This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

We'll Leave The Light On For Ya... It Makes The Roaches Scatter

I have stayed in some truly crappy hotels in my day, so in order to make it onto my list of worst ever, you really have to be something special.

Tonight, we are staying in one such hotel, owned by (but not branded by) a relatively new national chain whose web-site I now must conclude stands for "Lacking Quality" dot com.

What does it take to be on my worst ever list?

  1. Start out with a building of just the right age, old but not too old. Too old and you gain character. Character is one of those indefinite qualities that you have to simply recognize when you see it. Something that allows you to say "Wow, this has some history to it. Why, some ancestors of the bed bugs for whom I was the buffet last night may have once munched upon the restless legs of George Washington." No, the age I'm talking about is the "World War II surplus temporary housing" era building, the sort which was built poorly because it was never intended for use beyond a decade or so, and yet out of so much concrete and rebar that in the end it was simply too expensive a task to demolish, and so was sold off at fire sale prices to people who figured if you priced the rooms low enough, you didn’t really have to worry about pesky little things like repeat customers or minimal human dignity.

  2. Choose a décor scheme which can best be described as "we found a sale on surplus 'stucco', and it was just too good a bargain to pass up!" Stucco everything. Walls. Ceilings. The sink. Fill plastic bottles with stucco and sell them in the vending machine. For that special flare that will really get you talked about, stucco the bill so the customer lacerates his hand when signing out. And have a "no cancellations within 48 hours" policy, so that once the customer actually sees what he or she has purchased, they are truly "stucco".

  3. Now it's time to add the amenities. Indoor plumbing dating from the days before the fall of Rome is a nice touch. Make sure the paint, décor and construction scream "1940s" while the "hot" water replies "Marquis de Sade" and the mattress says "perhaps I should have thought twice about turning down that manger". Make sure that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, should they ever get the chance to set foot within the walls, come to realize that it isn’t personal, that we treat our own citizens this way as well. Put in the kind of cheap “pressed fiber” furniture which can today be done with some moderate success, but from the days when "pressed fiber" meant "about as sturdy as cardboard, but somehow less classy". But put in a brand, spanking new television, just to throw the whole thing into stark relief. Then wire the building so horribly that all you can see or hear is static. Crystal clear digital high definition static. In stereo.

  4. Next, let the whole thing age and ripen like a fine wine or cheese. Ripen in much the same way raw sewage does in the holding tanks prior to treatment at the plant. Spend the majority of the 60s and 70s, before most people have learned the words "lung cancer" or "second hand carcinogen", renting every room in the place to an unending stream of Tom Snyders, men and women who chain smoke so much they eventually have to have their tracheotomy holes fitted with a special adapter to accommodate a filter tip. Allow decades of customers to bring their non-house-broken pets. Perhaps occasionally find a wino with a weak constitution and really poor aim. Allow the whole thing to marinate until you couldn't scrub out the resulting smell with anything less than a full haz-mat team and enough Lysol brand disinfectant to literally fill the building up and slowly let it drain out over a decade or so.

  5. Never use bleach. It's bad for the environment, right? And it shortens the life span of your sheets (which, incidentally, you should pick up from "Bob's House of Burlap"). Hope that over time customers believe you chose an off-white motif, because it’s just too horrible to contemplate that you could never buy that particular mottled pattern of yellows new. Choose bed spreads that would have been fashionable… ok, let's face it, these things would never have been fashionable. Siberian exiles might well have turned up their noses at these. Homeless people sleeping on subway grates for the occasional warmth of the subway trains passing beneath might say "no thanks, I'm good".

  6. Staffing. As a tip, you can get a good bargain on staffing by calling the National Borderline Personality Disorder hotline and pretending to be a psychologist. Or better yet, go to the nearest office of the Division of Motor Vehicles and ask for the names of applicants who were rejected for insufficient interpersonal skills. Hire staff whose native language is the Neanderthal monosyllabic grunt language and with the same basic personality of spackling compound. Hire one cheerful, bubbly, mildly flirtatious woman and put her in charge of answering the telephone. Give her no instruction what so ever as to what services the hotel does and does not offer, so that when a customer calls and requests a crib for an infant, she happily promises one will be in the room, but then when the customer arrives, the surly desk staff can insist that there isn’t a crib to be had anywhere closer than Tijuana while looking at you as if you’d just requested that they have someone come to your room and floss your teeth. Make sure the desk staff does not understand English well, so that when they give you adjoining rooms, you get two rooms which each adjoin to OTHER rooms, but not to each other. And remember, barely veiled animosity is the key, or your staff will spend far too much of their time listening to complaints and trying to help people, taking away from their vital work of chlorinating the stucco compound in the swimming pool.

  7. Finally, advertise things you barely deliver on, such as "free high speed internet" and "free continental breakfast". Hire a low-cost internet provider who saves money by attaching IP packets to the backs of squirrels and sets them running down the wires to the local Internet backbone, knowing that three out of four of them will touch raw current and spontaneously burst into flame without ever having delivered their message and the ones that do make it will take about as long with their round trip journey as the recent Mars mission, though a lot less likely to return anything interesting. In the morning, put out a toaster and three slices of stale bread and call that a "continental breakfast". Have an orange juice dispensing machine, but have a large "out of order" sign on it and no alternate sources of juice.(*)

Welcome to my world. This should help explain to you why, with 5 hours of driving under my belt today and the prospect of 5 more tomorrow and my eyelids drooping worse than the pressed fiber furniture, I am standing here at this late hour, attempting to minimize my contact with the furniture or even the floor, lest this terminal shabbiness somehow infect me, watching vigilantly as my two year old son sleeps and ready at a moment's notice to do battle with any sort of crawling beastie which might emerge from one of the many cracks and glance hungrily in his direction.

I’d also like to make sure no one comes in and stuccos him in his sleep.

(*In fairness, as I write this I have not yet had the opportunity to sample the bounties of the breakfast, so my description in this case extrapolates from another hotel we stayed at on Thursday night, which was palatial by comparison but pretty bad in raw terms. Maybe I’ll be surprised. Maybe breakfast is where they really make up for the rest of it. And maybe if I took a black-light to these bed coverings, they’d turn out to be absolutely clean and sanitary. In either case, I only wish I was joking about the squirrels.)

Copyright © June 15, 2007 by Liam Johnson.


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