I was in the bathroom of my hotel room in New York City and noticed some printing on the toilet seat. Because toilet seats aren’t the normal forum for announcements by hotel management, I was intrigued and just had to read it.
The announcement stated: “In an effort to increase sustainability, this auto flush has been deactivated. Please press the button to the left to flush.” And beneath that statement the notice read: “‘The environment is everything that isn’t me.’ – Albert Einstein.”
Did Einstein ever actually say that? It’s not easy to confirm whether he did or he didn’t. A Google search will send you to lots of different websites where you can buy t-shirts, posters, or refrigerator magnets with that quote attributed to the Father of Relativity and printed over some peaceful pastoral scene, and also a lot of general quote websites where you can go to find a quote that fits every occasion (including, apparently, a notice on a toilet seat). But those quote websites don’t seem to provide any attribution for the claimed Einstein quote. The closest I could find was a website that referred to the Boston Vegetarian Society as the source for the quote. But I’ve seen no citations to a book or published writing, or a speech given on a particular day, or one of Einstein’s letters.
Did one of the greatest minds in human history actually say: “The environment is everything that isn’t me”? As is true with so many facially plausible quotes that are attributed to historical figures and thrown around like footballs these days, it’s really difficult to say. But we can certainly be reasonably confident of one thing: if Albert Einstein did say it, he probably never dreamed that it would end up on the toilet seat of a Manhattan hotel room as part of an announcement justifying a reversion to manual flushing.
When I got to the hotel at the Denver airport late last night, I found a little container of lavender balm next to the bed. It promised to help me “sleep well,” which sounded good to me.
I’ve never used lavender balm before, so I read the instructions. They read: “Wind down naturally with our Sleep Well Aromatherapy Balm, infused with essential oils of lavender and chamomile to ease tension and soothe the senses. Roll onto temples or wrists before bedtime to foster sound sleep.” Because I was keenly interested in fostering sound sleep, I did both. My temples and wrists have never smelled so good!
And you know what? I did sleep pretty well, until I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. Mountain time to catch an early morning flight. Was my sound sleep the result of the balm, or just exhaustion at the end of a long day? Who knows? But because sound sleep in a hotel is a rarity for me, I’m taking no chances. The lavender balm is officially part of my travel kit from now on.
I like Christmas. I really do. But when you’re at a conference, a little Christmas goes a long way.
Thursday night I found myself at a reception in the obligatory open atrium space at one of those colossal hotel-conference complexes. I was having a perfectly pleasant time, chatting with other attendees, when suddenly there was a blast of music, strobe lights, and fog machine effects, and some kind of Christmas-themed program starting playing, at bellowing volume, over the sound system. I think it may have been called “A Christmas Wish,” or something along those lines, and it seemed to involve a boy beseeching his Grinch-like grandfather to do something for the holidays. People who love The Hallmark Channel Christmas movies no doubt would have appreciated its saccharine sappiness. Me? I found the kid’s voice incredibly annoying as I was trying to carry on a conversation, and I sympathized with the beleaguered granddad who had to put up with the irritating rugrat.
Eventually the program ended, and everyone at the reception breathed a sigh of relief at the very welcome silence. Before we knew it, however, the program started again, and we realized with grim despair that it apparently was going to be broadcast every half hour. I wasn’t the only attendee who then decided that it was time to exit the reception and get as far away from the imploring kid’s voice as possible.
Lights, trees, other festive decorations, and a little Christmas music in the background are just fine. But forced exposure to some maudlin tale that is supposed to illustrate “the meaning of Christmas” is where I draw the line.
On this business jaunt I’m staying in one of those hotels where every room has a kitchenette complete with refrigerator, two burner stovetop, sink, and dishwasher.
I don’t plan on doing any cooking while I’m here. Frankly, the thought of cooking in my hotel room and smelling lingering kitchen odors, like the smell of microwaved popcorn, while I’m trying to sleep kind of disgusts me, now that I think of it. There’s a reason there’s significant physical separation between kitchen and bedrooms in most American homes, and the smell factor is one of them.
Even though I don’t plan on cooking, a refrigerator seems like a nice option. In fact, a bracing glass of ultra-cold water with lots of ice sounds pretty good this morning. But my refrigerator has no ice tray or ice maker, even though it’s got a freezer. Why not? If you’re going to put a fridge in a hotel room, it should be fully functional — and that means complete ice-making capabilities. How much can a plastic ice tray cost?
Is there some nefarious reason why the kitchenette hotels want every guest to have to walk down to the ice maker?
One aspect of business travel is that you get exposed to unbrand products that you don’t buy yourself. Rather than the familiar names that you use at home, you’re trying some generically named, generically packaged product that some hotel purchasing agent bought in bulk to save a few bucks.
Today I’m using “N’Joy” coffee creamer, rather than the Coffee-Mate we’ve got in the cabinet above our coffee maker, and “freshmint” toothpaste, rather than the tube of Colgate or Crest that we typically buy.
I can report to those who are interested that “N’Joy” creamer has the same dusty consistency of Coffee-Mate as it’s poured, but it once it’s mixed with the coffee it doesn’t produce much of a rich, creamy taste like Coffee-Mate does. Instead, it just lightens the color of the coffee a bit, without having an appreciable impact on flavor. Perhaps it should be called “coffee lightener” instead of “coffee creamer.” As for the “freshmint” toothpaste — which I got at a hotel some time ago and have been carrying in my travel kit and using when I go on the road because I’m cheap and proud of it — it has a more gummy consistency coming out of the tube and going onto the toothbrush, sort of like spackling paste, but once you put it under running water it serves its intended purpose perfectly well and has a sufficiently minty taste to get rid of morning breath. As the photo above indicates, I’ve been happy enough with the “freshmint” to be nearing the end of the tube.
When you’re on the road you’re on the road, and beggars can’t be choosers. Unless you’re going to lug around your own supply of household products, you’re in Unbrand Land, and you’ve just got to accept it.
We ended up at the Algonquin Hotel last night. It’s known as the location of the Algonquin Roundtable, where Dorothy Parker and the American literati of the ’20s held forth. It’s also known as the home of Hamlet, the house cat. There’s been a house cat at the ‘Gonq for at least 90 years -and I think they’ve all been called Hamlet.
This morning, Hamlet was guarding the front desk when we left. I’m not a “cat person,” but I think a house cat is pretty cool.