Thursday, March 24, 2016

At a Luxury Hotel in Boston

            I grew up in Darien, Connecticut, and attended exclusive New England schools, but I now divide my time between a farm community outside of Ann Arbor and the edge of a prairie in North Central Florida. A recent visit to Boston for my brother’s wedding convinced me that I am not a city person. I learned this in an hour without leaving the hotel.
            I was staying at a luxury hotel in Boston – in the city for my brother Bob’s wedding. Kim and I travel a lot, but we are more like Holiday Inn people, recently upgraded to Hilton Garden Inn.
            My problems started shortly after checking in. I lugged my canvas bag across the street to Building 4, where my room was located, and I eventually found the elevator in a corner of the lobby. The door opened when I pushed the top button, I got on, a robot voice said, “Going up!” and I pushed the button with a 2 on it. Nothing. The robot and I were not going up. I pushed it again and waited. Nothing. I pushed the button with arrows on it to open the door and found myself back in the lobby.
            No problem. I would take the stairs. I found a wide staircase, but it only headed down. I went down a few steps but soon realized that down was the wrong direction.
            Back in the lobby, and the adjoining hall, I saw that some of the doors had keyholes and others had a small circular disc next to the door. Aha! I went back in the elevator, placed my “key” on the black disc, and soon I was moving upward. This all took about 20 minutes.
            Finding my room was easy, and – surprise! – the same “key”/disc operation allowed me to open the door to my room.
            “Room” was not quite the right word. It was a suite, somewhat larger than the house I bought in Ann Arbor in 1968 for $12,400. I set out to explore my suite, wishing Kim were there to help and to point things out for me. Furniture was spread out, I suppose in order to fill all the space. I understood the king-sized bed, but I did not understand why the reading chair was so far from the lamp that it made reading impossible. The bathroom was spacious and luxurious, though I was a bit puzzled by the lack of a toilet. A bit more exploration led me to the missing porcelain throne, hidden behind a frosted glass door. Fortunately, the size of the toilet was standard. Also fortunately, the lighting over the toilet was good. A spare role of toilet paper was nestled in a leather case designed for the purpose.
            That being taken care of, I continued exploring the living room. A bar! And look – a bottle of Gray Goose vodka! Had management been researching their guests? Sensing a trap, I backed away.
            The coffee machine looked like a small Keurig device that made espresso as well as coffee. Encouraging! I read the directions and felt intimidated to discover that there were eleven steps. Undaunted, I followed all eleven, and I confess that I was somewhat pleased to discover that the coffee was not very good. Neither was the espresso, though my shaking hands showed that the caffeine was working.
            I decided to take the stairs back down. There have to be stairs, right? In case of a fire or power failure? A little detective work (it was under the large red sign reading, “EXIT”) led me to a door leading to the kind of concrete steps that are standard in even the fanciest building.
            One problem was that they are exit-only. The door I stepped through, which I held open, would lock me out if I closed it. There were no stairs heading for upper floors, and at the bottom of the stairs I saw a few windowless doors with keyholes, and then one with a big window and a push-bar, leading those fleeing a fire outside to fresh air. Who else would want to use stairs? I let my door click shut, descended, and found myself outside at the back of the hotel next to the Boston Harbor. It felt good to be outside.
            I walked around the building and found my way to the reception desk. My brother and I had planned to meet at the hotel’s Fitness Center the next day, so I asked how to get there. A nice young man sized me up and, deciding against verbal instructions, led me down some stairs, through a series of turns along underground corridors, up an elevator, through a door requiring a key I did not have (“Maybe we can program one for you.”), and finally into the Fitness Center. After the first three turns my mind had gone blank – no way I would ever find this place on my own. I would be led by a native guide.
            As it turned out, when I showed up the next day at the reception desk wearing my new “exercise outfit,” the girl at the desk told me, “Go out the front door, turn right, and it’s the first door on the left.” Perfect, I thought. I can do this! Maybe city living is not so hard after all. Besides, as my readers know, I’m not that good at country living, either, at least not without Kim’s help.

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