Many of you probably haven't stayed in a hotel since the pandemic began. For me, with my ongoing medical and dental issues, it's still on the calendar. And the situation, to paraphrase David Byrne of Talking Heads fame, is not the "same as it ever was."
First of all, there's no daily room service. Pre-pandemic, housekeepers would come in every day to make your bed, deliver toiletries, pick up the besnotted tissues on the floor, neatly pile up dirty underwear, place shoes in a row, and put up with every manner of abstract abuse concocted by the guests - who are out sightseeing, riding roller coasters, skiing, or engaging in other activities those who clean their rooms can ill afford.
They're not called "maids" anymore, by the way - just like flight attendants aren't called "stewardesses." This type of political correctness has less to do with gender issues than the removal of labels that seem demeaning and inaccurate. But they still have to do their unsavory jobs, usually without hope of receiving a tip. And those who decry $7.25 an hour as an unreasonable minimum wage ought to look at what housekeepers and food servers - formerly called "waiters" and "waitresses" - are subjected to. So housekeepers are probably glad they don't have to put up with guests as much these days.
Most hotels don't send in the housekeeping crew until after a set of guests has departed - and then, the room will likely lie fallow for 24 hours before someone else stays in it. The next occupant will "break the seal" on the door - something that offers little protection but makes the squeamish feel better. If you need extra shampoo or toilet paper or a laundry bag, a staffer will politely deliver it to your door. Some hotels, like the Tulsa Club, don't put ice buckets in the rooms, but they'll bring one to you upon request. That hotel and others in which we've stayed give you your own bottle of hand sanitizer.
Don't expect to enjoy a sit-down meal in most hotels, either. The Warren Duck Club at the Doubletree in Tulsa, for instance, has been closed for a long time, although you can still get your chocolate chip cookie at the front desk, whereas the Doubletree in Arlington doesn't even go that far. The Tulsa Club does have a limited dinner menu, and it's quite good; you can get your breakfast delivered in the morning, with several choices.
But even though many people have avoided hotels since last March, most rooms seem to be occupied at those we've stayed at. And those patrons seem to be more annoying than guests during normal times. It could be I'm noticing bad behavior more, due to the paranoia that comes with going anywhere at all. Or it could be that most current hotel occupants are of the obnoxious "freedumb fighters" variety - those who believe facial coverings infringe upon their constitutional rights, but consider riots at the U.S. Capitol to be noble exercises in democracy. Unfortunately for the freedumb fighters, hotels force them to wear masks, or show them the door. I've seen it happen.
If there's a jerk staying at a hotel, it's a good bet he or she will be in the room on either side of us, or directly above us. I attribute this to "Poindexter luck," which as I've said, is like Jordy Verrill luck: "Always in, and always bad." The smorgasbord of noise includes incessant thumping and banging, crying babies, spats between couples, yelling and drunken frat boys, and in one case, repeated loud farting and the ensuing laughter that always follows.
The worst time I can remember was years ago, at the Hampton Inn in Norman, when our son Cole was at OU. We kept hearing a series of "thump thump thump thump" that always ended with an especially loud "THUMP!" at the end - and then started all over again. Finally, unable to sleep, I called the front desk to complain. The desk clerk said he'd get to the bottom of it. About 10 minutes later, the racket stopped, and a couple of minutes after that, our phone rang. It was the clerk, who apologized and said, "The OU gymnastics team is having a meet tomorrow morning, and I guess the guys from the other team were doing their floor routines in the hall." Lovely.
The other night, we had among our worst experiences in months. First, the room was too warm, and we're among those weirdos who like to sleep in a frigid room under piles of blankets. If that wasn't bad enough, the fellow in the room next door kept yelling, "Wooooo-eee!" and then talking constantly, and loudly. Others joined the fray. The desk clerk had to visit the room twice before she finally got this idiot and his cohorts to shut up.
But it didn't end there. Within 10 minutes of the zipping of the next-door lips, the banging overhead commenced. It sounded as if someone was moving giant pieces of heavy furniture not often found in hotel rooms. Or playing full-court basketball. Or perhaps trolls were up there, asking which goat was crossing their bridge, trip-trip-trop. When it began to sound like explosive charges set to bring the building down, I called again, and began with the apologetic mantra I seem to be employing more and more these days: "I don't mean to be a b*tch, but..."
So maybe Byrne was right, and it is the same as it ever was. Only cleaner. The hotels are pretty clean these days. Except I did notice a circle from the bottom of a water glass one time lately. ...