Scarlett’s Letter September 26, 2013

I left the hotel alarm clock set for 5:00 AM. With sheer resolution, I also set my iPhone alarms for 5:00, 5:01, 5:02 and 5:03. I don’t hit the snooze, ever, and, truthfully, part of my waking up process has to do with hating the sound of any alarm so much, that, I usually wake up automatically, two or three minutes before any of them sound and quickly turn them all off as I climb out of bed.

Last night, though, I tossed and turned and slept fitfully. My sleep was disturbed with a nagging thought; two alarms would go off simultaneously. The shrieking clock radio alarm and my first iPhone alarm, which with iOS7, is, well, alarming. The first morning my iPhone alarm went off after upgrading to iOS7, I thought some cannibalistic tribe of ninja pygmies had entered my room and I was awakening to their pre-sacrificial prologue. So, in my fitful, bizarre dream riddled sleep, I worried, which of the two obnoxious alarms would I turn off first if both sounded simultaneously. The human mind is a strange place, the human mind, in sleep, is even stranger. My mind takes the cake, I’m sure.

No worries. I awoke at 4:57, which, may I remind you, in New Jersey, where I am this week, may be nearly dawn, but at home, the bars haven’t even closed yet. I quickly turned all five alarms off before they uttered a peep, beep, honk or trill. I’d put a snack size Ziploc with eight almonds in it on my bedside table. I munched on those and cleared all the overnight notifications from my phone. It was all good until one of the almonds I crunched down on was rotten and tainted the flavor of everything for the rest of the day. Maybe the rest of the week. There is some controversy about whether to eat before working out early in the morning or not. My personality trainer says I should eat something light, like eight raw almonds, before working out in the morning. Yes, I said personality trainer. I can’t afford a personal trainer, so I’ve adopted a personality trainer, Jillian Michaels, assisted by Shaun T, and I can barely afford them with their prolific video production habits. Note to self; check iTunes for Jillian’s latest video release, I think it’s out.

I headed out the door of my hotel room, doing the early morning workout wear pat down, similar to “keys, phone, wallet”, but more like “pants, shirt, matching shoes”. Check. I made my way to the hotel gym and managed to get the key into the card lock slot facing the right direction, on the first try. I clamored aboard one of the three rickety ellipticals. There was a man on the middle one, so, no matter what, I was working out next to him. Like seats at the airport, space permitting, there is an unwritten rule, every other piece of gym equipment is occupied, a blank machine between two sweaty, panting people is barely adequate. To have to work out right next to someone is kind of like sitting in the middle seat in coach on a long flight, except the people next to you are sweating profusely and panting loudly. Gross. I know. I set down my Fiji water, my room key and my phone, careful not to let my phone and room key get too close. I am the Queen of demagnetizing keys. When I check in to a hotel and they ask me how many keys I want, I ask for a dozen. There is nothing worse than getting all the way to your room and not being able to get in, only to have to return to the front desk, wait in line, and obtain another key.

The rickety hotel elliptical doesn’t have an incline, so I tried to figure out what the “L9” I’ve selected is all about. I’m sweating, so it must mean something. So, at 5:00 AM EDT, which is 2:00 AM my time, what do you do on cardio equipment to stay awake? No, really, I need to know. I’m certain I lapsed into sleep, while maintaining a perfect cadence, several times. After fifteen minutes and some REM action, I’m fairly certain, I was jolted back into some level of quasi-consciousness, by the incessant beeping of some piece of cardio equipment nearby. Oh, mine. Right. Time’s up. I move to the even ricketier stationary bicycle. The bike I rode yesterday wobbled precariously as I pedaled. I had to maintain a very careful balance, more than I would on an actual bicycle, so as not to fall over. I chose a different one today.

By 5:15 AM, as I pedaled 86 RPM at the maximum resistance setting, and dozed, I would occasionally be rudely awakened by the sound of the gym door opening. After the bike, I intended to use one of the five treadmills. Based on yesterday’s experience, I know, at some point this morning, every piece of war torn cardio equipment and every piece of tattered weight training equipment, and every last sweaty dumbbell, and even every last stabilization ball, is going to be employed by someone who ate too much last night and can’t bear the guilt. I get a little obsessive about the availability of the next piece of gym equipment on my menu. No matter where I’m working out. Rarely obsessive enough to abandon one machine early for the next. I even more obsessive about completing the time I’ve set, down to the last second. Again, the human mind = strange place, mine > strange place.

