as those colors are pink, white or beige. They will also have the same vinyl headboard, simulated wood desk; orange, yellow and brown curtains that invariably fail to keep out the flashing neon light of the bowling alley across the street. There will also be a few questionable, though not horrific, stains on the carpet. Oh, and there will be a fake oil painting of a quaint bucolic scene bolted to the wall. As if anybody would actually steal one of those hideous things. Oh, and a TV. A TV for which the remote, as often as not, won’t work.
Each time I enter a new room I follow a basic routine. My first stop is the bathroom, sometimes out of necessity, but more usually out of curiosity. I flush to make sure the mechanism on the john works. I regard the bathtub, usually with certain dismay, since they are invariably midget-sized. I scrutinize the toiletries, the little shampoos and soaps just to see if they will be worthwhile pilfering. There is always a shower cap. I imagine few shower caps get ripped off.
My next stop is that aforementioned television. Have you ever noticed that motel and hotel TVs are often some obscure brand like ‘Eddie’s?’ Expensive rooms have big flat screen top-end sets that make one feel a bit cheated upon returning to the crappy and archaic home TV. Cheap rooms are better in that regard because you don’t suffer TV envy when the vacation or business trip is over. A lot of hotel/motel TVs have extra-cost cable connections that will bring you relatively recent motion pictures or sleazy porn right to your own home-away-from-home. Some sort of a nod to contemporary mores, more for the lonely commercial traveller than anyone else, I suspect.
Oh, and I always check the bedside table drawer to see if there is a Gideon Bible present. While not being a man who is known for his religious devotion, I invariably feel more secure if the Bible is in place. For some reason I think this will protect me from being murdered in my bed. “Wait – don’t shoot! You wouldn’t shoot a man who was holding a Bible, would you. If you do it will mean you are definitely going to Hell when you die.” Works every time. Or so I tell myself.
I never really bother much with the ‘in case of fire’ escape routes. If there is a fire, I am going to be in such a blind panic that I won’t remember the diagram, in any case. I just know one rule, therein. Don’t take the damn elevator!
Mini-bar equals rip-off. Designed only for those too lazy or afraid to go down to the lounge, or for those who were silly enough to no bring their own supply at a fraction of the cost, or for alcoholics who have finished all their own stuff and who are still not ready to call it a night. Lushes are notoriously bad planners. Nowadays irrelevant to me, but there was a time, dear friends. Indeed there was a time.
As I suggested, my observations, and in some cases, caveats, apply only to the middle ground of hostelries. I have stayed in some really crummy places, rarely, and some very high end digs, equally rarely. We stayed once, at off-season rate, at a very, very posh Waikiki hotel. My basic feeling was I didn’t even want to hit the beach. I just wanted to stay in the room. It was a room that put to the lie my long-held belief that a hotel room is just a place to lay one’s head, so why pay the big bucks? I know now that if I had the big bucks on a regular basis, I would go top-drawer all the way. But, I digress.
But, even with cheaper forms of accommodation, I do have my standards. When I am paying hard-earned money to avoid sleeping rough on a park-bench or in a railway station, I expect a basic value in return for my expenditure. For example, I would never think of staying at the following places:
- A room with more than three beds. One of which seems to be already occupied.
- A room with bullet holes in the wall.
- A room in which the door to the hallway only locks from the outside.
- A room with no window. Even if it overlooks the local stockyards, I demand a window.
- A room in which there is a gas heater that suggests ‘Use at your own risk.’
- A hotel or motel with hourly rates. (Also known as the ‘Cocky-Locky’ Syndrome)
- A hotel of which the clerk at the travel agency has told you: “Well, if there’s nothing else available, we can always get you into the Buena Vista. You do not want the Buena Vista, believe me.
- A hotel of which, when the address is given, causes a cabbie to shake his head with dismay.
- A hotel that asks you to leave the names of next-of-kin when registering.
- A hotel in which the fire-charred areas above the windows have been inadequately covered by cheap paint.
- A hotel in a foreign country in which the chambermaids speak English as a first language, and look suspiciously like North American College girls, a little the worse for stress.
If you should receive a message saying “help me,” scribbled in eyebrow pencil on the napkin that comes with your morning coffee realize that you finally know what ‘white slavery’ truly means. Do not let your female companion out of your sight at any time.