The Biggest TV Competition

The success or failure of a hotel chain obviously is going to depend upon how successful they are in appealing to potential patrons. It stands to reason, then, that hoteliers must have a lot of information about the preferences of their guests.

My recent experience suggests that hotel chains believe that visitors want to watch a lot of TV — and on the biggest TVs imaginable. In fact, seems to be a competition, pursued with nuclear arms race intensity, to see who can install the biggest TVs in their rooms. This TV, in a room at the Hyatt Arcade in Cleveland, is the largest one I’ve yet encountered. It’s gigantic, takes up the entire top of the dresser, and dominates the room. It’s got to be 50 inches across — if not more. It’s like having a drive-in movie screen in your room, situated directly opposite the bed.

I’m clearly out of step with other hotel guests, because I almost never watch TV in my hotel room. And frankly, I’d be afraid to even turn this TV on. With a creek this size, the volume would probably blast me out of the room.

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Mean Trick

IMG_20160303_043331I’m in  Atlanta for meetings today.  During the wee hours I got up to use the hotel room bathroom, and after I was finished I decided to check the time on the clock radio next to the bed.

It read:  6:20.

Wait, 6:20?  Crap, I’ve overslept!

So I got up and turned on the lights and began doing the work I needed to do before my meetings started, dealing with that jagged surge of adrenalin that you feel when you realize you’ve overslept.  I started reading and answering emails on my iPhone, and then I noticed the time indicated on my phone — which was 4:20.  Huh?  I then went to my tablet as the tiebreaker, and it read 4:20, too.

So somebody had messed with the hotel room clock, moving it two hours ahead.  Why would somebody do that?  The only thing I can think of is that they thought it would be a funny, mean prank to give an unpleasant jolt to an unsuspecting traveler who was checking the time in the morning — because that’s the only time you look at a clock in a hotel room.

What kind of stupid, inconsiderate jerk would do such a thing?  I’m guessing it was a Trump voter.

The Call Home

 When I’m on the road for business, there is one unvarying element of my travel routine:  the call home.  I’m like ET that way.  In fact, it’s usually two calls home — one when I get to my hotel room and drop my bags off,  and then another when I’m back in the room for good and ready to turn in for the night.
Why two calls?  The first one is easy to explain.  When I’m traveling, I just want Kish to know where I am.  So, I’ll call and remind her of the name of my hotel and give her my assigned room number.  In the age of cell phones, this is probably pointless — who wants to hassle with a hotel switchboard when you can call somebody directly? — but it still makes me feel good that she knows where I am.

The second call has a deeper, less rational purpose.  Business travel is weird.  You’re alone in an unknown hotel room, with all of its alien sights and sounds.  Hearing the familiar voice of a loved one just makes the strange room feel less strange. 

Curiously, too, the more mundane the conversation, the greater the degree of emotional comfort that is imparted.  I don’t need to be entertained by some abstract discussion about a recent Supreme Court decision or the latest episode of a hot TV show.  Fill my ear with talk about the HVAC systems guy’s comments about what we need to do to our ducts, however, and I’ll be a happy camper.  Those are the conversations that make me feel like we’re at home, talking on the sofa about the events of the day.  It’s exactly the kind of comforting mental image that helps me to slip into slumberland. 

Hotel Room Horrors

Last night Kish and I went out for a nice dinner with the Cleanliness Queen and her husband, the Dessert Dude — so-called because he somehow is able to eat two large desserts at every dinner we have without putting on a frigging pound.  At the midpoint of the meal the CQ mentioned, with a grim shudder, that she had watched a disturbing hidden camera show about hotel rooms.

IMG_3452If cleanliness is next to godliness, then one day the CQ inevitably will replace St. Peter.  She’s the kind of person who takes Lysol and other cleaning supplies when she travels to wipe down her hotel room, just to be on the safe side.  I suspect she’s got a secret compartment in her luggage for a toilet brush, and it would not surprise me if she carries an ultraviolet scanner to identify any stray unclean areas.  She’s probably sufficiently fluent in other languages to grill hotel maids in every country in the world about precisely what they did in cleaning her designated room.

The CQ explained that the hidden camera show revealed that some maids were using the same dirty towel to wipe down — in this precise order — the toilet bowl, the toilet lid, the sink top, and the shower stall.  Ugh!  And, rather than running them through a scalding water device, used glasses were just put in the sink run under warm water, dried with a towel, and then the little white cap signifying germ-free status was misleadingly put back on top.  No!  This then led to a discussion about bad hotel hygiene incidents, including people on a beachfront vacation who found sand from a prior occupant in bedding that supposedly had been changed.  Arrgh!  By the end of the discussion, the CQ was profoundly troubled.

