Out and About

On business trips, I have often complained that all I see of the towns I travel to are (a) the airport, (b) the jobsite, and (c) the hotel. On this recent trip, we stayed at the hotel that is attached to the airport… because the job was located there. Wow… so in this case, I would see... um... the airport!

The Hotel

As one consolation, we were set up at a quite luxurious hotel… much nicer than the Red Roof Inns, Holiday Inn Express, and (ooh, fancy) Hampton Inns that I am accustomed to. Honestly, I really don’t need much… a flat place to lie down, power plugs, a bathroom, and a WiFi connection.

Speaking of which—I suffered from the perennial complaint—normal hotels have free WiFi, but the high-end ones charge for it. This was discussed in a Washington Post article (“WiFi Should Be a Right, Not a Luxury”):

This is clearly not a cost issue when economy hotels like Holiday Inn and Days Inn have no problem offering free wireless access from the middle of nowhere in the South. (Not to mention Krystal.) This is an issue of greed or tech ignorance on the part of luxury hotels and consumers and business travelers need to start showing some outrage.

On the greed point, Paul Carr—whose parents are hoteliers and lives in hotels now—says the sky-high prices are largely the result of hotels losing fees from business travelers making phone calls, now that we all have mobile phones. The only way to make up the cost was to start charging for Internet access. I wouldn’t have a huge problem with that if the access was good. But I get angry when you charge me $20 a day for a connection that barely works when I can get a better connection at a coffee shop next door for free.

Usually, I try to get by with using my BlackBerry as a tethered modem—as I do when I am sitting around an airport for multiple hours:

But overall, I don’t blame fancy hotels for gouging people on expense accounts… but in general, I vote with my feet/dollars whenever I can, and stay at my favorite downscale places. (I assume everyone has heard that classic one liner: La Quinta—that’s Spanish for “near the Denny’s.” Heh.)

The aesthetics of the place were definitely fancy—a huge soaring indoor atrium, with a reflecting pool, subdued lighting, glass-walled elevators, 30-foot tall bamboo, and a classy restaurant.

But after breakfast there--$15 for a bowl of oatmeal and coffee? Oy. Free cheese-and-egg puck plus biscuit-and-gravy at the Holiday Inn Express, here I come.

One “I’m-not-in-a-normal-hotel” moment when I opened the shower curtain and saw:

The wall placard had the perversely convoluted logic of feeling ecologically virtuous by using, say, a normal amount of shower water, instead of double:

Refresh yourself / restore our world

One of your Heavenly® Shower heads has been turned off in an effort to minimize water usage and protect one of our most precious natural resources.

To experience the most out of your Heavenly Shower, you can turn the second shower head on by pushing the small button behind the lower head.

Yeah, that’s pretty analogous to: "All right!! A D-minus, and not an F! Good job guys, good job--great hustle!"

The Rest of the Trip

As for the rest of the trip—I was worried that I would end up spending the entire 2.5-day trip without stepping foot outside of the airport. However, fortunately, we made it out for one work dinner at a Mongolian barbecue place.

The trip out was on a DC-9… what, they haven’t retired these things by now? Sat near the back of the plane, right near the fuselage-mounted engine. Wonderful. Go noise-cancelling headphones!

Also, I decided to go all carry-on for this trip—a huge stretch for me…. going 48+ hours without a Leatherman tool on my hip makes me nervous. I take for granted the ability to say, “Man… that window air conditioner unit in my hotel room is really noisy. [Unscrew] [Bend] [Shim] [Rescrew] Ah… better.”

Not having tools almost bit me in the butt, because I was prepared for two days of meetings… but found out late on Day 1 that I would be crawling around the guts of a building. Fortunately, I had packed a pair of jeans, and still had my flashlight on me.

Sadly, I realize now that I missed a nice bit of creative monkeywrenching without my tools—I could have unscrewed that second shower head, sealed the aerator with a piece of Styrofoam cup, and put it back in place.


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