A Tale of Two Hotels

October 26, 2007, 5:00 PM UTC


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Okay, you know me, I’m a maniac. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I was in Philadelphia. Wednesday night I had dinner in New York, after spending a couple of hours at the office. Today is… what… Friday morning? I’m in LA. By tomorrow at noon I’ll be home north of San Francisco. Monday I’ll be in New York again. If that doesn’t seem crazy to you, maybe you’re as demented as I am.

All this travel means that it becomes preternaturally important where I shack up for the night when I’m out of town. Others may say, “Aw, the heck with it, it’s only for a night,” when they are ushered into a stinky, small, depressing hotel room, but me? No way. My spirit sinks. My heart turns to suet. My brain pounds within its tiny case in a vain attempt to come squirting out of my ears. Worst, possibly, is the urge to blurt “Do you know who I am?!”, always evidence of a diseased executive ego.

The good news is the most of the time, I’m pretty happy about everything when I get to my destination. The knowledge of how wrong things can go shapes my appreciation for the simply tolerable. The extremes, however, do have their moments. Today I would like to briefly share with you two of those.

Philadelphia: I get to my hotel at about 7 PM. I’m tired. I’m anxious, because the next morning I have a big presentation. It’s scary to talk to 2000 people. Anyhow, I get to the desk of a hotel I will not mention, because I’m a nice guy. It’s a big hotel, part of a huge chain that brags about itself quite a bit. The kid behind the reception desk is about 14 years old. She’s very nice. Big, wide, frightened eyes. She taps up my information. Asks me how to spell my name. Three times. Disappears.

Over the next 40 minutes, I am repeatedly assured that they are “working on my reservation,” that it “wasn’t transferred over.” When I ask what that means, I am informed that it means, “Well, it wasn’t transferred over.” I am offered a free drink. I accept. After the drink, I come back. They are still working on my reservation. I start to get mad now. I see people checking in all over the place. Why can’t I have a room? I’m tired! I’m hungry! Dudes!

Finally, after 45 minutes, the manager mysteriously appears. He is very brisk, with a lot of very shiny black hair. His name is Joey. I learn what the problem has been, and it’s a real doozy. It seems that I have been shut out of my room because — now please pay attention — because I AM A VIP GUEST AND THEY WANT TO MAKE SURE I HAVE THE VERY BEST ROOM THEY CAN OFFER. In all my years of business travel, this is the first time I have ever been skunked because I am a VIP, as a gesture of respect.

Anyhow, now the situation seems to be in hand, Joey is taking me to the “finest room in the hotel,” a “suite” that was supposedly earmarked for another potentate but “hey, he’s not here and you are, right?” I am shown into a very weird space, a big room with a conference table in it, and a kitchenette with a dirty glass on the counter. “This is not a suite, Joey,” I say. “This is a room.”

“We call this a suite,” says Joey with sincerity and concern. Okay, I figure, there’s a bed and a plasma TV, and I figure what the hell, it’s only for a night. Joey goes. I stand in the middle of the room and look at the bed. And then I see it. What I am in is actually half of a real suite, the part reserved for visitors, when the occupant wants to have a meeting that isn’t in the bedroom. And the bed… the bed is a Murphy bed. A Murphy bed, for those who have never enjoyed one, is a matress on a spring mechanism that may be hidden in a closet.

I don’t want to stay in this nether-room. It feels like mucho bad karma. I supposed I could put up with it… but why? I call Joey and say, as politely as possible, “Joey, this is a conference room with a Murphy bed in it.” Joey says, “Oh. You don’t like that?” He calls me back in five minutes and presto! I’m in a real room with a perfectly fine bed and mysteriously, it’s on the Club Floor, which was there all along, you know? I have a free drink at the Club and go to bed. Whew.

Questions: Why did my status as a VIP mean I had to wait for my room? Why did it take so long to sort me out? Why was the first room such an amazing loser? Did Joey think that anybody wanted to inhabit that makeshift place? Did he believe that VIPs like Murphy beds? Why couldn’t I just go to a nice, King-bed room on the Club Floor right away? Why do restaurants always try to seat you at the worst table they have available, not the best? Okay, now we’re off point. And I promised to be brief.

That was a BAD HOTEL. And it took all my self control not to bust it here. Now we’ll take a deep breath and move on.

Pleasure takes less time to describe than pain. So let’s go back to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills for a minute.

I got here about two hours ago and realized that, once again, I have forgotten my phone charger. This may not seem like a tragedy to you, but it’s not good. I have already purchased at least 10 phone chargers on the road this year. Finance is questioning me about it. I have to admit it looks bogus on my expense report. Anyhow. I’m a moron. I forgot it again. So I’m in line outside the hotel a few minutes ago to get a cab to the Verizon store down the street, and I mention my stupidity to the bellman, and he says, “You know, we have a huge box of those things at the concierge. Why don’t you ask them if they have a charger that fits?”

So I go to the concierge, who is a very nice woman I have met before, and she says, “Oh yeah. Let’s see.” She goes behind the desk into a little office for a few minutes and then re-emerges with just the right cable. And she seems just as pleased as I. I go upstairs, plug in my phone, and look at the sunset over Los Angeles, where today the sun is a bright red disk fighting its way through the smoke.

What a difference a day or two makes, huh?