Let’s face it — if you use hotels regularly, you just have to acquire a willing suspension of concern about the fact that your room has been used only hours earlier by complete strangers, much less what they did when they were in it.  I’d like to think that the room has been completely sanitized with some powerful cleaning agents, whether that’s actually been done or not.  I’ll cling to that illusion because it helps — which means I just need the room to be clean enough that there is no visible evidence of predecessor guests, and I’ll gladly avoid any TV shows that expose an inconvenient truth to the contrary.

Please, Travelers, Don’t Set That Alarm!

Our first night in Vancouver, Kish and I were jolted awake because a prior occupant of our room had set the clock radio alarm.  We stumbled over, bleary-eyed, to paw at the device and shut it off.

ButIMG_20140424_091322 then this morning the alarm sounded again.  We obviously didn’t shut it off entirely, and now we have two options — spend precious moments trying to figure out an alien clock-radio that is far more complicated than our home unit, or just suck it up and accept that we are going to be awakened at the same time tomorrow.  Since the first scenario is undoubtedly beyond our stunted technological capabilities and the second is unacceptable, we’ll probably just unplug the damned thing.

Please, travelers, don’t set that alarm!  Use the alarm function on your smartphone, or get a wakeup call from the front desk instead.  If you set the clock-radio alarm, you know you won’t disable it before you leave the room — and if you don’t no one else will, ever. If you set the alarm on the clock radio, you therefore are dooming generations of future guests to fumbling with that screeching alarm at your designated time until doomsday comes — or until some other thoughtless individual resets the alarm for a different time.

No hotel clock radio alarm that gets set ever gets fully turned off.  It’s as permanent as the pyramids.  So fellow travelers, please have mercy!

Stripped-Down And Uber-Cool

IMG_4832I’m in Manhattan today.  This trip, I’m staying at a new hotel, the Andaz Wall Street.  It’s been something of a revelation.

Normally I like older hotels, but what I really search for is a reasonably priced hotel within walking distance of my destination for the day.  The Andaz fits the bill — and happens to be ultra-modern and ultra-cool, besides.

IMG_4833My room looks like it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on a feng shui rush.  The sleeping area is all blonde wood against a dark wood floor, with a bed that is low to the ground.  The light fixtures are metal frames with a canvas covering, and the reading chair and desk chair are of sharp, contemporary design.

The feeling is bright and open and airy, and there’s not a bit of clutter to be found — except when the weary traveler lets his bags drop to the floor with a clunk.

The bathroom area also is striking — a huge, black, walk-in shower where you can take three steps in any direction before hitting a tiled wall and a separate bathtub with a large window looks out over the sleeping area.  (My Midwestern sensibilities suggest that the reason for this configuration is to allow a bather to watch the big-screen TV in the bedroom.)  The sink and vanity area are in a separate room, and the sink is a glass bowl.

IMG_4828There are some other interesting aspects to the room, too.  The light fixture panels right above the nightstand have buttons that are clearly labeled, so you don’t have to guess how to turn something on or off.  I particularly like the “All Off” and “All On” buttons.  The two “blackout” buttons control the window coverings.  And, rather than the standard hotel room pen that lacks ink or skips when you use it, the Andaz provides a black pencil, complete with sharpener and separate eraser.

It’s all very sleek — and comfortable, too.  After we arrived last night, one of my traveling companions said “I’m not sure I’m cool enough to stay here.”  I know I’m not cool enough to stay here, but I’ve enjoyed this visit and a peek at a different approach to hotel room design.

The Flush Factor

Travel always presents challenges and requires some accommodations.  One little-mentioned point of travel-related adjustment involves the bathroom area.

After all, you’re accustomed to your home commode.  You’re used to the height, the seating, the back support, and the sound that is made when you flush.  So, when you go the road and find one of those new-fangled devices in your hotel room, you have to adapt.

The low-slung, hotel room miracles of modern plumbing are different in almost every way.  They’re down at squat level.  The seat is deeper, somehow.  It’s like you’re riding a motorcycle.

My principal objection, however, has to do with the flush factor.  I know that they are supposed to be low-flow and more environmentally friendly — but I don’t like turning that weird rectangular handle and hearing that uncertain gurgling sound, where you don’t know for sure whether the entire reason for flushing has been fully and successfully accomplished.  I don’t want to send the contents of the bowl on some gentle journey, as if it were taking a languid cruise on the Blue Danube.  No, I want it harshly jettisoned, ejected, and expelled — shot, with unmistakably effective, torpedo-like force, deep into the plumbing, never again to be seen or even contemplated.

I’m all for hotels conserving water.  When I’m staying at a hotel for multiple days, for example, I don’t ask them to wash the towels.  I’m not guzzling tap water, leaving the faucets running when I shave, or taking ridiculously long showers.  I’m doing my part for water conservation — but flushing is where I draw the line.