THE HOTEL – Once again I am on the road as part of my philosophy of journalism: it’s hard to hit a moving target, and I am staying in a Motel 5 (I can’t afford any better.) If you have checked into such dwellings recently, you have noticed a few changes. First, there are no more mom and pop hotels. The closest are the B&Bs which are lovely old houses, usually in small towns, that have been converted into hotels. This means you can hear the couple in the next room arguing, or whatever, all night long. Bring a robe because the bathroom is down the hall, or outside in the back. Enjoy your breakfast and be out by 7 a.m. — another guest is on the way.
So the hotel industry has been taken over by chains, and even their varying names are misleading. Doubletree, Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn are all owned by Hilton. Incidentally, Conrad Hilton bought his very first hotel, the Mobley, in Cisco, Texas. He later moved on to other West Texas towns. Hilton later observed, “At Lubbock I found that Texas had no use for an imported French chef.” Most of these chains or franchises are clean, similar and, if you go online, you can find some bargains: the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in January, Tucson in August, and Juarez year ‘round. This hotel where I am staying is nice. The towels are so fluffy I can hardly close my suitcase. (Old joke). But the room is so small, when I stuck the key in the lock it broke the window. (Even older joke.)
The average hotel room has a big TV, but some still have rabbit ears. All TV sets have a remote, and this brings us to a problem. Like you, I am against more federal laws, including those dealing with armed insurrections, plagiarism and most insider trading. But another law is needed: every TV remote in hotels and motels should be the same. How many times after checking in have you gone up and down the remote trying to find the Taxidermy Channel? In the middle of the night in Pampa have you had to turn on the bedside light, put on your glasses simply to turn off the TV? Some rooms have a little card listing the various numbers for the channels. None of the numbers jibe with the channel listed. If you want to rent a movie, hotel bills no longer list its title, so your expense account won’t show you watched “Cheerleaders in Chains” instead of “Mary Poppins.”
Today virtually every room has a coffee pot, and no two are the same. The last thing I need the first thing this morning (thank you, Willie) is to spend 20 minutes attempting to make this strange coffee pot work. In Dublin I had three maids trying to figure out how to make coffee. We need a law. Another point, and I’m sure this has happened to you. It’s the end of a long day. Your plane was three hours late, you sat between two sumo wrestlers, and the flight attendants ran out of vodka serving the seat in front of you. What you really need, besides vodka, is a hot shower. You step into the shower and there, mounted on the tile wall, is a cross between a moonshiner’s still and the innards of a ’59 Oldsmobile. So you turn a few handles and either: (a), you are scalded like a Maine lobster or (b) you are bathed by an Arctic vortex. Either way you leap back into the bathroom buck naked, dripping wet and wishing you had told your boss that next time he can go to Pampa.
A few hints from a seasoned — OK, well-marinated — traveler. You don’t want to be like Howard Hughes and walk around your hotel suite with your feet stuffed into Kleenex boxes to protect from germs, and recent tests show those hand cleansers are ineffective. So always bring along a bottle of rubbing alcohol to cleanse that generator of germs, the ol’ remote. Studies show it is far more infectious than any other part of rooms, including the commode. Take along a clothespin because hotel drapes never touch. There is always a gap to let the sun hit you in the face at dawn, in my case, about noon. Read the fine print at the bottom of the room service menu. It will show that it is cheaper to bring Wolfgang Puck along to prepare your meals. (Louisiana has an extra 18 percent tax on room service.) Say goodbye to the mini-bar. Hotels say the income isn’t worth their declining use. If the hotels can’t make money on a $5 bag of stale peanuts they need to get in another line of business.
A relatively new wrinkle in the sheets is a small card on your bed: “Every day millions of gallons of water and detergents are used to wash linens that have been used only once. If you are staying more than one night and would prefer to reuse you sheets, place this card on the bed each morning” That’s fine with me. At home I change my sheets each time we go on or off Daylight Saving Time. But other hotels tell us to put the card on the bed if we want the sheets changed. Congress, which is it? If you like that picture on the wall, be careful stealing it. Many hotels have stenciled on the wall under the picture in big print: “PICTURE HERE” That way when the maid comes in to clean the vacant room, he or she can immediately spot the theft and your will enjoy your stay in a different type residence. Speaking of maids, leave a tip daily rather than at the end of your stay because a different maid may clean the room each day.
Have a nice visit, and don’t forget the clothespin.
Ashby rooms at ashby2@comcast,net