SURVIVING HOTELS

Chain hotels are a necessary evil, especially for the business traveller. As nice as it might be to check into one of a kind boutique hotels or even cute bed and breakfasts, it’s not always possible, especially when travelling on business. In my previous professional life, I had no shortage of experience with hotel stays, most fortunately high-end ones, which make the experience of being far from home, usually pressed for time and tired, so much more pleasurable. At any Four Seasons or Plaza, nothing is ever a problem. Over the years I developed some tips to make my brief stays even more comfortable or, at least, livable, such as bringing one or two small items that would make me feel at home: a small candle, my usual body lotion instead of what was on offer, really comfy pj’s.

After recently spending two nights at the Hyatt in Cambridge, I was reminded of what is good and bad about chain hotels, or hotels in general. Let me start by prefacing that the staff was courteous, professional and tried very hard with this somewhat demanding customer (could I have that oatmeal with the gluten-free granola and no milk but a side of berries? You are such a  Californian, the patient waiter had written all over his face..).

At one in the morning, the group of thirty something males that had checked into the “Boston suite” next to mine were being extremely rowdy – I heard them ordering another round of drinks, laughing, yelling and making those verses inebriated frat boys make. Politely, I knocked on their door and asked them to turn it down – it was clear from the specimen who answered, shirt untucked, eyes glazed over, that there was no  chance of that happening. Still, I gave them 20 minutes, after which I could have resorted to taking an Ambien or calling the front desk. I opted for the latter because I do have a mean streak. The night staffer didn’t balk and promptly assured me he was going to call security and, sure enough, it was with great satisfaction that a few minutes later, huddled under the covers, I heard a stern voice ordering the evacuation of most of the suite. Needless to say, frat boys refused to get in the elevator with me the morning after when they checked out. Kudos to Hyatt staff for acting so swiftly.

Now to the bad experience. The Hyatt in Cambridge is right on the Charles river, affording a picturesque view of the Boston skyline but it is miles away from anything, other than MIT buildings that were not much use when I was dying to get out and have a cup of coffee or a quick lunch in between classes. It was not possible to escape the hotel diabolical coffee nor the terrible breakfast fare. I work in the food industry so I know for sure those breakfast buffets are a great money-making invention but not designed to satisfy customers looking for some quality food. Unless you are 300 pounds and generally eat for two, there is no way anyone can eat enough food for $20, especially when the poached eggs are rubbery, the potatoes half-cooked and the pastries look straight out of a fridge. And I did already mention the awful coffee.

Hotel rooms always appear clean at first glance and I typically don’t want to dig harder but, upon waking up and turning my head towards the window, I couldn’t help noticing a dirty sock tucked behind the curtains, of a pattern I wouldn’t dare wear and that some traveller clearly lost who knows when and that no maid ever noticed. This tells you that vacuuming behind curtains is not customary.

Finally, if there are four elevators, I somewhat understand the “ping” an elevator makes when reaching the floor, to alert the sleepy guest towards the sound, which is why I always make sure my room is as far from the elevator as possible. Despite having the very last room of the corridor, that damned “ping” sound was audible all night long, as annoying as a dripping faucet. Together with the boxes of fake grass, the tall plastic bamboo plants and the inside balconies overlooking the lobby, if I were the Hyatt I would rethink a couple of their decor choices. Although, if you are so inclined, a lifestyle catalogue inside every room gives you the opportunity to order Hyatt style furniture and bedding. For astronomical prices.

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