Note: As I got into writing this piece, it did occur to me that, while crappy hotel rooms have been the exception rather than the rule of my own experience, I really could write this essay’s opposite, given, if not the PERCENTAGE of hotel rooms that have been crappy, the often bizarre and memorable WAYS in which their crappiness has manifested itself. Maybe I will still write that essay. Or maybe you will.
The pleasures of the hotel room are many. The pleasures of the hotel room are simple. It isn’t luxury, exactly—not the hotels where I stay, anyhow—but pleasure, simply. The hotel room is cool, or warm, as needed. The hotel room is not on the first floor. The hotel room has more pillows than you would ever allow yourself at home—why wouldn’t you allow yourself these extra pillows? They aren’t expensive, and they swaddle you perfectly. And there’s the bolster—the decorative pillow—which I so enjoy, but which I also don’t require at home. The bolster would actually annoy me at home, its purely decorative cylinder. But here—the bolster is part of the pleasure.
Since we’re apparently already in bed, let’s talk about those cool sheets, infused with something magical—likely a chemical from the hotel laundry—that must be like tryptophan—it draws me into sleep. The sheets, the covers, the comforters—the bed is a big, poofy nest.
Next to the bed is a chair, which is mostly for show, unless there’s a table. Many times there is not a table. There is the desk, though—the chair and desk and the complimentary internet service and the place to plug in all your stuff. The telephone is on the desk, offering its multitude of single-button wishes—hotel info, reservations, front desk, hotel operator, housekeeping, maintenance, messages—and most nights I don’t even pick up the receiver!
The hotel room is sometimes home to a microwave and/or mini-fridge. Sometimes there are treats in the fridge, for sale, but usually I am not staying in that fancy of a hotel. There is also sometimes a safe, which you think would only appear in a fancy hotel, but sometimes the place you need the safe the most is not the most fancy hotel. Food for thought. I have used a safe before. Which reminds me of the locks on the door—especially that metal bar thingie that I always forget I’ve engaged so when I try to leave in the morning, I startle myself briefly, trapped.
The hotel room is home to the gigantic television set, which is actually hooked up to cable, unlike the not-so-gigantic television at home, which is only for playing Wii and watching DVDs. The hotel room television is the home of HBO and Showtime. My particular weaknesses, however, are competitive cooking shows and home or bathroom or garden renovation shows. They never fail to puff me up with “I should try that” ridiculousness.
The hotel room has a thick, plush, vinyl binder full of laminated pages—menus, services, phone numbers, taxis. The hotel room has a breakfast room service menu cleverly fashioned to hang on your door. I never use it, though—as much praise as I have for the hotel room, its pancakes are simply too expensive. Not worth it. The hotel room has free coffee—usually pretty shitty, but still—complimentary! The hotel room coffee makers, located most often in the hotel room bathrooms, are getting smaller and smaller—this one makes just one cup at a time, in a very clever way. Hotel rooms can be pretty clever. Sure, they could give me a little more sugar and creamer in my complimentary individually wrapped coffee accessory packet. The packet includes one napkin—why a napkin, when there’s all this complimentary toilet paper and kleenix and towels? One red plastic coffee stirrer, two small sugar packets, one small creamer packet, and one pink packet of sugar substitute. Pink! Who, besides my mother, even uses that anymore? I need more regular sugar, or at least, a yellow packet of sugar substitute. These are trifles, of course, and don’t fundamentally alter the fact that I am drinking a complimentary cup of shitty hotel coffee as the sun hoists its fat ass over the building across the parking lot.
As long as we are in the bathroom (making our coffee), let us consider the bathroom. A shower with more than adequate pressure—sometimes with an adjustable head. Paper-wrapped soap for the body, paper-wrapped soap for the face, AND even liquid body wash if neither of these soaps will suffice. And a small bottle of moisturizer, a small bottle of mouthwash, a small bottle of shampoo, a small bottle of conditioner. Sometimes a small bottle of shampoo and conditioner in ONE, which I prefer, as I prefer the yellow carcinogenic sugar substitute to the pink. Small things. And the towels. In my good hotel room, a bounty of towels. And, sometimes, really soft ones. Always white. Rolled up and stowed in cubbies—sometimes one is folded into a clever shape—hospitality origami—and left propped on the toilet tank or next to the sink. Speaking of the sink—often there is an ice bucket there, with at least a couple of plastic cups wrapped in more plastic.
The pleasure of the hotel rooms is bittersweet. I arrive exhausted, usually from a day’s driving, and am comforted by all I mention above. But too soon I am asleep, lullabyed down by a gutsy bathroom renovation, and in the morning, there is rarely time to really appreciate all those comforts because I am usually back on the road, or off to the conference sessions, or to the airport for the early nonstop. Someday I’ll treat myself to two nights for no reason—arrive right at check-in time and stay in, order in, use all the towels, watch all the channels, use the telephone and all the toiletries and multiple buckets of ice from the machine down the hall. I think I know the pleasure of the hotel room now—but just wait. I have no idea.