Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Open Letter to Starwood Properties

Dear Starwood,

So I understand who your target audience at the W is. I do see how this is a population calculated to appreciate that you blew your budget on tempting incidentals and on cutsy alliterative branding, and didn't save much for things like free wi-fi or even bathtubs.

I get that your target audience has money to spare and probably throws away the soap bar when it's used to the point that the brand imprint no longer shows clearly.


When you use a bit of widely spaced wire grating for your soap dish, you don't just make soap slivers fall through, you also make it very difficult to bring into the shower those little bottles of Bliss shower products that you provide us with. Because they are too narrow at the base to stand up reliably in that wire grate soap dish of yours.

For the love of little green double-yous, Starwood, learn what Q. A. testing is for! Get some beta users to try the place out and alert you to STUPID INCONSISTENCIES!

Also. No tub? Really? After our long days spent in airports or on trains, much of it on our poor aching feetsies, you would deny us that long, luxurious soak we so badly need? I tried to use your shower cubicle instead, but there's this drain at the bottom I can't plug. Deep sigh.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I have my bike pump back SQUEEEEE!

This morning I got ready to leave my hotel room to seek breakfast. I gathered up my bookbag, my bike tool bag, my helmet, and my AOPA visor cap. And I tried to gather up my bike pump, but could not find it. I had been bringing it up with me rather than leaving it on my bike to avoid this precise calamity. (Not that I'm anywhere near as punctilious in Boulder. Generally I just leave it strapped to my bike. But in a strange city, in a strange big city, in front of a cheap hotel in a big city... OK, comfort levels are irrational things.) Apparantly, this did not help, because I dropped the damn thing on my way up to my hotel room. And didn't notice until this morning.

("This morning" meaning Monday. "Last night" meaning Sunday. "Strange big city" means Chicago. "Cheap hotel" means the Sheffield House Hotel, conveniently located in Wrigleyville, $55 a night for single occupancy in a queen-size bed with a private bath. Just so we're clear.)

I ask at the front desk, but the pleasantly unhelpful lady is on shift and she doesn't know nothing about nothing. (To be fair, when I checked in and discovered my room's tub had neither a working shower tap nor any way to plug the drain, she facilitated my changing rooms. But you ask her about anything more complicated than "change my dollar for quarters?" or "new toilet paper roll please?" you get nothing. You get it with a smile, though.) "Is there a lost and found in that office?" Nope, don't know nothing about that. She suggests I ask the manager tomorrow morning.

I lost my bike lock the night before I left Boulder and had to replace it; and what Kryptonite makes these days may be invulnerable to Bic ballpoints but it's no longer both long and wide. The replacement lock will not go around both my bike and, say, a parking meter. It pretty much just goes around legitimate bike lock structures. And now I've lost my bike pump and will have to replace that too. I'm getting depressed.

I go on about my day as best I can, putting it from my mind. I bike all around the neighborhood, I eat lunch at a yummy diner, I discover a great cafe way north on Lincoln, I go to the Twilight Tales open mic night, I have fun. I come back to the hotel around midnight. And there's someone other than don't-know-nothing lady, so I take the chance and ask him. Any chance you've come across an orphaned bike pump...?

His eyes light up. He makes oh, was that you? wait here! gestures. He goes back into the mysterious recesses of the office. And he comes out with my bike pump.


Apparently I dropped it on the 5th floor, probably in the act of getting out of the elevator. It's an old fashioned elevator, the sort with an accordian-style grate on the car itself and an extremely heavy swinging door on every floor. I always have trouble getting out without one or the other banging shut on my hip, on my backpack, on my tool bag, on my suitcase, etc. Apparently, that's when it slipped out of my grip, because the wonderful night manager Joe reports it was found by the garbage room next door to the elevator. He'd wondered why it was abandoned. Does it not work? No, it works! Why would someone throw it away? He'd better hold onto it in case someone asks after it.

Wonderful night manager Joe is wonderful.

Also, he's a bike enthusiast and is sad that I haven't time in Chicago to explore the many lovely bike trails. He recommends I follow the lakefront bike path to get back to Union Station, and not the boring old Clark to Halstad to Milwaukee to Canal route Google recommends. I think I will take his recommendation.

So, you know. Cheap hotel, true. But, hell, even pleasantly unhelpful don't-know-nothing lady is friendly. And the night manager is just stellar. And it is cheap. Cheap may get you sheets with holes in (but they are clean); cheap may get you buggy showers (but if you tell 'em, they'll try to find you a room with more functional showers); but cheap still gets you humans in the office, and humans run the gamut from unhelpful to positively wonderful. And I am squeeing right now about the wonderful.

It is a powerful squee. It is not daunted by the man next room over yelling violent profanities at someone or other. It is an insulating squee, a long-lasting squee. It's a hopeful squee: Hey, if my bike pump turned up, maybe my bike lock will turn up too! Maybe? Hey, I can hope.