Three weeks in a hotel with no mini-bar — were they trying to kill me?
By the way, my sincere apologies to the folks in Room 116, right by the ice machine. That was me filling the ice bucket outside your door at 7 in the morning. Crunch-crunch-grrrrr. It was for my orange juice, I swear. I never drink the hard stuff till at least 10 a.m., usually noon. So, yeah, it was just orange juice, unfortunately, though one more week in that Vancouver Best Western and I would’ve been making vodka in the bathtub. Crunch-crunch-grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
No mini-bar, can you believe that?
Anyway, you miss a few things while being away from home for almost a month. You miss the smell of breakfast, the sound of the dog slurping at his water dish, the cello bow groan of the bathroom drawer.
But especially what you miss is the hurly-burly of other people — of lunches being made, of laughter, of young people bursting through the front door with something to say.
I haven’t lived alone for 30 years, and I don’t care for it much. Other people are a habit for me. After two weeks on assignment at the Olympics and living in the hotel, I started going a little stir crazy. Everything another person said seemed more interesting to me than my own thoughts.
It was like living in a cinder block. As you know, hotel floors don’t thump when you bound off the bed, the lamps go on with a different click, the drapes don’t quite close.
All the tactile sensations in a hotel are different — the tile, the maintenance-proof veneer of the bed stand. And let me just note that there is a special hell awaiting the person who designed those theft-proof hotel hangers, with their sharp and slightly rusty rings. Hollow bathroom doors, too. I’m not a hater, but I hate hollow doors. And the doorstop on the floor right near the tub. Ouch.
But you adjust. In three weeks, you form a little community. In this particular hotel, the housekeeping staff was friendlier than the front desk folks. I found that curious. The housekeeping staff of the hotel was a lively group of Eastern European ladies who always said "good morning" or "have a nice day," some of which lasted 20 hours. Sometimes I would get home at night just as they were coming on with their towel carts.
They mothered me, which is always nice and beyond the call of duty for hotel housekeepers. Each day, they would thoughtfully lay out my bathroom utensils — the brush, the nail clipper, the toothpaste — all the stuff that I’d leave in a heap on the counter. They’d lay it carefully on a clean towel.
They’d organize my desk too, which got messy with receipts, notes, business cards and Starbucks lids. When I left, I tipped them 30 bucks and the last eight coupons in a book of bus passes.
I regretted not snagging more of the closing-ceremony souvenirs for their kids and grandkids. Clearly, the housekeepers were more thoughtful than I was.
"Who cares?" you say. "It’s just a hotel." Well, except for a brief visit from the lovely and patient older daughter, they were pretty much all I had.
It was a good assignment, a wonderful Olympics in Vancouver. I broke a company laptop. I misplaced a scarf. Those were about the only hitches in a very long road trip, which is unusual for me — no hitches.
For I am prone to not paying attention. I spend about 40% of any day daydreaming and 30% sleeping. That leaves 30% for productive thought. Seriously, if I were a truck driver, I’d be dead by now. Or imagine me building bridges? They’d be fishing me out of the drink every hour or two. "There he goes again." Splash. "OK, somebody get the idiot net. No rush."
So I returned gleefully from my long trip the other day, smelling of airports and hotel shampoo. The house where I once lived took me back anyway.
When I left, the Super Bowl had just ended and now we’re well into March. While I was gone, the little guy’s teeth came in, and the wife looks more gorgeous than ever. (I think she got younger.)
The 300-pound beagle has put on a few pounds. And the boy, the 23-year-old I love so much but neglect too often in these missives, kept the yard up and held the house together. Thanks, buddy.
I returned with a suitcase full of dirty laundry and souvenirs in that distinctive Canadian red. And dopey foam antlers from the closing ceremonies that got bent out of shape in the overstuffed suitcase.
"How was it, Dad?" they all want to know.
Canada was sensational, I tell them. Home is even better.
Maybe you can hire a hotel maid to clean up for you before Computer Spaces Week!! HA!