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.
I’m on the road again, this time in NYC for work. My room at the Hyatt at Grand Central Station is fine, except for one small detail — there’s no desk.
Seriously? No desk? Where are you supposed to set up your laptop, roll through your emails, and get some work done before the meetings begin? I’d gladly exchange the modern sofa and the large hardwood floor area that seems suited only for ballroom dancing for a simple desk, chair, and electrical outlets. But I’ll be using the sofa as a makeshift desk instead.
I’m perfectly willing to put up with the weirdness of modern hotel room decor, but when they sacrifice function for form I’ve got to draw the line. Hotels rooms should always — always! — have a desk.
Sometimes a sign does more than just provide information. Consider this warning bolted to the gate to the pool at our hotel, for example. Doesn’t it leave you wondering what must have happened, on some grim day in the past, to cause a hotel to post a permanent notice that people who have “active diarrhea” — in itself an extremely evocative phrase — shouldn’t swim in the pool? The mind reels!
You’d like to think that it’s not necessary for hotels to notify guests that if they are suffering from uncontrollable physical conditions that are inevitably going to soil the water in a communal pool, thy shouldn’t take a dip. After all, chlorine can only do so much. But apparently that’s not the case. It’s just another sign — in this case, a literal one — that the normal code of behavior no longer holds, and the world is going to hell.
I continue to marvel at the weird art choices some hotels make for guest rooms. These pieces were placed directly over the bed, so the last thing you would see before bedtime are a creepy, bare-chested, mascara-wearing guy who seems to be wrestling with an ugly scarf, and a clearly troubled woman — no doubt because she’s positioned next to a disturbing guy who might well be the Boston Strangler.
Sleep tight, and don’t let Scarfface bother you!
Our hotel room here at Pelican Bay has a kind of coffee maker that I’ve never seen before. It’s called a Respresso. You pull a handle, a chamber opens, you load in one of these brightly colored pellets, the chamber closes, you push a button, and espresso is produced. It’s disturbingly like loading bullets into the chamber of a rifle — which, come to think of it, is a pretty apt analogy for guzzling a shot of espresso in the first place.
The brightly colored pellets aren’t really helping with the decision-making process, either. To be sure, the wheel on the inside of the box explains the color code, but all of the names are in Italian. How is “Roma” different from “Livanto” or “Fortissio Lungo”? Does the color of the pellet provide a clue? Is the jet black “Ristretto” the strongest option? I have no idea, but I’m wondering whether my blind selection process will cause me to inadvertently pick the most high-powered, heavily caffeinated option that will leave me jittery for the rest of the day.
Add the fact that the color chart looks like a roulette wheel to the gun chamber similarity, and you’ve got a classic case of coffee roulette.
Our hotel venue for my meetings this week also was used by franchisees of Buffalo Wild Wings — also known as B-Dubs. They had a rockin’ good time and turned the hotel into a celebration of all things B-Dubs, including creatively converting the stairs into a billboard of franchisee accomplishments and putting a B-Dub sign up as a photo op.
Alas, no free wings for the rest of us.
Who among us has actually read the “emergency exit plan” on the back of the hotel room door? I’d ask for a show of hands, but it would be embarrassing. The “emergency exit plan” is right up there with mattress tags, airline safety brochures, and iPhone warranty cards in the “least read documents in human history ” category.
Here’s the problem. I could read and thoughtfully digest these instructions in the cool rationality of evening, but if I go to bed and am rudely awakened from a sound sleep by fire alarms and acrid smoke I’m not going to remember any of it. I won’t recall that I’m supposed to call 66 on the land line to alert hotel security, or try to “safely extinguish” any fire myself, or feel the door to determine if it’s hot, place cold wet towels at the base of the door to keep blistering hot smoke from billowing in, and “maintain calm” while awaiting further instructions.
Further instructions? From whom? Mr. Asbestos Man, who can somehow wade through the flames and get to the other side of my blazing metal door to shout instructions at me? Or the concierge, who’ll be calling every one of the hundreds of rooms to give the guests specific instructions calibrated to the individual circumstances? No, I think I’ll just engage in a panicky dash to one of the four stairwells that are supposed to accommodate the throngs of desperate guests trying to escape the flames.
Maybe there’s a reason nobody reads these things.