Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Not Every Hotel Has a Doorman

The flight to New Orleans was relatively painless. When we got past the clouds and the snowy landscape further north, the view out the window showed brown soggy ground laced with branching rivers and streams. It was so flat! And muddy! And brown!
I landed and called my hotel to ask them the best way to get to and from the airport. They recommended I catch the airport shuttle outside the baggage claim that will take you to any hotel in New Orleans, for a fee of course. The driver nearly fell over himself trying to help me, and I soon figured out why. Our first stop was at a hotel with a French name, a granite column fa├žade, and a doorman with a top hat. I soon ceased to be impressed with the doormen, however, because the next four hotels had them too. I sank further and further down in my seat with each stop: Marriott, Sheraton, Marriott. And of course the stop right before mine, the hotel I had found on the Internet for $20 a night, was the Ritz Carleton. Momentarily, I felt a little better. We were already on Canal Street, which was where my hotel was. I could only be a few blocks from the Ritz – how bad could it be? We stopped.
Oh God. I couldn’t even see the entrance. There it was, overshadowed by the beauty supply shop next door and invisible because there was no doorman to help me out. The canvas over the door was worn and ragged and it looked more like the entrance to a cheap lawyer’s building. I thought about making a show of giving the driver a 5-cent tip, especially since he’d just received a $20 from Mr. Ritz Carleton, but thought better of it.
After checking in, I made my way up to the third floor. I noticed the smell when I stepped off the elevator, but it didn’t really get to me until I was in my room with the door shut and felt like I was in the middle of a smoker’s convention. The room was small but cute, with a sink, TV with a remote, fridge, double bed and old-fashioned striped wallpaper. The furniture was dark polished wood and the little window looked out onto the street. I tried to ignore the smell that reminded me of what it would be like if I were ever stuck in a smoke stack, but I couldn’t do it. I went back downstairs to ask if they could change my room. Yes, Ebony said, but I would be on the second floor, and there wasn’t a women’s bathroom on that floor. Was that okay? Sure, I said, then went back to the chimney to wait for my new quarters. In just 10 minutes I felt sick enough to die. I wondered if the room had been tested for other noxious gasses. Was there a hose hooked up to a car somewhere?
My new room was probably specially designated for goody-two-shoes Northerners that whine about the smoking rooms. My new TV had no remote, was probably built in the late ‘70s and had an attached clock radio. This could have been considered a plus, except only one channel came in, and the damn thing turned on by itself at midnight. There was no fridge, and this time the view was a brick wall. When I sat on the bed it protested loudly and sank a couple inches. Hmmm…too much chocolate. The walls were the same cloth wallpaper as upstairs, except for the wall behind the bed’s headboard, which they had covered after they ran out of pink striped wallpaper, so they used blush pink carpet instead. The door looked termite-riddled, but thankfully the rest of the room was clear of vermin and lacked any sort of smoky smell. I leaned against the sink and it almost came out of the wall.