Our hotel in Naples was on the second floor (they call it the first floor). We didn’t notice it had an elevator until the day we left. We usually take stairs when we can and, when we arrived, we were luggageless anyway. Two days later our suitcases joined us and at the end of our stay, we dragged them all to the elevator. It was the first time we’d seen an elevator meter. It required ten euro cents to operate.
ANOTHER hotel getting personal, just trying to help. This one’s in Berlin. The sign’s in the shower, where we’re exhorted to pay attention to our tension.
As a very frequent traveler, I can’t let myself focus on the nightmare of hotel bedbug infestations. I’m queasily aware of the increasing problem, but trick myself into considering all the press merely FUD. Otherwise, how could I deal with 200+ nights in hotels each year?
Kidney bean leaves to the rescue! An ancient practice from Eastern Europe has just been verified, documented, and filmed under a microscope. The bean leaves trap the little bedbug buggers via tiny hooks that catch their achilles heel: thin spots in their exoskeletons at their leg joints.
“Spread bean leaves in a bedbug-infested room.” It sounds like an old wives’ tale, but it’s now proven: the bedbugs get stuck the moment they step onto the kidney bean leaves. See the video.
And if you don’t think bedbugs are super-creepy, read about their alt-lifestyle sexual practice called traumatic insemination.
I’ve suddenly got an idea for my vegetable garden.
Built into the wall, this spotlit treasure on display in a glass box with an oval opening. Found in our room in Cologne’s lovely Dorint Hotel.
If I’d had a long string of pearls, I’d have rested them in the bowl overnight.
If I’d had false teeth, I might have showcased them here.
If I’d had some udon, I’d have had an elegant bowl to eat it from.
If I’d had a pet mouse, it would have had a home and water source.
If I had a hammer…
But alas… I came unprepared.
Do you like hearing the sounds of lovemaking from the hotel room next to yours?
I’ve had my fair share of overhearing neighbors in hotels. Not surprising, given the number of nights I spend in hotels each year (average: 240).
Sex sound effects are certainly superior to the sounds of snoring, or worse, fighting. I’ve been kept awake entire nights by both. Yeah, travel is glamorous.
Unlike next-door-snoring- and next-door-fighting-wakefulness, other people’s nighttime sex sounds put me into a sort of dreamy, foggy trance—as long as they don’t go on too long. One night, wakefulness dragged on and on and the neighbors’ lovemaking sounds—loud and dramatic as they were—became repetitive and predictable. I had no urge to tune in, as with a fight or loud conversation. It wasn’t interesting. Still, I lost a night’s sleep.
I can’t help wondering about the noisy neighbors. What do they look like? How long have they been together? Do they always sound like this? Maybe they’re each married to others.
Mornings-after are amusing if I get a glimpse of the couple. Once we got in the elevator together and went down for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I sipped my coffee stealing glances at the two strangers I had intimate knowledge of.
A few years ago we stayed in the antique-filled East Concubine Suite of the five-room Red Capital Residence in Beijing. On its intricately-carved opium bed was a porcelain headrest and a note suggesting that couples take care in their positions so as not to damage the ancient bed.
Soon after we turned out the lights we heard the amorous sounds of our neighbors. Bob was convinced that it was a recording, piped in for realism. Thankfully, the moans and gasps did not continue all night.
What about daytime sex sounds? I hear them about the same way I notice people’s tattoos and rubberneck accidents: with a squeamish fascination of private things exposed. (I know tattoos are not private, but I was taught not to stare—but I want to stare—and at tattoos, I sometimes do, though not without a slightly naughty sense of illicit license.)
On an amusing, tangential note, I used to live next door to a prostitute. While she did not conduct business at home, she did take appointments. Her answering machine blasted each john’s message. “Hey honey, remember me, Jim? I’ll be in Vegas next week. I’m the one who…” And here we were treated to usually unfamiliar, vivid, and sensational details. On beautiful days when her open windows faced mine, it was impossible to ignore the variety of plaintive and seductive messages left by hopeful men seeking Cinda’s services. Compelled to overhear the men’s intimacies, I had this same sense of unwilling spying and illicit knowing.
So here’s my survey, travelers: do you like to hear the sounds of sex from an adjacent hotel room? Yes? No? Comments? If you’ve read this, you have to answer.
It happens. For the most part, it’s rare. At the risk of tempting fate, I’ll admit that we’ve never been victims of hotel theft, though we practically live in hotels (200-250 nights per year for the past 20 years.)
