Wednesday, March 24, 2010


They’re all just a little different and they’re all strangely alike. The bedspreads are different colors but all made of that weird polyester ‘quilted’ fabric. The ‘furniture’ is all bolted to the walls with the exception of the odd chair that only becomes a repository for your dirty clothes. There’s the plastic ice bucket, the remote that never matches the TV, the Kleenex and toilet paper that both have the texture of tree bark. They’re all kinda creepy.

They’re also kind of amazing. Ironing board, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, phone, hair dryer, alarm clock, TV – everything you need to make it through the time of your stay in relative comfort. And, someone else washes the sheets for you. Not too bad a deal, eh?

My hotel odyssey started in earnest during my junior year of college. That’s when I transferred to South Dakota State University and started doing forensics on the weekends. Every weekend it was a different hotel and, because we were always on a budget, the hotels that were chosen were often the least expensive and least luxurious. Additionally, that hotel room was shared with 3 other women. It was…cozy, let’s say.

The romance of hotels, if there ever was any, wore off quickly. Beds were often less than comfortable and showers were often less than hot. Sheets were thin and walls were often thinner. Once I ended up spending the night in a hotel in Sioux Falls, SD. A friend and I had road tripped down for a show. When we left Brookings it was sweatshirt weather and when we emerged from the theatre several hours later we were in the midst of a blinding blizzard. After 10 minutes (and less than a mile) on the highway we wisely turned back and got the last room at the first hotel we came to. There was no TV, only one blanket and when we woke up in the morning there was a miniature snowdrift just inside our door.

As time passed, I was more in charge of the choice of hotel. But let’s face it – it’s still a crapshoot. And, once you start traveling in other countries, all bets are off. I stayed in a hotel in Brugge once where the bed had a body shaped cavern in the mattress – you literally were cradled in the indentation in the mattress. But, the room over-looked one of the canals and was within earshot of one of the most melodic church bells I’ve ever heard, so I figured that the tradeoff was worth it. Once in Amboise, France my hotel room was on the top floor of the building and if I sat upright in bed I smacked my head on the pitched roof.

I once stayed in a hotel in Turkey, in a town right on the border of Russian Georgia. This particular hotel, we learned afterwards, was rather well-known locally as being the workplace of choice of a good number of Georgian ‘working girls’ – euphemistically referred to by the locals as ‘Natashas.’ Those rooms were very interesting, most containing vibrating beds with strobe lights in the headboards – not something we had anticipated finding in a country that is 99% Islamic.

In a hotel you’re in that odd place – alone, but not really. You’re surrounded by people and, depending on the hotel, you can hear more or less of them. You’re limited in what you can do – watch NCIS re-runs on TV, swim in a pool the size of a postage stamp, read the complimentary copy of USA Today. And, in a hotel you’re in that wonderful place – that place that lets you go and explore and see new things and visit new places. So call the front desk and arrange your wake-up call, prop yourself up with all the pillows from both beds, grab the remote, and settle in for a re-run or two. Tomorrow it’s time to explore.

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