Sunday, June 26, 2011

Good Morning Sir, at 1.00 PM

This blogger is not enamoured of traveling now, the consequence of over exposure to this activity over many years.  In this forum, there has been many a rant against airlines, fellow fliers, roads, and even cows. But I discover that there hasn’t been a full throated rant against an important abomination that is an inevitable component of the aforesaid activity – the hotel. This post rectifies the imbalance.

Does anywhere else in the world, the day start at 12.00 noon, I ask you. I can understand that the lazy Senior Division Clerk at Chennai Telephones believes that day starts at 11.00 AM. But 12.00 noon ? or 2.00 PM ? or even at one place 4.00 PM ?  You arrive at a new city after some 12 hours of being frozen in a Nataraja pose (after extensive research, airlines have learnt that it is the best “seating” arrangement in which you can squash the maximum number of people). The blasted flight has landed at 5.00 AM. You leg it to the hotel, to be told that the day starts at 2.00 PM and could you come back in 9 hours please.

Try getting into a hotel around daybreak (12.00 noon is daybreak in hotel speak). There is one bored looking sleepy clerk to check in 722 obese package tourists who have all landed up  to be checked in.  They want your credit card and immediately block it for $ 1 million – heavy hint that that is the amount you are expected to spend. Nowhere else is a potential customer treated like a potential thief – what if you run away without paying the bill; so appropriate your card as much as possible. Never mind that I am a regular stayer in the blasted place, my company has made the booking,  and the company routinely spends thousands of dollars putting up its managers there.

Once you get in, you are a captive “bhakra” (nincompoop), waiting to be milked. They want to charge you for water to drink ($2 for 10 ml ). The biggest rip off is the charge for internet – you pay for 10 mts, what you’ll pay for a whole year back home. Breakfast costs $56 plus taxes, plus service charge, plus surcharge, plus convenience fee please. Then there is the monstrosity called the mini bar – everything costs $10 please and we’ll bill you even if the chambermaid has flicked a bottle or two. God help you if you touch the telephone - $17 for looking and $34 for touching; any further activity at your own risk. And unless you carry your entire wardrobe with you, you are going to be literally be bled white by laundry. You white, the clothes torn, that is.

Dimensions of the room are now approaching the vital statistics of airline seats, especially in Europe. Americans (New York excepted) and Asians are more liberal with cubic capacity. But Europeans believe that chicken coops and hotel rooms must have same precise dimensions. One bed and 1.76 inches walking space.  Try soaping yourself in  1ft by1.5ft shower cubicle and you’ll begin to appreciate the bruises after every trip.

What’s a typical pattern of stay in a business trip ? Land in a place, have a shower and off to office. Obviously, there’s a dinner with somebody in the evening. Perhaps a drink or two at some bar, after dinner,  to be civil and polite. Stumble bleary eyed into the hotel at some 11 PM or so. Fall into bed and hopefully wake up at 6.00 and repeat all over again. For this privilege, pay some $250 (does not apply to those who stay at Ritz Carlton).  I was completely unaware of the value of a shower or the value of horizontal repose, until I started to see hotel bills.

Home away from home, I believe. My foot !