It wouldn’t strike me quite so funny if the brand were “Hindiware,” but it’s not.
Is there a more perfect name for a toilet? This one was in our grubby Mumbai hotel.
The San Francesco al Monte hotel in Naples, Italy, a former monastery originally carved into the mountain in the 16th century, is a warren of rock tunnels and hidden staircases. The clean, newly plastered surfaces are a stark contrast against the ancient rough stone parts of the property. Nooks and crannies and almost-hidden accessways beg for exploration with a flashlight.
Our room—even our bathroom—had incredible views of the city, the bay, and Mount Vesuvius, from multiple windows. It also came with beautifully packaged amenities, including a large jar of fragrant bath salt. All the room lacked was a bathtub.
This very cup, holding this very fine pen, sat on a desk in our room. The coffee cup was from the hotel’s restaurant. The pen is our own.
When we returned to our room, housekeeping had straightened up and the cup was gone. So was our pen. Stretching a bit, I can understand that the maid might take the cup and return it to the property’s restaurant, even though it was being used (as a pen-holder). But how could she take the pen along with it? Is she blind? Was she so rushed that she didn’t notice? Didn’t it rattle or clink as she carried the cup away?
She returned the pen eventually, before we had to ask for it.
I have no idea what this thing is. It’s on the floor in the carpet, in front of a window. About an inch and a half across, no screws in the holes that look like screwholes. I saw only one of them. With quite a bit of force, the rubbery center part can be depressed.
Where were we? Somewhere in England. In a hotel, of course. I forgot to ask the front desk staff what the thing might anchor or support.
Our hotel room in Paris had these gorgeous bathroom doors. Each door is made of one large plate of thick translucent glass in a wood frame. Bronze crossbars float above the glass without touching it, and there’s a little bronze ball of a handle on the inside. The doors are eight feet tall.
But what’s that little wire on the back of the door? It comes out of nowhere, emerging from the wall, loops a little, and connects to the door. I had to stand on the tub and stretch to take a photo of the top surface of the door. I thought I’d find a sensor for the lights, or trailing wires, or some clue. Nothing.
Still curious at checkout time, I asked the front desk staff who, of course, didn’t know. But they didn’t leave it there. They found a manager who explained.
Care to guess?
Yeah, we know already, like “leave a message after the beep.” But this is odd… “A towel on the rack means ‘I’ll use it again.’” What rack? In this Hilton Hotel bathroom, there wasn’t a rack, a hook, or even a peg for a towel.
Look at the photo. You can see the entire bathroom. No place for towels.
China World Hotel, Beijing— Very nice room. In an effort to think of every detail, there’s a little glass shelf installed on the bathroom wall, toiletside. Lest you load it up with toiletries, which might seem the obvious thing, it’s etched with the image of a mobile phone. And for those over-actively vibrating phones, there’s a tiny guardrail. Cute!
10,000 shipping containers are lost at sea each year! From my naive perspective, I’m shocked by this number. Twice, I’ve sent an entire household from one continent to another by sea. To think of my container just…tumbling into the sea in a storm! Or worse, ordered jettisoned by the captain to ensure the safety of the ship.
Five to six million shipping containers are being transported at any given moment, and it’s estimated that one is lost about every hour. A goner. True, the percentage is low; but the number is high. Ten thousand containers and their cargo, every year, sunk to the bottom of the deep blue sea. Or presumably, the rough gray sea.
Containers dropped from cargo ships are never recovered and rarely reported. There are no legal repercussions for the losses; no accountability.
There are other repercussions though. Hazardous materials are leached into the ocean. Artificial habitats are created for aquatic life, strung like stepping stones along shipping routes, possibly giving species an unnatural ability to migrate across oceans. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12718251
And these cargo containers may float for days or weeks before they sink to the ocean floor. Huge farting boxes the size of houses, invisible just below the surface of the sea, they create a deadly hazard for other ships and yachts. “Very, very dangerous,” a ship’s officer told me. “At night you cannot see them at all.”
While this subject matter doesn’t quite fit my usual categories of Travel or Theft, it interests me mainly in terms of loss and responsibility (and also freak accidents). And there seems to be a huge potential for fraud.
Apparently, expediency in loading cargo ships doesn’t allow for stacking containers logically. Therefore, heavy containers may very well ride on the top layer. On the other hand. I read somewhere that top layer positions go for cheap—or was that a joke?
In a global industry represented by straight-laced and corrupt nations and every banana republic in between, I’m not surprised that:
They overload container vessels on purpose, raising the center of gravity of the ship. If there is smooth sailing, you make millions extra a year. If you hit rough seas, you cut loose your entire top layer of containers, lower your COG, and still come out ahead in the grand scheme of it all.
So, if a ship lists or rolls a container or two could go flying. Connecting pins might break or shear off, as they are designed to do at a list of a certain number of degrees. And if a ship is in danger its captain may choose to sacrifice a number of containers in the hope of saving the ship and its remaining cargo.
…essentially the shipping company is not liable for the ‘disposed [of]‘ containers, either. If the shipping company has enough losses on a vessel to declare a “General Average,” then the compensation for the losses (including vessel damage, if any) are assessed against the other *customers* with cargo on that vessel.
Basically, the vessel is carrying the cargo as a courtesy; any risk of loss belongs to the owners of the cargo(s) collectively, NOT to the carrier.
So as a forwarding agent, not only do you get the pleasure of telling someone that their container of goods has been lost, you get to tell them that…¨a) they still have to pay freight shipping costs, AND…¨b) they’re going to be legally liable for their ‘share’ of whatever the general average costs work out to be
Other than keeping his average rate of loss low, there doesn’t seem to be much to motivate a captain to deliver his full complement of containers. Would it be an exaggeration to suggest that the odd seaman or two might be induced to “lose” a container now and then?
The potential for foul play intrigues me. I hear the whisper of a thumb gently rubbing two fingertips… The master of a ship turns his head away at the screech of metal scraping metal followed by a mighty splash. What might be in that locked steel box? Incriminating evidence? Treasure, bundled with a GPS transmitter, for later retrieval? Hazardous waste too costly to dispose of properly? A secret marine biology laboratory in which creepy experiments will be activated by contact with water, to be carried out in the cold, dark, compressed environment of the sea floor? Bodies?
I have to say, there’s something rather cozy about a warm toilet seat. Definitely got used to that in Japan. I came to expect the full panel of services, too, from waterfall or babbling brook sound effects to various water-jet options. I was a little taken aback the first time I entered and the lid saluted me, opening on its own. And I was just plain amused by a toilet with a lit bowl. Maybe even a little horrified.
Oh, and yes. They flush and close by themselves, too. Any more questions?
I stay in a lot of hotels, some of which are the best or most unique in the world. This one in Hong Kong—not so hot.
Why was there a bucket under the sink? And in the bucket, a smaller bucket.
Fill it up to flush the toilet? Bail out the bathtub? Store up drinking water? I don’t think I want to know…