Suite and Sour

As the holiday travel season begins, have you ever wondered if the people who rent out hotel rooms ever actually stay in their own properties?

In the Hotel Griffon in San Francisco, the bathroom light switch is behind the door. In Venice’s Hotel Monaco, the sink bottoms are flat, so your toothpaste spit just sits there until you splash something at it. Those were insignificant compared to our visit last week to Seattle.

As a boomer, I have long been too old to sleep on couches or share bathrooms. When we travel, we always stay in a hotel. We frequently visit my college friend Andrew, and because he lives not far from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, we have a wide selection.

Other friends who frequent Seattle regularly recommended a place called the Cedarbrook Lodge. Tucked away at the end of a dead-end street not far from the airport, it had been constructed in the plush times as a dedicated conference center for Washington Mutual Bank, best known now as the largest bank failure in U.S. history.

It’s clear where a nice chunk of that lost money went. The lodge looks like the 21st century version of one of those hotels in a national park – not quite the Yosemite’s Ahwahnee, but certainly the equivalent of the Grand Canyon’s El Tovar. Lots of wood, lots of stone, a two-story fireplace in the restaurant. Because it’s only recently made the switchover from dead-bank conference center to real-people lodging, it still has affordable rates, especially midweek, so I reserved a suite (though in this case, “suite” has a fluid definition, kind of like “fiscal prudence”).

As I’ve gotten older, one of the things I tend to splurge on is a bellcap to take us to our room. It’s just way too confusing to navigate through hotels the first time. The Cedarbrook is one of those hotels. The Cedarbrook also has no bell staff. The nice woman who checked us in offered to help, but she was clearly engaged at the front desk. I told her no, thanks, but could we get a luggage cart? Sure, except there were none available.

Another feature of the hotel we discovered on our way to our room was the lounge areas. These were astonishing: sofa, television, wet bar, microwave, and an amazing array of goodies: potato chips, chocolate-covered raisins, three kinds of malted milk balls, bottled water. And in the freezer section of the refrigerator, mini-portions of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. There were also oranges. No implements with which to peel them, but oranges. Interestingly, the selection of food in the lounge never varied, so anyone who craved malted milk balls for breakfast was in heaven.

Our suite turned out to be the absolute farthest room from the front desk. Finding it involved navigating through another building, two flights of (not well-marked) stairs, and – apparently because they feared marauding WaMu alumni might return to pilfer the ice cream and candy –  we had to use our room key to enter every building. (Because of this high-security set-up, we had to march down the hall to meet Andrew every time he came to visit.)

We eventually found our suite. Now, in my definition of “suite,” there are multiple rooms. Our second room was either the bathroom or the foyer, I’m not sure which. It could have been the foyer, because on its floor sat a little mini-refrigerator. To put anything into it, you had to kneel. I suppose with some creative license, this made the foyer the “kitchen,” though it could have been some sort of prayer area.

Though this was a vacation, being self-employed, I still needed to fire up the computer and make sure no catastrophes were developing on projects. I surveyed what was admittedly a nice-sized and nicely appointed room – the gas fireplace, the sitting benches under the picture window, the wet bar – and realized … there was no desk. Next to the fireplace, there was clearly the intention of desk space: plugs and networking sockets built into the wall and everything. Just no desk.

It went on from there. We slept on a Murphy bed (see photo) – for you youngsters, that’s a bed that folds into a wall unit. To pull it back down, you grab handles. When the bed was down, these handles jutted out several inches from the end of the bed, just far enough to whack your shins when you walked around the bed.

The only towel rack of any length in the bathroom was at the bottom of the sink unit, about a foot from the floor (maybe that was the prayer area). There were hooks behind the door, but if you kept the door open to air out the bathroom, the towels didn’t dry out.

The best part: not only were no reading lights for the bed, but you actually had to get out of bed to turn out the room lights. Which meant you banged your shins on the bed handles in the dark.

We came away bruised and bewildered, but confident that the oranges and the Haagen-Dazs would always remain safe.


About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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14 Responses to Suite and Sour

  1. Sabrina says:

    I love your stories: this one was so real that I winced every time you mentioned those bed handles. Ah, the days when we could curl up anywhere to sleep: if I tried to sleep on the floor like I used to, I would need to call 911 to get me off the floor in the morning. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Judit Sarossy says:

    You made me laugh so hard! While I was reading about what you had to say, I was thinking about that about 10 years ago we would not care where we slept (actually it is not true, the only thing I never was able to deal with was if the room, or the bedsheets were dirty) , or if we had to get out of the bed to turn off the light or not, or if we had to bend over to take things in the fridge and so on. I am still laughing about the “place for prayer”.
    I enjoy your sense of humor.

  3. Faith R says:

    Hilarious, Howard, and nicely observed. You’re one of those people who don’t just sigh exasperatedly at the stupidity of things, I see. The perpetrators should have studied the book The Design of Everyday Things (when I first discovered it, the title was The Psychology of Everyday Things). Description available here:
    Interesting and enlightening, although it calls attention to things I would probably otherwise have overlooked.

  4. Ruth says:

    Just read the post…yes. We recently stayed in a ‘suite’ room (ahem)…at least ours had a real bed. :)..

    • Yes, suites have become kind of like “first class” on some flights these days.

      One of the facets of the room that I didn’t have — pardon the expression — room to mention was one of the lights. It was on a dimmer switch, but it wouldn’t go all the way out. I finally had to get a towel from the bathroom and unscrew the bulb. The following morning, I discovered the problem. Unlike most dimmer switches, which eventually click off, this one also had a small toggle switch at the bottom that actually turned out the light. Talk about overdesigned and underfunctional!

  5. GingerR says:

    Given a choice I usually go with the Holiday Inn Express. It’s predictable.

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  8. Great review — well-written and funny. I try to chalk events like these up to experience – very few places are perfect – but when so many things are maddeningly amiss it makes me angry. These people should not be in the hospitality business, clearly. At least the bed didn’t close up while you were sleeping, like in some demented Marx Brothers movie.

    For another close encounter with the Hospitality-Challenged, read about my experience with a property in Patzcuaro, Mexico. An exercise in self-absorbed inn-keeping. (I have high hopes that the management has improved, since we were there several years ago.)

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