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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

Fantasy Hotel

I've been musing lately on my fantasy hotel. Contrary to what you may think, it is not run by Ricardo Montalban, and it is not a place where Ewan McGregor, Orlando Bloom, or Liam Neeson is a semipermanent resident. No, my fantasy hotel is more down-to-earth than that.

In my fantasy hotel, guests would be required on check-in to disclose whether they are noisy, obnoxious persons who never sleep except in daytime, who hold beer-inspired shouting matches at all hours, or who are prone to performing in the public pool acts that most of us reserve for private bedrooms. These guests would then be sent tramping down a long hallway to rooms in an adjacent hotel.

For the rest of us, there would be no confusion on checking in as to whether we were still at the airport. The blow-dryer wouldn't scream like a jet gearing up for takeoff, and the fan in the bathroom wouldn't drone loudly like a 747's engines during flight.

In my fantasy hotel, bathing would be a luxurious experience. The showerhead wouldn't be permanently fixed in the "Fire Hose" setting, so that showering feels like some small person skipping maliciously up and down your spine. And the bath towels would be big enough to cover a reasonable percentage of an actual person's body.

Guests would be encouraged to relax. You would not feel compelled to spend a half-hour tidying the room before the maid arrives. And there would be no iron, so you could just be wrinkly and make the best of it.

The lighting would be subtle enough not to reveal what you went on vacation to get away from. Yet the sink wouldn't jut out so far from the mirror that you have to grope for your glasses to figure out exactly what it is that you are putting makeup on.

The rooms would not be possessed by demonic forces. The pipes wouldn't groan, and the heating unit wouldn't gurgle inarticulately, so that you find yourself listening for hidden messages: Paul is dead. Miss him. The coffeemaker wouldn't chuff and seethe in a ghostly way, and the dresser drawers wouldn't shriek each time you opened or closed them.

In my fantasy hotel, things would work the way you expect them to. You could turn on the lights by flipping a switch or pressing a button. It would not be some subtle combination of flipping switches and pressing buttons a random number of times, reset at whim by hotel staff. And there would be signs in clear English explaining exactly the way things work, even though no one would read them.

The heating/cooling unit would deliver something other than arctic temperatures that have you ferreting in dresser drawers for blankets in July, or Sahara-like highs in January that cause you to throw off all the covers and pummel the windows in a vain attempt to get them open.

In my fantasy hotel, the carpet would not be in some subtle, attractive geometric pattern selected to hide stains and swallow anything you might drop, like earring backs. No, it would be a plain, easily soiled color, sort of an orange cream, where you could find a lost contact lens without even trying.

The rooms would be designed and equipped on the premise that they might occasionally be occupied by more than one person, people who might conceivably get up at different times and not want to wake the other occupants. So there would be somewhere where you could read, off by yourself, besides the cold bathroom floor, under the pitiless overhead light, in a little nest of towels.

The nearest drugstore would not be 12.5 miles away across unfamiliar roads and heavy traffic, nor would it be closed when you get there or not carry Pediatric Vicks 44M.

In my fantasy hotel, the free continental breakfast would actually consist of something that people eat on this continent. Or any continent; I'm not picky.

The "fitness center" wouldn't consist of a mere three pieces of equipment, one part or another of which has been broken for the past three years. So that instead of plodding along on the treadmill, enduring the mindless morning news shows, you could try the Mystery Run or the Alpine Loop.

When you checked out of my fantasy hotel, the advertised rate would be what you would actually pay. There would be no Occupancy Tax, City Tax, State Tax, Provincial Tax, Tax for No Discernible Reason Tax, or Tax Levied on Out-of-Town Persons Because They Don't Vote Here Tax.

And you would not head briskly to the parking lot, prepped for a day of travel and fun, only to find a large pool of radiator fluid winking slyly at you from beneath your car. Well, unless Slick, the repairman at the car shop, was played by Liam Neeson.

© 2004 Elaine Langlois