A funny thing happened to me at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Actually, it wasn’t funny at all – which you’re about to discover – but it got me to thinking about one of my favorite subjects: hotels.
The not-at-all-funny thing that happened to me was on the second morning of the festival. As I stepped out of the shower in my hotel room, the terry cloth towel that had been placed over the shower door for guests to use as a floor mat slipped on the slippery, pseudo-marble floor and had me flying butt over teakettle on the bathroom floor.
Obviously, I tried to break my fall instinctively and put my right arm out to do so. As I sat on the floor feeling considerable pain, I could see a 3-inch gash on my right forearm. A few minutes later, the skin beneath swelled up to the size of two jumbo-sized eggs placed end to end.
A certain drug I take along with so many my age for the most transient cardiac reasons (like mine) can turn such a minor injury into a major misadventure in a flash, as a side effect.
The doctor at the Toronto General Hospital X-rayed me (no broken bones), glued my gash up rather than stitched or stapled it and sent me on my way with news about something called “compartmentalization” of wounds which prohibits swelling past the points on the body where it won’t permit any more.
In other words, a whole mess of pain beyond the current one was on the way. It arrived on schedule and is, I must say, no fun at all.
So let’s forget about that and go back to hotels. I love hotels. Absolutely love them.
But I’ve traveled a great deal in the last several decades and, as a generally happy hotel guest, I’ve come to certain conclusions.
The first is that Room Service Breakfast is as close to the meaning of life as anything I know – especially in a decent California hotel where the taste of just-squeezed juice from, just-picked California oranges is heaven when accompanied by well-brewed coffee.
After that, the news isn’t so hot. So I offer some advice to the mavens of the hotel business from a dedicated customer.
1. Too many drains in hotel sinks – and sometimes bathtubs – are absurdly designed. You know the ones I’m talking about: They have very slender pins in the back of the faucet which one pushes or pulls to open or close the drain. It’s very nice-looking – and completely nonfunctional. The trouble is it’s way too delicate a fixture for a room that may have Bulgarian goat-herders in it one night, Oklahoma bull riders the next and, after that, small children who treat everything as a toy that requires force to let it know who’s boss.
Invariably, someone before me in the room has yanked on the slender pin so hard that it has rendered the operation of the drain dicey at best. Rather than accumulate a sink full of shaving water, I’ve sometimes had to shave with running hot water, which will work in a pinch but is hardly ideal.
Conclusions: All drains in sinks and tubs should be designed so that even a nasty 7-year old can’t yank it too hard and break it. Anything else in a hotel room is absurd.
2. All mirrors need to be eye level. A nice, semi-fancy addition to many hotel rooms is that gaudy kind of counter mirror that lights up and, on its reverse side, magnifies images, which is great for women doing their makeup.
A wonderful idea to be sure but unless it’s installed at eye level or some provision is made in the bathroom for a place to sit in front of it, the guest is reduced to bending over or squatting in front of the thing in a position that is far from comfortable. If you’re pretending to give your guests luxury for pity’s sake, find a way to actually give it to them.
It is, of course, well-known by hotel guests that because of lighting they look better in hotel bathroom mirrors than they ever do anywhere else in the world. It’s a feel-good illusion contributing to the overall agreeability of the “hotel experience.” It might be smarter if it were, um, more reality-based.
3. Which leads to my final suggestion: All showers, tubs and tiles in front of sinks should be designed for safety, not aesthetics. When a pseudo-tile floor looks like marble, that’s lovely but if you can’t put the hotel’s ordinary terry-cloth towels on top of it without creating something that acts like a silent movie banana peel when you step on it, it’s not going to be a feel-good experience, eh what?
Lots of hotels put grab bars next to tubs. And rubber mats for tubs and showers. But even they sometimes give you soaps that combine with hard or soft water to form the slipperiest substance known to Western civilization.
I’ve seen in some hotels where tub bottoms are reasonably attractive but roughened and clearly designed for stronger grip by your little wet tootsies. The same material ought to be placed in front of showers and tubs for those exiting them.
I’ll grant that if it weren’t for my little misadventure I wouldn’t be offering myself as a kind of Ralph Nader of the hospitality business but, hey, with all the money I’ve spent in hotels over the decades, if I can’t offer some feedback, nobody can.
One final thing: As the hospital’s resident and I chatted, she pointed out that such calamity in a hard-surfaced hotel bathroom could have had far more severe results.
I thought about all the extra padding I’ve been carrying around on my posterior all these years – and how it finally came in very handy indeed. But then, it was originally designed by a designer with so much more interest in human welfare than the aesthetics of goosing up the hotel experience with ersatz luxe.
It’s good to be thankful for what you can.