I don’t know what it is about hotels that I love so much. I spent a lot of time in hotels as a kid, especially from about age 9-12, tagging along on trips when my sister was a (very) competitive figure skater.Â We rarely stayed in fancy places – all the money was going towards the actual figure skating, not the place where the figure skater rested. That said, the places we stayed weren’t holes-in-the-ground, either.Â When a place had a pool, I was pumped!
I do have some clear memories of these days – the family all piled into one room in two double beds. The time we drove home from somewhere at night in an absolute monster of a snow storm (we had to pull over a couple of times, if I remember that right). My parents forgetting to bring money to breakfast one morning. The smell of chlorine at hotel pools, that still reminds me to this day of being a youngster and traveling the region for figure skating competitions.
Ever since I graduated college in 1994, though, I’ve pretty much been alone in hotels, for work. And there is something horrendously lonely about always staying in a hotel alone, no matter what city or locale you are in. Nowhere else can you be in such close proximity to so many people and be so isolated at the same time. Hell, even prisons are more social. Walking the halls of a hotel, there’s always such a hushed silence and avoidance of eye contact with anyone else, be it in the hallways or on the elevators. It’s a drone-like atmosphere and a strange dynamic, the way so many different lives all collide in one building, yet we never have any inkling at all who the person is that’s sleeping just 10-12 feet from you.
So why do I love hotels so much? I’m not anti-social, so it’s not that. I’ve gotten to be much better at initiating conversation and other various social graces in the last ten years or so. In examining this, there’s a couple of things that pop into my head.
a) A change of scenery. This is an obvious one. I always enjoy a well-designed hotel. Sometimes you get a winner, sometimes you don’t. I’m staying at the Sheraton Four Points Chelsea in Manhattan right now. Not really a winner. But there’s always something mildly exciting about seeing your hotel room for the first time – how’s it’s designed, what furniture is in the room, bathroom appliances and materials (i.e., granite), blah blah blah.
b) The idea that I don’t have to clean. I’m generally a clean, organized person. So it’s nice to get a respite when I’m on the road and focused on a meeting or whatnot so I don’t have to worry about towels, glasses or whatever. I can’t really explain this either, but coming back after a day out and having the room returned to it’s near-pristine condition without having to lift a finger is awesome. And I do tip generously. It’s hard work.
My best hotel story: I did a 3-day freelance TV gopher gig with the Oprah Winfrey show the day after I graduated college in May 1994. The hotel they put me up in out in Chicago was a killer! I walked in and it had a pre-stocked CD collection, books, a hot tub, a phone in the bathroom (!!!!) and so many other creature comforts. As a 22 year old college grad the day after graduation, I remember thinking how much I was already enjoying the adult life. Then I got back to Kent to gather my stuff, got in my 1986 Subaru and drove home, saying goodbye to a life I had grown to enjoy quite a bit. I had my parents cell phone for the ride and I remember calling this girl I liked as I was leaving Ohio and asking her if I would ever see her again.
Worst hotel story: Pretty recent. Maybe three years ago I was staying at the Roger Williams in Manhattan and I woke up to find a HUGE cockroach in the room. I mean, it was like a small rabbit. Christ! I got the room for free, then vowed to never stay there again. And I haven’t.
So it is just me, or does everybody love hotels?
(major bonus points to anyone who can ID the song in the subject line without Googling)