The door opens again. I pedal faster. When I realize that pedaling faster won’t make the fifteen minutes pass any quicker, I settle back into my 86 RPM, a little embarrassed and hoping no one noticed my franticly increased cadence. Like anyone would be able to notice over all of the clunking, squeaking and whirring of all the cheap and poorly assembled cardio equipment. Hotel gyms are the worst. I lapse into sleep again, am awakened by the door, lapse into sleep, and awaken a few seconds before my fifteen minutes ends. Similar to awakening before the alarm goes off in the morning. I head for the treadmill, four of five are free, so I try to be selective based on visible defects, pools of sweat, and television programming on the monitor. I settle on the one at the far end, even though it puts my ass in direct line of sight from the glass entry door. In other words, my ass is the first thing every early morning exercise fan is going to see. Hopefully, they’re all walking in their sleep, too. But, there’s a Full House episode on Nick @ Nite on my monitor, which beats the hell out of any of the other programming, and, since I haven’t taken the time to learn how to change the channels, and, like on airplanes, I just watch and read lips, I don’t plug my ear buds in to the monitor and listen, who really cares. John Stamos from that era is just eye candy and for the next thirty minutes, I just walk briskly and constantly. I don’t run on treadmills. I know, I’m “a runner”, with a marathon fast approaching. I walk briskly. Truth. I am intimidated by treadmills, and I haven’t really worked out in my over logical mind how one actually runs on a treadmill without killing oneself. I think about this a lot and marvel at everyone around me, many who seem a) less intelligent b) less agile, and c) definitely less fearful than me as the plod impressively along on the narrow, mechanized belt, without hanging on, without tripping and without flying off the back of the machine. I once saw Barbara Walters interview Jim Carrey while he played on his treadmill. It was hysterical; Google it. I want to be able to do THAT. Actually, I’d really like to be able to just accelerate to my running pace and not fall and knock all my teeth out, or trip and land in a heap on the floor behind the machine. My plan; some day, if ever I find myself in an unoccupied gym, the likelihood of which is infinitesimal, I am going to practice. I’ve seriously considered heading down to the hotel gym at like 3:00 AM to attempt this endeavor. But I’d have to set my alarms. All four of them.


Why I fear treadmills …Treadmill – Imgur

Scarlett’s Letter September 25, 2013

How alarming.

When I travel, I always use my iPhones for my morning alarm. I set two on one phone, my personal phone, an AT&T phone and two on my other phone, my work phone, a Verizon phone. I figure I have my bases covered in so doing. I never use the clock radio provided by the hotel. Ever. As a matter of fact, if there is a clock radio anywhere in my midst at bedtime, I turn it around so the time cannot be viewed. I used to be a terrible insomniac. I learned that we all wake up many, many times during the night. Most of us just don’t realize it and fall right back asleep without any issue, and so don’t remember waking and, therefore, aren’t concerned with it. If there is a timepiece visible, however, if you wake up enough to note the time, you remember waking up. You usually end up accounting for all the times you awake each night, and before long, it kind of stresses you out. The more you stress out about waking up, the more you wake up. If you turn clocks so you can’t see them, and learn to manage your stress, soon, especially if you eat healthfully and exercise regularly, you’ll sleep much better, most of the time.

Last night was my second night at this hotel in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. Yesterday morning, the clock radio alarm did not go off. The first of my four iPhone alarms did, at which point, I quickly turned off the others and got out of bed. I got ready and went to work. It wasn’t until I got to work that it occurred to me that I’d forgot to leave a tip for the housekeeper. I don’t tip a whole bunch, just a couple of bucks and a note saying “Thanks!” I’m pretty fastidious and other than a couple of long, curly hairs on the floor and a few towels that need replacing in the bathroom, things are spotless. I even make my bed. But, I forgot the tip this morning and I felt a little bad.

This morning at 5:00 am I was bludgeoned out of sleep by the loudest most obnoxious foreign noise I’ve ever experienced, the clock radio. It was turned against the wall in my dark room, so I groped for the offensive, shrieking object, unsuccessfully, had to flail my arms about until I found the light switch, try to focus, grab the clock radio and then try to figure out which buttons to slide or push or press to make the noise stop. At last I succeeded.

