Other Stuff–Luxury is hard.

by Lynn on April 5, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

A little catch up. I was in London in January on an annual trip with a group of theatre lovers. We see four shows together and the next morning I lead a discussion about the show. I never (almost never) tell them my opinion. I ask them questions to find out theirs and lead them deeper into appreciating theatre. It’s a great gig. I get the trip in exchange for the talk.

We stay in spiffy hotels. We had so many problems with the hotel last year, mainly with the phones; that we stayed in a better hotel this year. (More in another post about the phones and did they work). This year’s hotel is five star. I could never afford it on my own on my summer vacation. For that I go to a lovely bed and breakfast in Russell Square.

But for this January trip this hotel is terrific. The breakfast buffet is to die for. They have the requisite grease: bacon, sausage, fried/scrambled eggs in a kind of oil, huge Portobello mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomatoes. There are various kinds of fish: herring, kippers, trout, smoked salmon; cereals, cheeses, breads, buns, sweet buns, yogurts; juices. OY.

Politeness from the hotel staff is understated and tasteful, not cloyingly excessive in their greetings. There is the requisite bowl of apples at the front desk; an assortment of newspapers for the taking; flowers everywhere. In the lobby there is an arrangement of at least six orchids. Do you know how hard it is to maintain just one?

My room is airy, light-filled, and looks onto the Thames and the London Eye across the river. When you enter the room you put your room card in the slot by the door. All the lights and the television come on. There’s a switch that says “the room” and other switches for other parts of the room. I have never been able to figure out what switch affects what light. Then there are the switches by the lamps on the desk and on the bedside tables. Sometimes when you turn those switches on nothing happens because the main switch or the one pertaining to that part of the room has not been switched on. The bed is so big that there is a phone on either side of it.

Outside the bathroom are three push buttons. One is for heating the towel rack; one is for heating the floor; the last one is for turning on the TV in the shower (!). Sure enough, when I look in the shower, there is a screen on the wall opposite the wall with the spigots, knobs and levers. I’m generally a curious person, but nothing would get me to watch TV in the shower when all my attention should be focused on washing everything I came into the shower to wash.

I press the button for the towel rack to heat. I press the button to heat the floor. I take the thick towel floor mat that is flipped over the top of the shower stall, and put it on the floor just outside the shower.

I look to see what bath products are on offer. Two little boxes of wonderful smelling soap. Several bottles of bath/shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, a shower cap and a face cloth! That last is a rarity. Usually there is no such thing in the places I stay—I have to bring my own. But here in the spiffy hotel are two face cloths–a “flannel” as it’s sometimes called. Or wash cloth where I come from. There is a large box in which is a sewing kit, a manicure kit, shaving stuff, powders, a cloth to polish shoes. A cornucopia of stuff.

The first piece of toilet paper is folded into a V. Whose idea was this? We’ve seen it for years. Is it to let us know that someone was there to clean and this bit of origami is the final touch to tell us that all was done? Surely the fact that the place is spotless and the bed is made would lead one to believe that. I recall a place in Montreal took this nonsense to a fine point. They put part of the sticker bearing the hotel’s logo on the edge of the sheet and the rest stuck to the toilet roll. Let me tell you if you need to use it in a hurry the last thing you want is to have to wrestle the sealed paper free to use.

But I digress.

I get into the shower and am facing the wall with the important stuff. Overhead is a large, round shower head. To my left is a hand-held shower head, perhaps to wash those hard-to-get-to-places. To the right of that are two round disks, with many holes in each, on the wall, one above the other about two inches apart. Above those is a leaver that goes from left to right with a button on top, there are other knobs also with button on top.

Because it is assumed that every hotel guest has a degree in electrical or mechanical engineering, or they have been in such spiffy quarters as a matter of course and would know automatically, nothing in that shower is labelled. Nothing notes “Hand-held shower thingy” or “Over-head-shower thingy; or “Temperature” or “Two disk thingies.” Nothing explains what the lever or the buttons do or how to get water from any of the places associated with spraying water. For simple minds like mine, who expect to turn a knob and water comes from where it should come, figuring all this out is a matter of frustrating trial and error.

I take a breath and begin. I turn the lever to the right. Nothing. I turn it to the left. Nothing. I press a button on one knob. Nothing. Finally I turn a knob and the water from the hand-held shower head shoots out at me getting me right in the middle of my stomach. Nothing from the over-head shower head. I take the whole shower using this hand-held device.

When I’m finished I step onto the dry towel floor mat, take the toasty bath towel off the heated rack and wrap it around me. Is there anything more luxurious than wrapping a warm bath towel big enough to cover a king sized bed around you? I don’t think so.

Next day I try to remember what knobs and leavers I turned and in what order to have the hand-held shower device pound me with water. I somehow forget but manage to get the permanent over-head shower to work. I turn a leaver and the water heats up. Wonderful. I press some of the buttons on the leaver and knob and manage also to get the two round disk thingies to pulse out water as well. It lands straight at my upper thigh and my lower stomach. This is not exactly where I want it. I hold on to the wall with my left hand, tilt a bit to the wall and lift my right leg at a 90° angle and just about manage to have the water land on my, uh, privates, if I may be so blunt about it. I figure if the water from these two round thingies are not landing in the right place, it’s because I’m too short for the shower. There should be a sign that says: “Don’t expect the water from the two round thingies on the shower wall to spew water at your privates if you are below 6’.

When I’m done, I turn all the knobs to their original place. I put the lever back in the initial position. I take the toasty towel off the heated rack and step onto the towel floor mat which is sopping wet. There is also a puddle of water ¼” deep at least on the floor along the outside of the shower stall. When the water is spraying from the disks onto one the water bounces off and lashes the shower door. The seal, I guess, is not that tight to withstand this torrent of water. I make a note never to turn on the disk things and just be happy with the over-head shower head. I wring out the towel mat and use another towel to sop up the other ‘flood’ around the shower.

Every day is an adventure in a five-star hotel.

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