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Hotel versus home

BY Rachael O. Phillips

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

Everyone knows the words to this song, penned by John Howard Payne in 1823. Few, however, know that Payne, an American whose family opposed his theatrical career, wandered Europe most of his life and eventually died in Tunisia.

What did he know about “home”? Payne rarely stayed around long enough to pay for trash pickup and roof leaks.

No doubt, his home-sweet-home fantasy also was fed by the reality of 1820s lodgings, where he not only used an outhouse but possibly shared a room with scary strangers.

If Payne were traveling today, however, he’d find that modern hotels present their own peculiar challenges.

For example, the more money I pay for a room, the harder it is to recognize – and operate – its coffee maker. Ditto for the clock – at least, I assume it is a clock. Both devices appear to have been designed by NASA. I cannot shake the feeling that if I press the wrong button, I’ll find myself on Jupiter, clueless and coffeeless.

Likewise, nice hotel rooms feature televisions with remarkably complex remotes. However, their batteries are always on the blink, providing travelers with half a channel.

Given all this advanced technology, one would expect more than two clothes hangers in the closet, right?

Wrong. I’ve perfected the art of layering 13 outfits on one hotel hanger. (Hey, a two-day stay requires variety.)

I do appreciate hotel rooms’ multiple outlets, though, as our 1960s home features one extra outlet, originally intended for summer’s single oscillating fan. In most hotel rooms today, I’m not surprised to find outlets in the ice bucket.

But where the heck are the light switches? I need a light to find the lights.

John Payne probably took yearly baths in a horse trough. Unlike us, he never concerned himself with rainfall nozzles. He never faced our crucial hotel shower questions: will turning the faucet to red guarantee tepid or scalding water? Even worse (aaaaahhh!), was the installer color-blind?

I do enjoy fluffy hotel towels, smelling like artificial spring, and washcloths, folded in pretty shapes. Never in my life have I folded laundry to resemble a fan, a heron, or Donald Trump.

Gels and lotions at home are gifts I acquired in last Christmas’s grab bag, e.g., “Flaky Frostbite” products.

John Payne surely couldn’t have imagined hotel grooming aids labeled “Clean Sand Spa.”

I can’t, either. Clean sand? It’s dirt by definition.

Racier gel and lotion names almost prevent me from taking them home, for fear grandchildren will discover them in a bathroom drawer: “Grandma, what’s a French Fruity Massage?”

The French factor in today’s hotels does seem overdone. Who uses a duvet at home? Not me. Why do we need more French stuff in this country? Aren’t fries and toast sufficient?

I do, however, laud hotel king-sized beds, each with a crisp white bedspread and 26 pillows. For me, there never can be enough.

Don’t you love it when someone else makes the bed? However, set a toe inside a hotel room during the day, and housekeepers vanish. Away from home, I miss my reliable husband’s performing this task.

As I said (wink, wink), it’s nice when someone else makes the bed.

Did Payne pay extra for breakfast? Probably. Past, present, or future, nothing’s free.

However, some modern “free” breakfasts are worth the hidden cost and the 10,000 calories. Others feature orange water and cereal resembling kitty litter.

At home, Hubby eats unexciting Cheerios, but at least, he knows they’re Cheerios. Am I that sure about my bran cereal? (Gulp.) It does resemble kitty litter. …

We don’t know if John Payne decided to stand in a block-long line for “free” waffles instead.

We also don’t know a later verse of his song reveals home was most important to him because his mind felt at ease there.

Is this true in my case? Not always, especially as I’m eating questionable cereal while ants, sneaking into our dining room, think they will receive a “free” breakfast.

They picked the wrong ant hotel.

For me, however, it’s home. I can make coffee here, find light switches, and sleep well, even without French influence and only one pillow.

“Be it ever so humble,” there’s no other place I’d rather be.

If only a housekeeper would show up.