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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hotels and motels and restaurants and things

So I'm reading McCullough's biography of Harry Truman, and in it there's this joke meant to exemplify the typical small-town Missouri politician around the turn of the previous century. I think it's hilarious, and Joyce hates it.

This small-time politician wangles an invitation to a big East Coast political convention, which includes a formal banquet. So he sits at this table full of unfamiliar silverware, all dressed up, watching the others to see what to do. The waiter brings out celery, and he eats that. Next, the waiter brings out consomme, and like the people around him, the man from Missouri consumes that as well. The next course is a lobster, and the waiter places this in front of the man.

At this, the guest throws down his napkin and exclaims, "I ate your flower. I drank your dishwater. But I'll be God-damned if I'll eat your bug!" Okay, I just laughed out loud at this, again. Is it funny, or is it just me? Or is it the influence of too much Laura Ingalls Wilder?

Anyway, today we drove from Iowa, through Minnesota, and into South Dakota. It was a nice drive, and we visited a tiny roadside chapel in Luverne, and a little state park on the Minnesota prairie. The ranger told us there was nothing to see, but apparently he isn't looking anymore. If you are from Florida , there's plenty to look at and enjoy. So we made him take our money. When we left Clear Lake, it was blowing hard and freezing (to us). Wind chill was around 35 F. By the time we arrived in Sioux Falls, it was 83 F. We were finally able to get out of shoes and long pants.

But what I really want to talk about is accommodations. I'm not sure why, but not one hotel has managed to get it completely right so far. We stayed at one whose claim to fame was complete soundproofing. But they had their smoking and non-smoking r0oms all mixed up, and it stank. Several of the ones that claimed to have pools had empty, dirty or otherwise unavailable ones. Few have slow-closing hinges, so that when the clueless and inconsiderate guests let the doors go, they slam like cannon-fire. We don't seem to be able to teach manners anymore, so go ahead and stop the slamming mechanically. These hinges would not be available at all if someone had not already figured out that it is easier to fix doors than teach people. And it is easier to soundproof rooms than to ask guests to consider their neighbors.

Then there are the "free" as in, included, breakfasts. You either get plain bagels or something good. One place will have nothing but fruit and cereal; at the next, you can get sausage and biscuits. One will have hard-boiled eggs, another will have a broken toaster. We think each chain ought to at least have minimum standards, and whatever was available at 6 AM should be available at 9:45 (assuming breakfast is 6 - 10 AM). There should also always be protein option, not just a lot of different carbohydrates.

Then, the joy of beds. Marshmallow or firm? Loose sheets or fitted? The best has to be the LaQuinta effort to be European, with the blankets pulled up over sheets triple folded into some kind of strange origami. And would you like your pillows stuffed with Kleenex or whole raw potatoes? Not real sure what the decorative strips are all about on the bottom of the bed, but they are NOT much of a substitute for a comforter. Usually the dogs make a little nest out of them after they slide onto the floor. Probably not what the management had in mind.

Refrigerators come in all sizes, starting with none at all, running through breadbox to industrial washing machine. Some have freezers, some don't, some are caked with ice. I am baffled by the ones with tilted door shelves but nothing to hold items in. Every microwave is a new adventure, too.

And what is it with the postage-stamp bedside tables, one per room (that may sleep as many as four adults)? Our usual routine on arrival is to unplug the clock radio and stick it in a drawer, put the phone on the bottom shelf or on the floor, and remove all the little plastic advertising signs. This gives us enough room to put our glasses on the top when we shut off the lights.

Hmmm. I think I'll save restaurants for tomorrow.

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