Random Hotel Decor

This week I stayed at one of those pop-up hotels you see in many suburban communities.  This one was in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, one of the suburbs of Philadelphia.  From my experience, the hotels cater to an itinerant population of lawyers, salesmen, accountants, and other business people during the week, and soccer moms and traveling team parents over the weekend.  They’ve become the vagabond way stations of modern America.

The lobby of this hotel includes a seating area with a wall that includes shelves with the “decorations” shown above.  Is there a rhyme or reason to the choice of objects, their color, their form, or their positioning?  If so, I couldn’t discern it.  It looks like a combination of the kind of random “accent pieces” you see at furniture showrooms, mixed together on shelves.

The implicit message was clear:  you’re in the generic zone, weary traveler!  This isn’t home, so don’t get too comfortable.  Pass by quickly, without a second glance, and move along.  

So I did.

Crossroads Of The Country


This morning finds me at the Hilton hotel at the Chicago O’Hare Airport.  And when I say “at the airport,” I mean at the airport — as in, right on the airport grounds, so that you see the Hilton sign dead ahead when your plane pulls into its gate at Concourse G.

How many thousands of people have been to meetings at the venerable O’Hare Hilton and roamed its sprawling, gently curving, utterly generic hallways?  It’s the perfect spot for business meetings of people from diverse locations, at one of our busiest airports, with great connections, smack dab in the middle of the country.  For that same reason, a visit to the O’Hare Hilton is the ultimate in transitory experiences.

Last night I flew into O’Hare, walked to the Hilton, and had dinner in one of its restaurants.  Today I’ll go to a meeting in one of its conference rooms, eat the conference room breakfast and lunch offerings, and fly out tonight — all without ever setting foot outside the airport grounds.

When I get back to Columbus and someone asks how my trip to Chicago was, I’ll say I didn’t go there– I just went to the O’Hare Hilton.

The Generic Conference Room Breakfast

If you’ve been to a meeting in one of our major cities that starts at 9 a.m. or before, you’ve seen something that looks an awful lot like this spread.  It’s the generic conference room breakfast.  You grab a plate, bleary-eyed, and shuffle on down the line.

There are certain staples.  There’s coffee, of course, with sugar packets and little plastic creamers and plastic stirrers.  Sometimes the coffee will have a little name plate telling you the type of bean being roasted, but more often it’s just coffee, period, served in a generic metal dispenser where you push down the big button at the top and the coffee gushes out into a generic paper coffee cup.  Who cares about the blend?  We’re here for a meeting, and we just want the caffeine.

IMG_2984If it’s a top of the line spread, there will be bottles of juice, but more often the drink options are coffee, coffee, coffee, water from a pitcher, and cans of soda.  If you don’t want to pump yourself full of coffee, you can enjoy an early morning Sprite instead.

Of course, there are always bagels galore, with some pats of butter, little tins of creamed cheese, and containers of jelly.  The serving platter usually features some baked goods like muffins or scones, too.  And, because we might conceivably want to eat healthier, there’s some sliced melon, and grapes, and a few other fruits tossed in to make the plate look colorful.

And sometimes there’s something, well, odd.   In this edition of the generic conference room breakfast that I encountered yesterday morning in Manhattan, there was a large bowl of hard pretzels.  Pretzels?  A chance to fill the blood vessels with salt at 9 a.m.?  Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it was New York.

Is all of this food even edible, or is some of it plastic?  Does the stuff that isn’t consumed — which usually is about 95 percent of it — get recycled or donated to the nearest homeless shelter?  How many businesses In New York City, and Washington, D.C., and Boston, are dependent upon baking up those generic bagels, and brewing that generic coffee?