Today is my birthday. As birthdays go, it hasn’t been in the top 5 all-time. I’m in NYC, and my flight home has been repeatedly — and incrementally– delayed. Every half hour or so my phone buzzes and another delay is announced, always with “apologies for the inconvenience.” I’m now looking at a departure time that is more than three hours after the scheduled time, and I’m wondering whether the next announcement will be an outright cancellation.
All in all, it’s not the best way to celebrate a birthday. Fortunately, birthdays don’t mean that much to me.
When I got to my room at my hotel in NYC last night, I discovered it was one of those places that has random quotes printed on the walls.
In this case, it was the above quote attributed to Andy Warhol — although some contend it actually originated with Marshall McLuhan — helpfully placed right next to the bathroom. For good measure, the mat on the desk has a quote attributed to John Steinbeck: “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” (This is a paraphrase of sorts of a line from Travels with Charley: In Search of America that reads “We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”)
What’s the point of quotes on the walls and on desk mats? I’m guessing it’s supposed to convey a certain erudite edginess, like you’ve suddenly found yourself in some intellectual artist’s loft in Soho, rather than in a stodgy hotel. But in my view, the wall quote places are really more alienating than the standard generic hotel room. After all, I didn’t pick the quote — and in fact I don’t think I’d ever print any quote upon my wall, even if it were some deeply meaningful quote from the Gettysburg Address rather than a vapid observation about gullible art critics. So when I wake up and see the quote on the wall, it immediately tells me that I’m in a strange room. It doesn’t exactly convey a “make yourself at home” feeling.
Everybody seems to be big on quotes these days, although many of the quotes you see are actually fake. It’s as if the message is that there’s no original thinking yet to be done, and we should just sigh with appreciation at the wisdom of the ancients — which is an approach I heartily disagree with. But even if you are a big fan of quotes, what does a quote from Andy Warhol about art have to offer a weary traveler? My guess is that Warhol himself would find the fact that his quote appears on a hotel room wall to be a hilarious commentary on the wannabe state of modern society.