Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
HOTEL ROOM ADVENTURES
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed staying in hotels. In a hotel room, everything you need to relax and have fun is right there in one place: cable TV, a comfortable bed, a bathroom, clean towels, an ice machine, room service, a newspaper outside your door each morning, and best of all, someone else cleans up after you. OK, I admit, the exact same features are available in my own home, but the big difference is the hotel cleaning staff does not make me feel guilty for never lifting a finger to help.
And of course, in my home there is never a strip of paper across the toilet seat with the message, “Sanitized for your protection.” This feature alone is worth the exorbitant room rate.
As a child, staying in a hotel was a rare and exciting adventure. It’s not like we did it very often. In fact, now that I think about it, my family stayed in a hotel exactly once: a four-day trip to Cape Cod when it rained every day. As we drove home, I remember my father muttering, “Tell me again, Jane, why we thought cramming seven people into two small rooms would be fun.”
I don’t know why my dad was grumbling. My brothers and I had a ball on that vacation. We did the bed-to-bed long jump, the make-your-screaming-voice-echo-down-the-hallway contest (sound waves seemed to travel better late at night), and the who-can-shovel-the-most-ice-into-the-elevator-before-the-doors-close competition.
A good friend of mine travels out of town on business at least four or five days each week. This guy spends more time in hotel rooms than he does in his own house. (A few years ago he came home from a trip and said, “Hey hon, when did you remodel the kitchen?” Last year he came home and said, “Hey hon, when did we move to a different house?” And just a few weeks ago he came home and said, “Hey hon, when did you give birth to another child?”)
I’m sure my friend hates hotel rooms. On the other hand, I travel out of town infrequently, so staying in a hotel is still kind of exciting. I went on a three-day business trip to Atlanta recently, and when I checked into my hotel room, I immediately threw open the bathroom door and gazed downward. “Yes!” I shouted, “Sanitized for my protection! This is great!”
I turned on the cable TV, played with the row of buttons on the air conditioning unit for a while, and did a few bed-to-bed long jumps. (I’ve lost a little elevation since age 12, but now that I’m 45, I can really make those bed springs groan with my cannonball landing.) Unfortunately, I had to hurry to a meeting, so I did not get a chance to try some practice screams and size up the hallway’s acoustical properties.
It turned out to be a very frustrating trip. I was so busy with meetings and other business related activities, I only spent about six hours each day in the hotel room—not even enough time to get a decent night’s sleep, let alone have fun hanging out in the room. (Those corporate types can be such a pain. Just because they’re paying for the airline tickets, the rental car, the hotel room, and all my meals, they expect me to spend a lot of time doing work. What’s their problem?)
When I arrived home I was genuinely depressed. Three days with a nice hotel room all to myself, and I didn’t get to enjoy it one bit.
My wife noticed I was mopey, and when I explained why, she said, “How about if I make you a soggy sandwich? And I’ll knock on the door just as you’re getting out of the shower and yell, ‘Room service!’”
“Really? You’d do that for me?” I replied. “And will you stand around looking impatient until I hand you two dollars?”
“Sure,” she said. “And if you’d like, I’ll put a strip of paper across the toilet seat.”
“You mean, you mean…” I said hopefully, “sanitized for my protection?”
“That’s right, dear,” she said with a smile. My blue funk suddenly lifted and I was happy once again. Is she a great wife, or what?
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