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It was late on a Thursday evening in Austin, Texas, and, anticipating a pre-dawn flight home the next morning, I was eager to settle into my hotel room, watch Grey’s Anatomy, and call it a night. The desk clerk at the airport Embassy Suites handed over my key, and I made my way to my assigned room at the end of the hallway. Trouble was, the room was not a suite—at the Embassy Suites! Instead, it occupied an awkward corner, with no separate sitting area, and featured an old-fashioned tube TV situated at an odd angle to the bed. If you can’t even score a suite at an all-suite hotel, you’ve encountered some pretty bad luck, as travel accommodations go.
If the staff had known who they were dealing with, they might have tried harder to live up to their marketing claims. I am a card-carrying hotel snob who has lived through some harrowing experiences to get this way. I’ve stood on the curb in my pajamas in front of my work colleagues after a fire alarm blared and run down a wire fire escape during a 6.7 California earthquake. I awoke to a flooded Caribbean casita and chased a small bird around the room given me as a replacement. I have had the room doorknob come off in my hand and electrocuted myself on the prong of a universal converter. And I have plugged in my 1875-watt hair dryer and blown out the power on an entire floor.
There have been some nice memories, too, such as a stay at the regal Beverly Wilshire in L.A., where I was obliged with a special corporate rate and a suite with a full living room, huge marble bathroom, and walk-in closet. A spray of fresh flowers and chocolate-dipped strawberries sat ready on the desk. There is that gleeful moment when you enter such palatial accommodations and realize they are yours, all yours, if only for a night. You don’t know what to do first: soak in a lovely deep bath with fragrant salts and oils, sink into the cloud of crisp white linens, or just loll about on the sofa and order room service.
It is no wonder, then, that after such treatment, you become a hotel snob. You don’t require rose petals on your bed, but you expect that certain criteria be met:
I love iconic hotels, like the Waldorf-Astoria (the clock!), the Peabody (the ducks!), and the Plaza (Eloise!), and am not interested in experimentation. I realize there are hotel rooms in treehouses and caves, in igloos and underwater, but I’ll stay above ground, in a temperate environment. Worst would be a capsule, like those in Japan where guests sleep in containers stacked on top of one another. There are mausoleums for that, and I can wait.
In the meantime, I wouldn’t mind a pillow menu, a real-live elevator operator, or a butler who rings my doorbell to offer personal concierge service. Monogrammed sheets would be lovely but aren’t really necessary.
Illustration by Andrea Eberbach.
This column originally appeared in the June 2011 issue.
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