November '07 98
Motel Woe Tale Hostelry Technology
orn thin are a couple of words I hate to use to describe my patience, but such was the case several months ago when the credit card sized room key to my hotel room would not unlock the door. I pride myself in my ability to exercise patience with non-family members, but whenever I have been under mentally stressful conditions for extended periods and my physical body cries out for rest, I have been known to possess a degree of patience characterized as "worn thin."
Over the course of this year, I have spent a number of nights in different motels from central Florida to south Louisiana. I find that more and more hostelries have discarded the clunky metal door keys that have so faithfully served their customers, this century, in favor of devices that are almost the exact size of a typical credit card and like a credit card the plastic room key utilizes a magnetic strip (mag stripe) that contains the coded information needed for a hotel guest to enter his designated room.
If there is one thing the new "keys" do not have in common with their metallic counterparts, it is reliability. Yes, there were a few times when the metal key I received upon checking in at the motel/ hotel would not work, but those occasions were rare. Almost the opposite is true of the plastic/ mag stripe cards.
It was a quarter after the hour of eleven o'clock p.m. when I checked into the Hampton Inn on Hwy. 49N in Gulfport. The day had been a taxing one that began early and ended late. Shortly after 11:30, I was in the room preparing to go to bed, when I discovered the room contained no towels. The response I received from the person I phoned at front desk was not one of good news. I was told it would be about thirty minutes before someone could get the towels to my room. In light of the time, I considered thirty minutes to be too long to wait and expressed to the desk clerk my desire to get to bed as soon as possible. While the towels arrived in about 10 or 15 minutes, my blood was still simmering over the towel situation that climaxed an already stressful day.
At breakfast (continental style) the next morning, my associates and I were comparing notes on problems we were experiencing with our accommodations. One colleague had phoned to ask to be connected with one of our party only to be given the wrong room which resulted in unnecessarily awakening some other motel guest. I explained my dissatisfaction with room conditions and location (2nd floor, backside of nowhere), and after rushing off to my first assignment of the day, soon forgot about the unpleasantries of the prior evening. However, when I returned to the motel around two o'clock that afternoon to make a few phone calls between store stops, I discovered my credit card type room key would not let me into my room.
I opted to walk to the front desk, a mere three hundred or so yards away from my room, because the motel was undergoing some repairs that made driving back to the entrance less desirable than walking, plus I kept telling myself I needed the exercise. I explained to the clerk that my room key would not work so the clerk took my card and inserted it into a device that is supposed to reactivate the magnetic code. You might say I was more than slightly perturbed when I walked back to my assigned room and could not gain entrance. It was at that point my patience broke, and I committed to a course of action from which I predetermined not to retreatI would check-out of the motel and check into another motel. There were six nationally recognized, name brand motels side by side on this particular section of highway. Surely, I could find one to my liking.
Arriving back at the front desk of the motel, I asked to speak to the manager, who politely listened to my complaints. When I explained my desire to check out of the motel he was accommodating and asked me to fill out a complaint form. I did not realize, until all the paperwork was processed, that I had been refunded the expense of the previous night's stay. I knew I was checking out beyond the normal check out time of noon and only wished to not be charged for the night I would not be staying. Yet as it turned out, I did not have to pay for either night. That was my first experience in accepting a motel's 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
All that remained for me to complete my stay at the Hampton, was to get my belongings from the room. This required a short wait for someone from maintenance to open my room. The maintenance person had to physically remove the lock from the door to open it. The card reading mechanism had gone bad and needed to be replaced.
That experience with credit card type motel keys was the only one I have had where the fault was with the door mechanism. Usually, if one of the newfangled keys does not work, the problem lies with the card itself. There have been a dozen or more occasions since the Hampton incident where I could not get back into my room, the worst of which occurred at a Shoney's Inn in Atlanta. At Shoney's, where I had reservations for 4 nights, I had to have the key reactivated every day in order to gain access to my room. The personnel at the front desk of Shoney's Inn were either inept in handling the chore of card activation or else too low on the food chain to be aware of their incompetence. Though I resolved not to stay at that particular Shoney's again, I found myself eating crow about two months later. Our Retail Systems secretary in our regional office of SUPERVALU in Atlanta made reservations for a couple of us who needed to attend a training session in Atlanta. She knew our classes began on Tuesday, but she failed to consider our need to arrive on Monday evening instead of Tuesday, and once more I found myself at Shoney's Inn. I only spent one night there and used the accommodations of Fairfield Inn the rest of the week.
I believe profitability is the principal motivating factor used by motel management in deciding to abandon the use of metal keys, though many have stated their reasons relate to increased security for their guests. Staying away from the comforts of home is bothersome enough for many of us who must do so because our work requires it, but the bother of the new motel keys is exasperating. Personally, I would stay where metal keys were still used if given a choice.
The Envelope Please Pica Pitch Courier Font
The letter sized white envelope bore no return address, but it initiated a mild sense of dread as I glanced at the post mark and flipped it over to see if a return address was on the back of the envelope. There was no return address. The addressee portion contained but the briefest of information, my first and last names, street address, city, state and zip code, everything needed for the postal service to correctly route the envelope, but lacking the formal designation of "Mr." or the personalization of my middle initial. The words were typewritten in Pica pitch and Courier font style. A single strike-over of an 8 on a 1 marred an otherwise "letter perfect" address.
