Sometimes, those generic airport stores nevertheless give you a pretty good idea of exactly where you are. Could anyone seeing this cheese-oriented presentation, complete with a cheese cowboy hat, doubt that they were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the self-proclaimed cheese capital of the world?
As a normal rule of business travel, I don’t eat at the restaurant — if there is one — at the hotel where I’m spending the night. I think it’s important to get out and at least see some of the surrounding area, and if I don’t get out I feel trapped and confined.
Sometimes, though, when you’re in a remote area and the only nearby food option is a bad chain eatery, there really is no alternative, and the hotel restaurant is the only viable option. So it was that last night I found myself eating in the hotel combination bar-restaurant and reading my book — or at least trying to, because there was a group of about a dozen guys at the bar area who were raising a huge ruckus, eating chicken wings and arguing very loudly about what kind of pick-up truck has the best towing capability. (One guy actually said, with total, high-volume conviction: “I’m a Ram Man until the day I die.” Who knew people had that kind of a deeply personal connection to a consumer product?)
These guys weren’t complete jerks. They didn’t get into a fight or harass the waitresses or start calling out people in the room. But they were loud and thoughtless and annoying, and they obviously didn’t care that they were intruding upon the worlds of other hotel guests. It’s one of the realities of life in the hotel zone: it’s a transient existence, on the road in a faraway place that you’ll probably never visit again in the future, and the social mores that would otherwise tamp down your behavior if you were in your home territory aren’t present.
This is one of the reasons why I hate to eat at a hotel. I’d rather not see my fellow guests up close and personal, truck-loving warts and all. I’d rather operate under the illusion that my fellow hotel guests are all anonymous, well-mannered types. When you get a good look at the complete strangers who might be staying in the room next door to yours, it can be unnerving.