Saturday, June 8, 2013

Strange Occurrences

This is what the little plastic sign on the dresser in my hotel room says:
This is a non-smoking room. When smoking occurs during your stay a $150 Cleaning Fee will be billed to your account.
Notice it does not say:
If you smoke in this room, you will be charged a $150 cleaning fee.
Smoking is not permitted in this room.  A $150 fine will be charged if you smoke in this room.
NO SMOKING IN THIS ROOM. Period. Those are the rules. Smoke and you will be charged $150. Yes, that means YOU. No amount of whining will help you. 

I could have handled any of the above.  The only one I couldn't handle was the actual sign.  It was just so....friendly. PC. BS. "You" is no where to be found on the little plastic sign put out by the hotel. That would be too forward, too "in your face." Heaven forbid we tell YOU that if you smoke in a non-smoking room YOU will be fined. YOU be held responsible. YOU will be accountable. Culpable. Maybe I am reading too much into everything (wouldn't be the first time), but it just seems so typical of the lack of responsibility we show for our actions these days. We can apologize without admitting fault - just say you are sorry others misunderstood you. Make excuses when you break the rules. Blame others, your childhood, the economy, your mother, anything, but for goodness sakes don't feel bad about anything you did or own up to your actions.  Now even our signs are changing. "Don't smoke or YOU will be fined $150" turns into "When smoking occurs during your stay..."
When smoking occurs??  How does smoking occur? I have to laugh when I think about the possibilities.
Am I going to come out of my bathroom to find the maid sitting on the bed in my bathrobe having a long toke on a Marlboro? Or maybe smoke occurs some other way? Maybe the mini-fridge going to go on the fritz, knock and ping and then smoke? Is the 1982 forty watt blow dryer tethered to the bathroom wall going to give up the ghost and smoke up the whole bathroom? Who knows. But evidently, smoke OCCURS.

In the room next to me is a middle aged couple with the brooding teenage son with big, red BEATS headphones that never leave his ears. He appears to be sulking his way through a family vacation. His parents' forced smiles make me think they are from the mid-west, not because mid-westerners smile a certain way, but because the forced up-turn of their lips scream "Darn it, we drove this far and WE ARE GOING TO ENJOY OURSELVES!" They went out the other night and left the son behind in the room.  As I stared at this mealymouthed sign, I pictured the father's conversation with hotel staff after he returned home from a night out with his wife.

"Hello, front desk, can we help you?"
"Yeah, hi, this is the Johnson family in room 223."
"Yes, how can we help you?"
"Well, uh, smoking just occurred."
"What, I'm sorry?"
"Smoking just occurred."
"You're smoking?"
"No, we're not smoking, but it occurred."
"It did?"
"Yeah, my son."
"Your son is a smoker, sir?"
"No, but he was here, in the room, and smoking occurred."
"Oh. You know there is a $150 dollar cleaning fee if smoking occurs in your room."
"I know. I saw the sign. That's why I'm calling."
"Oh. Well, we can charge it to your card, sir, after you check out."
"Yeah, go ahead. After all, it occurred. By the way, do you charge anything if drinking occurs?  We think that may have also occurred in our room."
"No sir, there is no charge if drinking occurs in your room."
"What about if a wet bathing suit on the bed occurs?"
"No charge."
"And if a circuit breaker blowout occurs?"
"No, sir."
"Well, I just want to check on a few more things because it appears that a lot has been occurring in our room while my wife and I were out."
"Sure, go ahead."
"Is there any charge if sand in the entryway occurs?"
"Barf in the closet?"
"What if bottles under the bed occur? And what about lipstick on a pillowcase?"
"No sir."
"Oh, OK. That's good. And one last thing. Is there a charge if my dog occurs on the rug?"
"A dog?  Sir, pets cannot occur in this hotel. Your signature occurred on the check-in paperwork, remember?"
"I'm sorry I don't remember that occurring?"
"It sure did. When check in occurred. There was a line that said, "If a pet occurs in the room, a pet occurrence fee will be charged."
"Oh. Well, my dog occurred."
"Then, I'm sorry, but there will be a fine."
"Really? He's little. Just a chihuahua. The occurrence is barely worth mentioning."
"Sorry, sir, there will have to be a fine."
"I thought it was a fee?  Fine sounds very harsh. Like I did something wrong."
"Well, technically we call it a "cleaning fee" but really it is a fine."
"Oh. Kind of like the fee for the smoking occurring?"
"Wow, sounds like there are going to be a lot of fees occurring on my credit card."
"Yes, sir. We'll be happy to have that occur when check-out occurs. Ah, sir?"
"Is there anything else that you can think of that might occur in your room?"
.......LONG PAUSE...........
"Actually, there is."
"What is it, sir?"
"Early check out."

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
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