Tuesday, April 14, 2009

During the past couple of days I have been trying to make reservations in a hotel in a moderately large city near an event we wish to attend. This is a difficult and frustrating task. There are multiple choices and a wide range of prices even within the same hotel. The person making the reservation for the potential customer is never in the same city where the hotel is located. This service is outsourced to someone thousands of miles away. The cost of a room may vary by many dollars within a matter of minutes. There are convention and entertainment rates and different rates for various groups like AAA, AARP etc. There are multiple hidden costs like parking and the outrageous taxes for the hotel leaved by the state, city and everyone else in between.

The choices for a place to sleep are mind-boggling. There are multiple chains in the business but most seem to have either Hilton or Marriott as a parent company. The high-rise places have the heftiest prices and the most services. Even the most run down places have wireless internet, and a free breakfast. The big hotels of course have parking that cost as much per night as my monthly car payments in years past. They all have great TVs, with program menus that tell you about the hotel and a choice of current hit movies, on-line, for a generous viewing fee. Most have microwaves. refrigerators and all the toilet articles imaginable, including various soaps, shampoos, body lotions and mouthwashes. All have hair dryers and irons, safes, bottled water, and coffee makes with a supply of coffee. The more expensive hotels provide you with a paper in the morning and a piece of candy on your pillow before retiring. They have workout rooms, swimming pools, business centers, meeting rooms, gift shops, and concierge to help plan your day. In addition to the many expenses associated with the actual bill there are tips, tips and more tips. All this is great and even though expensive it cost far less than spending a night in the hospital.

Today’s hotel experience is in great contrast to when I was a kid. The only time I stayed in a hotel when I was young was during a great trip that I took with my dad and a high school friend. We took a two-week driving trip to tour the Western United States. We saw all the sites in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. We never made a reservation in those days and just pulled up to a motel with an AAA sign and checked in. There were none of the amenities mentioned above. It was just a place to sleep but we had the time of our life and it remains one of my most memorable trips. The lodging for the entire trip, plus the gasoline, probably cost less than one night in a hotel today.

As I write this I am on my front porch enjoying the breeze and looking out on the beautiful canopy of oaks that cover our yard. It’s simply more beautiful that any of those hotels where I have stayed in the past, including Hawaii. My spouse just brought me a coke and sat in the rocker next to mine where we talked for over an hour about pleasant things, like friends we have known and loved. Many of those folks are long gone from the planet but if they are fortunate enough to be in heaven it couldn’t be a lot better than the porch. And just think, I didn’t have to make a reservation for my perfect spot on the porch, which is far better than the most grand hotel on the planet.


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