My alarms were set for 6:00, 6:01, 6:02 and 6:03. That gave me ample time to have breakfast, get ready and walk to my clients’ office building conveniently located immediately across the street from the hotel. As usual, I’d packed my workout gear, and, as usual, had every intention of working out every day, morning or night, however it was managed, and, as usual, didn’t. I’ve been eating out every meal for weeks and I’m beginning to fill my jeans and slacks out more than I like. I feel lousy. I have a marathon coming up. So, I’m laying there, thinking about all of this, the light again turned off, hoping for another hour of sleep. Finally, I did what the well-intended, disciplined inner me hoped I would. I threw the covers back, turned the light on, strode over to my suitcase, pulled out my gym clothes, went downstairs to the hotel gym and did a full hour of cardio. I felt amazing all day long. And I was sure to leave a tip with a nice thank you note for housekeeping.

I did not set that alarm clock. And there is no way, no how, that I slid the lever to the on position, after examining it, when I turned the clock around for the night. It would’ve taken a certain amount of force to engage the slider and move it the distance required for the alarm setting to be on. I examined all of this forensically. That’s what I do. The only person I know of that entered my room in my absence was the housekeeper. I mean, I’m the only one here, I travel alone 99.9% of the time. My daughter accompanies me to New York City, but most certainly not to New Jersey. I could account for both keys the front desk gave me, so it’s not like someone obtained one of my keys, entered my room and turned the alarm on! That would be absurd, anyway. And, certainly, if someone broke in, they would certainly want something more than to turn on the alarm on the clock radio. Like my shoes. Or my chocolate. Or my wine. I had to wonder, did housekeeping set the alarm because I didn’t leave a tip? No. That couldn’t be. Would they do that? I’ve forgotten the tip before and this kind of thing didn’t happen. But, maybe less obvious retaliation has occurred that went unnoticed. A dirty glass? Or that time the shampoo was replaced with hand lotion. Or that other time that the blue mouthwash was replaced with blue shower gel. That was gross. I buy and carry my own mouthwash now. And read labels on tiny bottles very, very, very carefully.

Come to think of it, for some reason, yesterday afternoon, my hotel room door was stuck shut. The lock disengaged, but it was physically stuck. To exit and enter I had to tug and pull and really use brute force. Today, it is fine. Had something sticky been applied to the door to make it stick? I’m not usually a suspicious person, I rarely adhere to conspiracy theories. But, these little things kind of had me bothered. So, yah, I made double darned sure I left a tip when I went to work this morning. When I returned, the door opened with ease and the alarm was off. I went ahead and turned it on. For 5:00 AM. I’m going to get up and work out again tomorrow. I reset all my phone alarms for 5:00 AM, too. I learned two lessons from my alarming morning; 1) always leave a tip and 2) it isn’t all that difficult to motivate oneself to get out of bed an extra hour early for an energizing and beneficial workout.



There’s No Place Like Hotel

I spend a great deal of my life in hotels. I know that isn’t the norm, for most, but for me, it is. For now. During several months out of a year, I am in a hotel room four or five nights a week, three or four weeks out of a month. Whether you stay in a hotel one weekend a year, or more weeks per year than not, I’m sure you have certain minimum expectations that make the difference between a hotel stay being just right and being just wrong.

Consider that even in the most miserable locales in the U.S., a clean, decent, hotel costs you at least $100 per night, and in a “normal” locale, twice that. For a clean, decent, leased living space in Manhattan, roughly the same size as a hotel room (400 square feet), the rent, broken down into a rate per night is about $160. Ok, so by comparison, my 1,100 square foot, three bedroom two and a half bath, recently new construction, single family suburban dwelling with an attached, two-car garage and a neighborhood “clubhouse”, in Northern California is $47 per night. For perspective.

My point is, for what a hotel costs per night, your expectations should be pretty high. Perhaps I am quite choosy, but I am in need of a good, comfortable night’s sleep so I can function with wit, wisdom and humor for 8+ hours, standing on my feet, for my clients each day I’m away from the comforts of home.

