by Hannah Binder
Point Blank Perspective is a blog addressing common places, events, and experiences that we encounter in life. These are described in a column-style with a blunt and one hundred percent upfront attitude.
My boyfriend and I are planning a trip for the end of the summer, a last couple’s retreat, if you will, though it won’t be on a beach resort and Vince Vaughn most likely will not be in attendance. When the discussions began about going on a vacation, there came about three central ideas requiring some research on my part: food, attractions, and a hotel. Now, as many out there know, constructing a list of restaurants and sites you’ll want to hit on your trip is the easy part. We are curious, hungry people, and getting the chance to satisfy both of those drives in a new place is one of the best parts about taking a vacation. But I’m also fairly assured that most of you know that choosing a hotel is another story entirely. There’s a kind of pressure that settles on us when it comes time to select a place to sleep and leave our suitcases during the day. Is it because the movies have instilled an image of excellence we know will remain unparalleled until we too discover as many credit cards as Kevin McCallister and can afford a night’s stay at the Plaza? What we would give to have bellhops as refined as those seen in The Parent Trap.
I think this is part, though not all, of the uneasiness that fills us when scrolling through Kayak or Hotwire or Expedia, comparing rates and flagging the affordable, the clean, and the convenient, also known as the big three of the hospitality world. But more than the reputation the media has built, there is also the reputation that has built itself with each stay in a hotel.
Let’s start with breakfast. Continental breakfasts are possibly my favorite part of staying in a hotel and, surprisingly enough (or not, if you frequent hotels), it’s not because of the food. Continental breakfast at a hotel is an entire experience, it’s a term that provides yet another writer’s paradise of observing different people and how they handle free food, however nutritious or delicious it may be. It’s among these tables, of tacky faux wood material, in my experience, that our fellow man (or guest, in this case) is seen outside their not-so-soundproof walls. There’s the table cluttered with maps, which may be surrounded by a parent with a fanny pack and children in matching t shirts (Twist and Shout for the Yates’ Family Vacation!). There’s the brochure hoarders, the business men who grab a banana and head out with their phone between their ear, too important to bother with tourists spending more than 24 hours in one location. You might see the fruit stealers who are either college students or frugal parents of five or more. If you’re lucky enough you might spot the kid whose mom only allows Oat Bran at home, so arrives at the table with a bowl of Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Cocoa Puffs.
Among the distractions of such a myriad of vacationers in their element of preparation, this poor child reminds you that you too are here, in simplest terms, to eat. However, this prospect proves to be harder to accomplish than you might expect. The line at the waffle machine wouldn’t, under ordinary circumstances, be worth it, considering you’ll have to scrape half of the waffle out, after which point your reward of a bland, plaid pancake, will need to be drenched in fake syrup (no sugar source here, just high fructose corn syrup) so that you can get it down your gullet in time to make the first attraction of the day. But when it’s between this line, a luke-warm yogurt cup, or powdered eggs, sometimes you sacrifice your typical standards. If you decide against the line or the dairy products lacking much actual dairy at all, another option is venturing to the toaster. Here, there is a similar line of people, but this one is made up, not of children like at the waffle station, but of those attempting to make healthier choices. These vacationers will later be seen in the gym and will be hungrier in the mornings due to calorie deprivation; in short, they’re cranky. Joining this group, you might get through faster, but you’ll feel rushed upon finally reaching the toaster because of the five people lined up behind you also waiting to toast their stale english muffin or whole grain sandwich thin they packed from home. In this case, you might want to pop your lopsided bagel out early and head to the table with it barely blonde, or else have the health enthusiasts pelt you with their multivitamins while they wait for you to get a brunette toast.
Breakfast is just part of the experience included in staying in a hotel though. If you’ve been staying in them from childhood, then you know there’s a sense of freedom that accompanies a hotel stay. For instance, my mom would have grounded me, within reason, if, within my neighborhood at home, I’d gotten an itch to investigate public grounds alone but in a hotel it’s almost encouraged in order to find the pool, the vending machine, or the ice for the wine your parents brought along to ensure their sanity. The first time you order room service is sure to disappoint, but until you pay the $14 for a small burger and ten fries, you delight in it. Why? Because you’re at a hotel and you’ve been told repeatedly to enjoy your stay. If this means disregarding all rules mandated your entire life that tell you to hang up your towels after using them, then so be it. You ignore the voice of your youth that scolds you for not leaving your towel on the floor–no it’s much worse–but for piling all of your musty cotton instruments in the bathtub for someone else to pick up.
Why? Because you’re at a hotel and it’s an explicitly written (on several signs in the bathroom) rule in order to enjoy your stay.
With these expectations in mind, you dive into the internet in search of the perfect location to experience all of these memorable pieces of a vacation. Hotels are an essential part of traveling, you know. Because the fact of the matter is, it’s either a hotel with crazies at breakfast and unmade beds and towels in the bathtub or it’s a motel with doors that don’t lock and beds you don’t want to unmake in the first place and a breakfast of crumbs and garbage strewn in the parking lot outside where you will face the homeless, and, worse, the guests you heard screaming at each other in 6B.