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Greek-American Chronicles: Hotel Stories, or ‘Love is patient and kind…it is not easily angered’ – Corinthians

December 9, 2023

An extended stay at a hotel is a lot like a marriage. In both encounters, you are going to inevitably find fault. The good, the bad, the (hopefully) tolerable. If the ship of state isn’t eventually righted, if a fresh breeze doesn’t swoop in, it could spell the end of the relationship. Drydock awaits.

I introduce this topic in the backwash of two month-long stays at this particular property which proudly displays a giant sign that bears the name of an iconic brand that operates thousands of units worldwide.

This is no heartache hotel. It’s not languishing in the dusty, asphalt shadows of Route 66, where indoor plumbing is optional and bed bugs sleep for free. By contrast, this one’s smack in the middle of the DC-Baltimore zone, where 8 million people live. Home to a smorgasbord of research facilities, government execs, and defense contractors – taxpayers who are lucky enough to be able to swing owning weekend beach getaways in Delaware, a la Joe Biden.

Not that a specific location makes a difference when determining the quality of a business. There are underperforming entities across the board – look at Congressman George Santos. The Ford Pinto. New Coke.

Still, somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I attach quality to legendary brands. I expect more from them. Their staying power, their hang time, speak volumes of trust and comfort. So it’s something of a surprise when a hotel that’s long traded on its stellar name would be caught dead playing catch up.

Speaking of bodily interruptions, my third-floor room overlooks the parking lot. If you slide it open, you will notice there is no screen. The chorus of early-evening crickets sound an entomological warning: “Danger! The window you have opened does not have a screen! A child could easily fall, resulting in serious injury or death!”

There’s no excuse for that, and I’ve let the manager know. Lives are at stake; lawsuits are crouching at the door. I may even report it to the county. Meantime, I will write a warning of my own and tape it to the window.

But… the people who work here, from the clerks to the gal overseeing the laundry department to the genteel souls who set out wholesome breakfasts are the best. Their attitudes make a huge difference.

I also carved out a breezy relationship with the hotel maintenance guy. He, too, is engaging and amiable – he’s also completely overwhelmed. In his weaker moments, he’ll shrug his shoulders and tell me the owners need to pay closer attention to the overall operation. A hotel with hundreds of rooms employing one person to troubleshoot the physical plant is beyond belief. He hopes and prays the owners will “do the right thing” by hiring reinforcements. I’m praying as well.

Like in marriage or other meaningful interaction, there are other bugaboos that guests are forced to live with.

Still… I can’t get enough of the staff. They are so friendly. It makes a big difference.

What to do about loose or missing handles on kitchen and bathroom drawers? No sweat. Follow the sage advice of one Taylor Swift and shake it off. It’s merely one more First World distraction.

What of the peeling wallpaper in the bathroom? Beyond the aesthetics, what’s that to me?  What’s more important is the room having plenty of clean towels, soap, and shampoo.

But… the staff is exceedingly friendly! That covers a multitude of gripes.

Since my last visit in March, each room has been equipped with new TVs. While they don’t offer streaming services, basic cable works fine with me. Again, a First World thing. I remind myself that I came of age when there were only three over-the-air networks: CBS, NBC, ABC. And if I didn’t catch a favorite sitcom like ‘Bewitched’ or ‘Three’s Company’, I would have to wait until summer reruns rolled around. Are we spoiled now or what?

As for the indoor pool, that, too, is nestled in clean, inviting space. My biggest disappointment, though, is the water temperature. Let’s just say it’s the perfect place to warm up for the charity-driven Polar Bear plunge. When I inquired about it, the maintenance man said “they need to install a water heater. It costs around $5,000. It’s up to the owners.” But he did acknowledge that several guests have complained. “We’re working on it.” Taking the diplomatic route is the right thing. By being the one and only guy handling the infrastructure needs, he’s peripatetic, in two places at once. The real face of the brand. I even saw him on the night before the inspection. “I live an hour away,” he said, “so rather than driving all that way and coming back first thing in the morning, I’m sleeping here tonight.” That’s the definition of teamwork.

A bit more annoying – startling, really – are the stairwell doors. Upon closing, the decibel level mimics an A-bomb detonating. (Oppenheimer can relate.)

I look at the reviews on Tripadvisor. In a nutshell, they tell prospective guests that life is too short to stay there. That even roaches refuse to check in. On the other hand, some give it a big thumbs up.

Internal matters plague even the best relationship. In a marriage, spouses may have crafted a unique rhythm for not “airing their dirty laundry” in public, as Mom often said. In a public setting, however, like a hotel, restaurant, or a Costco, the shortcomings are on full display.

Regardless of the shortcomings, you would think I have severed my relationship with it – with the missing tiles, the cold water, the empty promises to clean the room, the sketchy wi-fi, etc. Quite the contrary. We’re booking it again for a month over Christmas. We got a great rate. That will bring us to three visits in one year. Plus, there’s a Happy Hour every Wednesday in the lobby.

Just like when some wives go ballistic with a husband who doesn’t put the seat down, you learn to accept life in a broken world. With a sense of humor, it’s possible to actually celebrate it.

Divorce lawyers thrive on our misery – don’t let them get a foothold. If we’re serious about rejuvenating relationships on any level, we need time and patience. One correction, done conscientiously, at a time.

Baby steps.

That reminds me. Did I tell you the toilets are made by Gerber? No kidding. They work just fine.

Still the best seat in the house.

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