The look that characterized the envelope stirred my imagination to conjure up thoughts of readers who might disagree with my point of view on a particular matter, but lacking the intestinal fortitude to "stand up and be counted," should choose to shield their disapproval with anonymity. Somewhere, in an even more remote region of my brain, came the thought this could be a response from Bailey White. Afterall, the postmark was Albany, GA. I knew Bailey White might actually use a manual typewriter, for she had written more than one story concerning manual typewriters, so I hastened to open the envelope. I took a step closer to the knife rack that hangs at the end of our kitchen counter, between the meat slicer and the microwave and found my favorite letter opener, a Forshner 6" curved, flexible blade, boning knife and slit an opening along the top of the envelope. Opening the envelope, I retrieved a single sheet of copier grade, white, typing paper that consisted of a single paragraph.
The text of the letter was typewritten, but several minutes passed before I observed three more strike-over corrections, for I sought first a signature. It was easy to spot. Just below the salutation, the neat, though simple, unpretentious, cursive letters spelled the name, Bailey White.
To be honest, my first reaction centered on the brevity of the letter, and I felt it could have been longer. I passed it off to Barbara, who was also curious to know what sort of letter was in my hands. Lillie Belle had picked the letter from a stack of mostly junk mail and handed it to me shortly after Barbara and I had unloaded our clothes for our weekend visit to our Pontotoc home. Barbara uttered a slight chuckle and repeated aloud the salutation of the letter, "Dear Mr. Carter." I think Barbara equates courtesy titles with aging. I also think it is a female defense mechanism kicking in. When one woman refers to the husband of another woman as "Mister" then the spouse of the husband in question finds the other woman less threatening. Likely, my philosophy won't hold up for all age groups, but for those in the middle-aged category, I believe you can "take it to the bank."
After the excitement of hearing from a famous person had subsided, and I took the time to actually consider the content of the letter, I found the three sentences contained all that was necessary for Bailey White to express her appreciation for the newsletter I had sent her (Volume 9.26).
I have not yet decided whether to have the letter and envelope framed or simply insert it into the RRN Archives on my desk, but right now, I am leaning toward framing it.
Handyman Headache Missing Numbers
If there was one thing that would send my dad into a muffled rage of sputterings and suppressed curses, it had to have been his ability to return to the place he had left a tool or important paper only to find it missing. I do not know if such a characteristic is an inherited one or whether it is derived by negative, childhood developmental influence, or whether it is acquired by long term exposure to persons who rearrange, clean-up, and/or otherwise disturb the "resting place" of those items we deem important. However I came to possess the trait is questionable, but I surely understand what my dad went through.
Back in late May, when we were preparing our home for the expected throngs to attend our RRN cookout, I noticed the street number attached to the fascia over our front doorway had fallen into disarray and had become unsightly. Years earlier when the City of Pontotoc had prescribed the adoption of the E-911 street numberings and mandated every dwelling post its assigned number in numerals large enough to be visible from the street, we complied with the request. Unlike some of Pontotoc's wealthier citizens, we did not insist such crude signage provided by the City of Pontotoc to be an aesthetic distraction. The small one by three and a half board was painted black and the house number, fashioned of silvery aluminum, stood out rather boldly against the black background. Yet when one end of the board rotted away and began to sag below the fascia, it seemed time for a replacement.
At the time I removed the board, I had little opportunity to prepare a replacement, but thinking I might wish to use the old numerals rather than buy new ones, I carefully removed each, and keeping both nails and numerals, determined to stow them in a safe place until a more appropriate time would allow for me to fashion a new board and affix it to the front of the house.
The time for the cookout came and went. Weeks rolled by, and the weeks rolled into a few months. Yet, I had not thought about the house number project until a relative paid a visit. The son of one of Granddad Hayden's brothers was in town and called to say he would love to visit for a while. Shannon Carter had been to our home on a couple of other occasions and did not need directions to find our street. Upon finding the right street, Shannon stated he had a little trouble finding the house, and he noted ours did not have the house number on it. Of course I pointed out that the mailbox across from our driveway had both our house number and the Carter name on it.
"Yes, I saw that, after I could not find the house number. That's how I could be sure I was at the right house." Shannon scolded.
The next week, I sawed to size a scrap piece of old lumber that was probably left over from one our home addition projects, found the last can of paint used by Anson to paint the front door and shutters, and painted the piece of wood to ready it for aluminum house numbers I had saved.
Now, Lillie Belle (the mother-in-law) loves to move stuff around in the utility room in her spare time. Today, the spare light bulbs may be in an old milk crate on top of the counter, but the next time you need one for the bathroom light fixture the same light bulbs will be two shelves above the milk crate and three feet to the left. Therefore, before I got too exasperated trying to find the numerals I had stowed away, I checked with Lillie Belle as to whether she had seen them. Yes, she thought she remembered seeing them in a plastic, zip lock bag. After a thorough search of the utility room, I concluded that while there were a lot of zip lock bags with a lot of useless, unnecessary stuff, there were no aluminum numerals inside any of the bags. In fact the numerals could not be found in any of the places I typically store stuff.
Knowing the numerals would surface after I bought new ones or painted some on the wood, I elected to forge ahead and asked Sarah Sue to paint them for me. She did a good job, and I drilled small holes, holes slightly smaller than the fastening screws, into the board so the screws would not split the wood as I screwed it into place.
A few weeks went by and I was about to give up on the miraculous reappearance of the aluminum numerals, when Barbara found them right where I had left them...in a terra-cotta looking coffee mug decorated in a Southwest motif, sitting on a matching coaster in a little used corner space adjacent to the stove. Then, I realized that those things we can't find are not always the fault of others, but are sometimes the result of our own forgetfulness.
Bodock Beau Youthful Thoughts
Beau continues to age well. His health is good, and his mental faculties are sharp. He claims to feel his age whenever he attempts to do too much physical work in a short span of time. He says that most folks he knows who are still in their fifties do not think of themselves either as old or Senior Citizens. He was recently reminded of just how old persons in their fifties really are after he read the following:
Are You Feeling Old? If not, consider this: