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  LIFE AS A LOSER #181: "HOTEL CALIFORNIA."  
   
   
 

Andy Rooney once wrote that vacations weren't any better or worse than your regular everyday life; they're just different. He makes a lot of sense. When you factor in the hassles of organizing transportation, scheduling your days, breaking out of your routine and, of course, saving up the money to take a vacation in the first place, the act of going somewhere ends up as stressful as ordinary life was in the first place. As much as we might pretend to like them to be, vacations are not for relaxing; if we wanted to relax during our time off, I suspect we'd just stay home. And sleep, probably.

But the best part of any vacation, if you ask me, is the hotel. I just returned from a business trip in San Francisco -- business trips are a unique form of travel stress; not

 
 

only do you have to deal with everything you ordinarily do on the road, you also have to work the whole time. Sometimes I'd rather just remain at my desk -- and I stayed in the storied Hotel Commodore on Sutter Street. Actually, I have no idea if it's "storied" at all. But any hotel that's not the Ramada or Hilton anymore claims it's "storied."

In a way, staying in a hotel is every single guy's dream. You can be a complete and total slob, and no matter how disgusting you are, someone you don't know will clean it up for you. (It's strangely calming to be able to pee on the lid without any repercussions.) There is the ridiculous pipe dream of a beautiful woman knocking on the interconnected door that nevertheless seems, somehow, possible.
Oh, and you have unlimited access to porn. It makes you understand why rock stars are always going crazy in hotel rooms. Sometimes I feel like trashing the place too. Who's there to stop me?

In the spirit of Mr. Rooney himself , a few "whyyy is it that …?" observations on hotels.

  • Why do people still talk about a mint on your pillow? Maybe I'm just staying at shitty hotels, but I have never, ever had a mint on my pillow. I'm not even sure what the point of the mint is. I'm not necessarily sure, with all the crap maids have to clean out of hotels, I want their grubby mitts handling my food anyway.

  • One thing I learned from my parents: Stealing hotel glasses. I swipe at least two every time I stay anywhere. I'd say at least 35 percent of my silverware came directly from hotels. The whiskey glasses are the best. When I was a kid, Dad used to bring an extra suitcase anytime we ever stayed in a hotel, and he'd leave with the bag just packed with stuff... But we weren't white trash, no, not at all.

  • Ever have the complimentary continental breakfast? It is an affront to respectable breakfasts around the world. The last one I went to had a pile of soggy english muffins with no toaster, milk that came out in clumps, orange juice that was a strange shade of blue and three miniature boxes of Frosted Mini-Wheats, two of which were already open. I also think a package of jelly was moving across the table by itself, threatening the butter.

  • On those interconnected rooms: Why do they have this? I was woke up at 3 a.m. my first night to the door handle twisting, and I was protected from someone seeing my in my boxer shorts only by a rather skimpy lock. Thinking it might be a naked lady, I groggily walked over to the door, where I heard a six-year-old kid giggling. Then his mother: "Goddammit, what the hell are you doing, Josh? Go back to bed." Why do people have kids again? I think if I become a father, I might gag and tie up my children every night before sleep. I might even lock them in the garage. Hey, don't look at me like that. At least I'm not leaving the car running. (And seriously, somebody tell me why they have these rooms connected. Is it because they can leave the door unlocked and say it's a "dual suite" or something? I mean, it's a door.)

  • Third paragraph aside, I didn't actually order any porn. I was pretty proud of myself, truth be told. I felt like a priest who had successfully completed a life of celibacy. Think about it. I was on my company dime, with all potential charges posted straight to the room - charged straight to the company -- and was alone. I could have fallen asleep to porn every night if I'd wanted to. And yet I didn't succumb, even once. I'm not sure what I was trying to prove. I suspect in a week, when I'm trying to decipher a pair of boobs through the fuzzy scrambling of late-night Cinemax and hoping the New Yorker has a Versace ad in it, I'll regret missing a quality opportunity.

  • I ended up with a non-smoking room, but went ahead and smoked anyway. Respecting the non-smoking rules in a hotel room is like putting premium gasoline in a rental car just because the rental agreement "requires" you do so. Yeah, right.

  • When I was checking out, I ran into my maid in the hallway. I was carrying all my luggage, hadn't shaved or showered and had a cigarette in my mouth. We made eye contact.

    She shook her head. "Did you make a mess in there for me?" She smiled. I think she was smiling. I hope she was smiling.

    With my hands full, I said, "Ahh, nerr, mmmph." My lit cigarette fell out of my mouth and landed on the hallway carpet. I cringed, apologized and dropped my bag on the ground to pick up the cigarette. She stopped me.

    "Oh, don't worry. I'll get it." She shrugged and exhaled. "I always get it." She then brushed past me, unlocked the door and plowed in, without looking back. And then I checked out and did the same.

 

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