Of course we take some precautions and listen to our own advice, particularly based on our version of the hotel room security check. But travel makes us weary and sometimes we become lax. Laziness is part of reality.
Though I believe in locking valuables into the room safe or alternatively, into my largest hard-sided suitcase, there’s always the security-versus-convenience trade-off to be considered, not to mention the gut-instinct and informed-decision. In other words, a lot of variables. I might start out vigilant, then slack off. In my book, I said:
I also consider the relaxation factor. If you stay in a hotel for several days, a week, perhaps more, you get comfortable. Maybe you get to know the staff. Maybe you let down your guard. If I were a hotel employee bent on stealing from a guest, I’d wait until the guest’s last day in hopes she might not miss the item. Then she’d leave. Are thieves that analytical? I don’t know. But I like to make a policy and stick with it.
Logical, but idealistic. I can’t say that I always follow my own rules. I get complacent. I get tired of the drill. Constant travel is draining.
Anyway, hotel employees are not the only potential room thieves. There are the door pushers and the loot-’n-scooters who social-engineer their ways past housekeeping—both outsiders.
A looming threat is door-hacking. For a few bucks, anyone can build a small electronic gizmo that will open keycard locks made by Onity, which are currently installed on millions of hotel room doors around the world. The electronic lock-pick, revealed in July 2012 by hacker Matthew Jakubowski, opens our belongings to yet another potential risk. Perhaps our safety, too.
Fixing or replacing door lock hardware will be expensive, so some hotels have resorted to simply plugging the tiny access port—with a removable plug. Hotel security chiefs tell me that most hotels will do nothing until they get a rash of theft reports. Now, the thefts have begun.
Have I changed my hotel room behavior? Nope.
So much personal information on display at quaint, old-fashioned hotels like the one we recently stayed at in Bali. Which rooms are occupied? What are the names of the guests in each room? When did they arrive? When will they check out? Who are they traveling with? Have they paid yet?
A modern hotel wouldn’t give out any of this information. A modern hotel won’t even speak your room number out loud. A modern hotel won’t give a caller a guest’s room number. A modern hotel certainly wouldn’t advertise which rooms are occupied by single women! (Rooms 69, 72, 74, 209, 217 for starters.)
You’re only given one key per room at this hotel, and the key is on a wooden fob the size of a doorknob, meant to inspire you to leave the key at the front desk when you go out. Not wishing to advertise our comings and goings, I detach the key, leave the wooden chunk in the room, put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, and keep the key with me.
I’m not sure if the safety deposit box numbers correspond to the room numbers, but I think they do. If so, it’s easy to see who hasn’t bothered to use one.
The hotel is charming, despite and partly because of its old-fashionedness, and despite being called Swastika. (I refuse to allow the Nazis to own this ancient Sanskrit word for the symbol of well-being.)
What the hell happened to the sink? Why is its plumbing all bandaged? Is it insulation in case of a freeze tonight? Are the pipes falling apart? Are they leaky? Anyone have a clue?
I stay in hotels from the top end (George V in Paris, Singita in Kruger) to this dump: Doubletree by Hilton at JFK. Avoid the Doubletree@JFK. Its breakfast is inedible.
Salvador Dali knew about lurking lobby luggage thieves.
This man had weighed his bag and was now shedding stuff when I saw him at the check-in counter in Pisa airport. What he removed first was a dozen identical wooden hangers. He leaned the stack against the nearest trash can and fiddled with his luggage. We were both early, before the check-in desks had opened.
“Gotta dump the stolen hangers?” I tossed off.
“They’re not stolen,” he stuttered.
“So where’d they come from?”
“I had them.”
“You travel with hangers?”
“I brought them from home.”
“You stay in hotels that don’t provide hangers?”
“What hotel is that?”
“Uh. Um. Actually… I work on a ship. The ones they give us are… uh, wire.”
“So you bring your own.”
“Uh huh. Yeah.”
“What ship do you work on?”
“Um. Never mind.”
“Must be Silversea. That’s the sort of ship that would have beautiful wooden hangers like those.” I had noticed a Silversea ship off the coast that morning. Inside information! It freaked him out. The guy became fidgety. Looked nervous.
“Don’t worry, I don’t report hanger thieves,” I said. But I was glad to see his cold sweat. It’s thieves like him that cause hotels to install those maddening anti-theft hookless hangers.
Both our check-in counters opened. He finished before me. He picked up his stack of hangers as he walked away. I wonder if he tried to carry them on the plane. Or if he just wanted to trash the evidence.