Walsh's Wonderings — Hotel mysteries

Robert F. Walsh
Robert F. Walsh

I spent a few days in Chicago last week, indulging in another round of “This City’s Baseball Team is Also Better Than the Mets.” As much as I enjoyed the trip, I couldn’t help dredging up my old complaints about my lodging options. Hotels these days are like transaction fees; the more you see them, the less sense they make.

Sometimes, for instance, hotels occasionally show a ridiculous amount of faith in us. They provide us free Bibles, after all. They replace those travel-size shampoos, soaps and conditioners so quickly I have to allocate a few extra pounds in my suitcase just so I can get them all on the flight home. One look around the shower or tub reveals little in the way of extra caulking, yet the cleaning staff always pulls the shower curtain outside the tub. This allows the water to run to the floor in giant pools as if they’re daring us to flood the room below. They seem to trust we’ll remember to pull that curtain inside the tub, but few of us deserve that trust.

Most of us are savages when staying in a hotel. We put our shoes on the furniture, spill coffee on the ottoman, eat sloppily in bed and leave crumbs on the floor (ants be damned). We don’t use coasters but will use the extra towels just because they’re there.

It makes no sense because at other times hotels display a level of concern that reveals their concern about basic human decency. They don’t trust us with irons or coffee makers, for instance, equipping them with automatic turn-off features. They don’t trust us with the hangars, allowing us only to remove the bottom half to hang our clothes. (Were these disappearing along with the robes and the travel shampoos?) Heck, they don’t even allow us to open the windows anymore.

It’s even harder to figure out how the “Do Not Disturb” sign works. Not only did they change the name to a less-confrontational “I’m Relaxing” sign, but it doesn’t seem to faze the cleaning staff at all, as they march into the room with the sign in their hands. I can only imagine they feel the need to rush in and mop up the bathroom floor in a never-ending race to prevent the water damage they invite with their shower curtain madness.

Requests for a late checkout don’t remedy this, instead injecting even more confusion. The folks working the front desk offer different times and instructions, leading me to ask a new person every time I pass the lobby so I can pick the latest option. At least they’re human, however; most concierges are being replaced by giant interactive screens where their desks used to be. While fine for basic directions or restaurant ideas, they do a horrible job of offering subtle ways to fix water damage around a hotel bathtub … .

The biggest mystery is why, with all these issues, we don’t simply resort to AirBnB and skip hotels completely. Perhaps it’s the complimentary decaf or the unending supply of tissues, but I like to think it’s deeper than that. (Just kidding — it’s the travel shampoos.)

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