(parenthetically speaking)

a random gal’s random thoughts about nothing and everything in general

When I Check Out, I Like to Check In July 19, 2009

I love hotels. Love, love, love them. Like Tiny Tim—who I had the pleasure of interviewing from his Des Moines hotel domicile back in 1994—I think I could even live in a hotel.

Just think, they’d be no bed to make and there’d always be someone to pick up after you. You could crank the AC down as low as you like and use all the hot water you want and not have to worry about huge electric bills. And room service when you get the munchies at 1 a.m.? Hello! Not to mention all the free ice you want.

To me, there’s just something exotic about staying in a hotel. Even in the most rinky-dink, cookie-cutter chain hotels. It somehow makes me feel, um, international. Even when I’m just shacking up for the night in some hole-in-the-wall along an isolated stretch of interstate in Winnemucca, Nevada.

For one thing, I always sleep better in hotels. Maybe it’s those dark, heavy drapes they always seem to have that block out even the slightest hint of daylight—so much so that if you didn’t know better, you’d think the sun had exploded, enveloping the planet in a veil of black while you were busy dreaming about lollipops and unicorns.


Here's hoping there's room at the inn.

The best I can recollect, my love affair with hotels started when I was 16, when my brother and I were driving in my old brown Toyota Tercel from Texas to Arizona to visit my aunt. I’d drive until I couldn’t drive anymore and then we’d stop at some cheap motel called the All-Nighter or something like that, and then start all over again the next day. Being that it was just the two of us, I felt like such a grown-up walking up to the clerk and saying, “I’d like a room for the night.” Actually, I can’t believe they didn’t look at the two of us and ask us where our parents were and refuse to rent us a room. Because, trust me, I didn’t look then like most 16-year-olds do today—like they’re 18 going on 25. I was lucky if I passed for 13.

In the years since, I’ve stayed in some really nice hotels. The Fairmont in Banff, the Peabody in Memphis, the Owners Suites at Signature in Vegas, to name a few. I’ve also stayed at some real fleabags. Like the time when my mom and sister and I had to scramble to find a room in Galveston, Texas, in the middle of the night after our tent blew down in a storm. I can still picture that tacky red velvet bedspread, the nasty, dingy brown shag carpet, and the live wires coming out of the wall. It was not in the least what you’d call exotic, but it did keep us from having to sleep in the women’s bathroom at our campground all night, where we had retreated after our Coleman SunDome took off in a whirlwind like Dorothy’s house in a Kansas tornado. It was such a pit, the three of us still laugh about to this day. So see, even the crappiest hotels can create lasting memories.

Another reason I love hotels is that they, at least for me, serve as a much-needed escape from the ordinary. I mean, don’t you ever get tired of sleeping in your same old bed night after night? Staring at those faded paisley sheets with the burgundy trim that you’ve had since your thirties?

Sometimes when I’m particularly down or stressed, or some frightening combination of the two, I want nothing more than to check into a hotel, pull the covers up over my head, and get away from the realities of the world. I did that very thing when my precious cat Harold, whom I’d had for 20 long years, got sick and had to be put down. I left the vet’s office, got in my car, and just started driving. I didn’t know, or care, where I was going. I just needed to get away. And rather than turning around and heading home at some point, I simply checked into a hotel for the night. No toothbrush, no night clothes, no nothing. And I think in some small way it may have actually helped start the healing process. (Now some of you will call me crazy for having such an intense reaction to my cat dying, but that’s another blog for another day. Besides, you never met Harold. If you had, you would have done the same thing.)

Anyway, the point is, that when it comes to hotels, it’s like Martha Stewart says: “It’s a good thing.” Of course, Martha would never be caught dead in a beat-up old motel room in Galveston, Texas, with a red velvet bedspread and brown shag carpeting. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.

To further prove I love hotels, check out the column I write about them at Examiner.com.


Rooms With a ’Tude May 6, 2009

I’ve started compiling a list of the world’s most unique hotels. Hopefully I’ll get a few writing assignments out of it. Or even a book deal. (My dream.)

Of course, lots of hotels claim to be unique. But I’m talking truly out-of-the-ordinary here, folks. For instance, did you know that in the Netherlands you can sleep 55 feet up off the ground in a spectacular suite for two atop a working industrial shipping crane?

It’s called the Harlingen Harbour Crane (www.vuurtoren-harlingen.nl) and it sits dockside along the Wadden Sea near the historic town of Harlingen. From its lofty perch, you’ll be afforded sweeping 360-degree views. Inside, you’ll find the accommodations surprisingly comfortable and luxurious (there’s a shower/bath built for two and designer touches like Eames chairs).

Harbour Crane exterior.

Harbour Crane exterior ...

Harbour Crane interior.

and interior.

Know of other unusual lodgings like the Harlingen Harbour Crane? I’d love to hear about them! Want other hotel notes and news? Check out my column on examiner.com.


When Good Service Goes Bad January 9, 2009

In my head, I’m always bitching about bad service. Maybe a cashier didn’t say thank you when she finished ringing me up or the guy at the drive-through forgot to give me a straw, or — my personal favorite! — the person behind the counter didn’t even bother to get off their cellphone while they were helping me with my transaction. I’m a HUGE believer in good customer service and feel strongly that it can literally make or break a business.

Through no skill of my own, but rather through my job, I’ve been lucky enough to have been hosted at some pretty swanky hotels, restaurants, spas, and even on a private jet once, and as such, have been treated to some examples of personal service and attention like you can’t believe. But is there a point at which good service turns bad? My brother Jon — who just happens to be the smartest guy I know — thinks so.

2729979786_de6147988c_m4My brother and his wife were dining at a semi-posh Atlanta restaurant recently and they could barely take a sip of their wine without a waiter refilling it or could hardly start a new sentence without someone popping by to ask how they were doing. As a couple with two small children (as precious as they may be), they look forward to an evening out as a way to escape all the chatter and chaos and want nothing more than to be able to sit back and relax for a while. But apparently this dinner was anything but relaxing. “I hate good service!” my brother told me afterward.

There does seem to be a fine line between good service and service that’s just a little too good. But I’d rather have annoyingly good service versus annoyingly bad service any day!

Which reminds of an incident last week, went I went to the AT&T store to buy my new iPhone. The woman helping me was knowledgeable and helpful and everything was going along perfectly well until we were wrapping up the transaction and she let me know that someone might be calling me and asking me about how I was treated that day. At this point, she looked me straight in the eye, reminded me of her name, and said, “Be sure and give me a 5. A 5 is what I need. A 5 will give me a great rating. Remember, when they call you, to give me a 5.” Not “Please give me a 5” or “I’d be flattered if you gave me a 5,” but rather a “Give me a 5 or else!” I wanted to say something back to her like, “Don’t push it, beeaatttcch!” but I just smiled and walked out the door. She should know, though, that when AT&T does come calling, I’ll be making up my own damn mind about what score to give her, and it certainly won’t be a 5. I guess good customers can sometimes go bad, too!