My high expectations are as follow: clean, quiet, functional, complete, not stupid. Fair enough? I should think. How hard can it be to think like a guest and make a room clean, quiet, functional, complete and not stupid? If you’re responsible for “designing” a hotel room, try actually staying in a hotel room and trying to function as a normal human being the following day.

Lets’ discus clean first, shall we? My definition of clean includes 1) no one else’s hair on the sheets, pillows, bathroom floor or shower drain. 2) no mold or soap scum on the shower curtain 3) water dispensed from coffee maker = clear 4) glasses = no lipstick stains 5) no Febreeze odor masking something far worse 6) the ability to walk on the carpet barefoot, step into the shower, and not have black, foot-shaped stains where I stood on the shower floor 7) towels free of black greasy smudges, brown, nasty smudges, red, bio-scary smudges and dried, yellow, chunky, crusty matter (all of which occurred at “four-star” properties) 8) spotless tile and grout

Functionality includes 1) some kind of fold out rack for a suitcase 2) shower curtains that prevent water from spraying onto the floor 3) water faucets that actually project water into the sink basin and that aren’t designed to be so aesthetically modern in shape that they are functionally inept and when they are set to low, water flow will spill onto the counter top instead of into the sink 4) ironing boards that are full size, have a cover that won’t produce more wrinkles in my clothing while ironing than I am trying to remove 5) curtains or blinds that actually block out the obnoxious, glaring, fluorescent light placed so inconsiderately in front of the window to my room 6) wifi that actually reaches the internet 7) thermostats that actually allow you to control the environment in the room 8) adequate outlets for iPhone near the bedside table because I really don’t want to monkey with the stupid clock radio, I’d really rather rely on the steadfast and true alarm function that I know will go off in the morning 9) blow dryers not designed by bald men. This is a particular gripe of mine. Have you seen the itty, bitty blow dryers that are basically barely a bit more oblong than round? There is a purpose for the extended “nozzle” on a blow dryer, so the blowing end is at least a few inches away from the sucking end. Engineering gentlemen who designed the small, nearly round blow dryer obviously have never used a blow dryer, or were nearly bald when they tried. If your hair is more than an inch long, when using the “round” blow dryer, the sucking end sucks your hair into the dryer, through the fan and into the heating element. This results in the nasty smell of burning hair, a chunk of lost locks, and in many cases, a small fire inside the blow dryer, rendering said unit ruined. This has happened to me on more than one occasion in the past couple of months. I now carry a full-sized blow dryer in my checked bag, bringing the weight total to precisely 49.5 pounds (at 50 pounds I pay a penalty). 10) ironing boards that will actually collapse back down successfully, and preferably without a horrific noise likely to startle people in neighboring rooms 11) a clothing hook in the bathroom that doesn’t drop clothes onto the (wet/slimy/dirty/hairy) floor 12) a towel rack not IN the shower so when you grab the towel it isn’t as water logged as you are 13) electrical outlets that actually have electrical current, because dead cell phones don’t have functioning alarm clocks at 5:00 AM when you need them the most 14) thermostats that actually control the heating/cooling device 15) closets tall enough to accommodate trousers hung from the waistband and not folded in half, because I just ironed all my trousers for the week and I don’t want to fold them over a hanger and have creases at my knees 16) clothes hangers that actually fit on the rod and don’t have too small a hood for the diameter of the rod and fall to the closet floor at the slightest touch, both soiling and wrinkling your work wardrobe you just spent half an hour ironing 17) when you say “fitness center”, can you please mean a center for fitness and not the more literal application, by which I mean, if I stand in the “center” of the “fitness center” I can easily touch all four walls with an outstretched arm 18) windows that don’t produce more draft than the air conditioning

