Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review of Best Western Rm 202

A hotel room is a hotel room is a hotel room... unless it's a really great one wrapped in luxury and Turkish towels and undergirded with plush carpet (i.e., expensive nightly rate) or it's that economizing traveler's horror entered with the rusty key at the Roach Motel and the dark kidney-shaped stain that disappears beneath the bed becomes the first of successive unpleasant discoveries.

In-between these two degrees of lodgings, we have the most common option in today's America.

Generic, clean, suitable.

What can one expect? A hotel room will never be a home away from home. It's more like a holding tank for my suitcase, clothes and toiletries and my body while I'm on the road.

So here I am this morning in Room 202 at the Best Western. Since I'm not going to turn on the TV set in the room and tempt myself further on this trip (see News-Zilla and Running the Gantlet post), I set out, in anthropologist fashion, to explore my room and see if anything makes it distinctive.

Discovery No. 1: Housekeeping made available soaps and shampoos on the bathroom counter by arranging them carefully on a triangular folded wash cloth. It's a real aesthetic touch. A little army of cleanliness waits for me at parade rest. Or its sailors on the bow of a ship, called to attention as everyone comes into port.

And mints placed on the bedspread...
Discovery No. 2:
This same preoccupation with alignment is realized on my bed where five square pillows have been lined up, each placed at the same slight angle to the headboard. The pillows remind me of giant Chiclets in a row and about to domino onto one another. Or they make me think of sails as boats line up for the start of a regatta. Is there a subtle nautical theme at work in Room 202?

Discovery No. 3:
And I should mention the coffee maker. It's one of the new Keuriig coffee module units.

It looks sort of like that beam me up Scottie apparatus on Star Trek.

It should be fun to try. To make coffee in, I mean.

Discovery No. 4:
Outside the window, instead of the default view of parking lot asphalt and stripes, I find myself looking into the leaves of a rather large tree.

Now that's nice!

It reminds me of my ficus tree.

Who's Been Sleeping Here?
Besides the aforementioned highlights, Room 202 is just a room. Which leaves me free to imagine its history. There's no real evidence of who has come before me except it appears someone left a gouge in the wall over by the A/C unit. A frustrated executive? A rowdy college student? An overly amorous couple?

All I know is that this room must have an invisible past of air parted and atoms rearranged,. Like pencil lines removed by a frustrated artist's rubber eraser, these human traces habitually disappear under the maid's daily onslaught of vacuum cleaner, cleaning fluids, and fresh sheets. What's left of entire lives must now only reside at the molecular level.

Smudges of DNA.

I wish I could sit still and breathe in the microscopic weight of the chips that have rubbed off the humans who have come and gone in this space. I wish I could start to reassemble them. We could have a sort of reunion, these strangers and me. We could celebrate the small thing we have in common during our sojourn on earth.

We each lived a part of our lives in Room 202.

Twenty-four hours from now I will have checked out and there will be no visible trace of me either. But will a future traveler figure it out? I, the non-famous person, once slept here and pressed my body's shape into the mattress and pillow? Will they have any idea of what I felt? That exquisite form of loneliness that is tempered by the knowledge that soon I will go home and greet the people I love and that moment will be much sweeter than if I'd never left.

Room 202 is non-descript and efficient, but the bare walls and bad furniture drag it down. Still, I'll add a star for the rich history of this room and give it an extra star because there's more to it than meets the eye. ***1/2 - V.W.



  1. Your pictures and comments about details and using your imagination, made this post "come alive". For me that's a 3-D reality-in-the-moment peek vs the unreality of the TV.

  2. How refreshing to revel in the single (or plural) small things -- a knifeful of jam, a tree, a row of pillows on a hotel bed. The materiality of your observations is striking. I love to stay in hotels (ok, it's bland and filthy -- so what?!), and I can really identify with your wish to host a reunion for all those who have stayed there.

  3. If I thought of everyone who stayed in every hotel room I stayed in, I think it would be like a wall of 5000 TV screens all on in a numbing cacophony. Great post. You have perhaps achieved more peace in 202 than I ever have. I came close once in an Istanbul hotel room looking out over the Bosphorus after realizing the TV was all Turkish and therefore cutting it off. Saw more sunrise than I had ever seen. Perhaps an approximation of your journey.