A “complete” hotel room experience would include such amenities as 1) one shampoo, one conditioner, not two conditioners that you don’t discover are two conditioners until you’ve entered the shower without a travel size shampoo 2) coffee for the coffee maker 3) cups for the coffee 4) room keys that actually open the door because nothing is worse after a fourteen hour travel day than schlepping your 49.5 pound suitcase, 42 pound backpack/computer case and 20+ pound “purse” all the way up several floors on the slowest elevator in the world only to find that not one, but both magnetic card keys don’t work. And the replacement keys provided upon a pitiful return trip downstairs also don’t work. 5) hardwire internet service when wifi is not offered … and an ethernet cable to go along with it, because I’m already packing so many cords and cables that my computer bag looks like an incendiary device in the security x-ray machine and one more cable/cord is more than I can possible deal with 6) functioning light bulbs 7) light bulbs that actually illuminate an area greater that four inches, because it isn’t really that easy to place the lamp ON the bed when I want enough light to read by 8) couches that aren’t upholstered concrete, because sometimes I think it would be nice to sit on something soft, besides the bed 9) a pen to write on the pad of paper next to the phone 10) a pad of paper to write on with the pen left by the phone 11) liquid shower gel that isn’t green and runny and doesn’t look like mouthwash because at 5:00 AM, if it’s green and runny, its mouthwash, and ingesting shower gel causes the runs 12) enough hangers for trousers for a work week, blouses for a work week, cardigans to match (perhaps two or three) and a coat 13) if a refrigerator, then a microwave. If a microwave, then a refrigerator, please, both, or neither 14) bar of soap for the shower AND a bar of soap for the sink, because getting into the shower and realizing there is not soap and having to step out onto the incredibly cold, extremely slippery tile floor to grab the bar of soap by the sink is a lawsuit just waiting to happen, for the cost of one more tiny bar of soap 15) an “ungoverned” thermostat, so if I wish to heat my room the more than 68 degrees, I can do so 16) an ATM in the lobby that actually functions and dispenses cash so tips can be paid to bellmen, doormen, housekeeping and valets 17) more than one tissue in the Kleenex box

“Not stupid” is probably too broad a category to cover in it’s entirety, but let’s make a couple of salient points here, shall we. 1) the vent in the bathroom should have a fan that vents to a duct that leads, eventually, outdoors, not into the adjacent room. I should never hear someone sneeze in the bathroom adjacent to mine, think it is someone within my room and politely bless said someone within my room for a sneeze they did not produce. Nor should I feel compelled to answer the query of the person in the adjacent bathroom because I heard their query as though they were in MY bathroom, and I know the answer 2) bathroom sink counter space > 2”, I can’t even fit a tube of mascara on a 2” wide shelf, let alone my makeup case 3) drawers and cupboards that open without being impeded by some immovable, fixed object, like a cabinet or wall 4) light switches that turn on or off lights, not alarm clocks or electrical outlets into which an iPhone with an alarm clock function may be plugged

And, finally, if you want my repeat business, which I will often have an opportunity for, try these “make my day” tactics; 1) a mint on my pillow is cliche, but so rare, that even if it is a stupid red and white peppermint candy, it will be happily received (not eaten, likely, but photographed and commented upon on facebook) 2) better than a mint on my pillow, a chocolate of fair quality (Ghirardehili or higher) will earn my undying appreciation 3) I am currently in a hotel that left me a whole bottle of decent wine, a “quality”, fresh-baked, local, red velvet cupcake, two wine glasses AND a bottle opener … instead of a stupid mint, I will return, even if I have to pay with my own money on a vacay 4) lots of big, and I mean LARGE, soft, and I mean LOFTY, fluffy, clean , fresh-smelling towels 5) a really high-quality “cheap” ball point pen that, when stolen, will write for years, reminding me of my pleasant stay every time it is written with (Ritz Carlton so far has the best pens … and the best soap, well, it is BVLGARI, so … 6) a personal note from housekeeping, preferably in understandable English and fair grammar, which guarantees that I will stop by the ATM AND get change so I can leave a cash tip 6) truly genuine, helpful, caring, reasonably intelligent front desk staff 7) a 24-hour market that stocks beer (other than Bud Light), splits of wine, tampons, Excedrin and Ben & Jerry’s 8) Starbucks on premise, adjacent, or within a door or two so I can get there without getting wet if there happens to be precipitation 8) passes to a quality, local, health club because you know your fitness center sucks and people want to work out, not struggle to sweat on ill-kept, low-end, malfunctioning cardio machines and mismatched free weights (as in no two weights of the same weight, because having a ten pound dumbbell in your right hand and two five pound dumbbells in your left hand is just awkward) 9) and, finally, a “final” bill, for the correct amount, to the correct party, under my door, before I depart for the airport at 3:00 AM

And, finally, if you want to make me smile, as a guest in your hotel, have some intelligent wit and humor and make some part of my stay truly unforgettable, in a good way.