Monday, July 23, 2012

Dept of Plumbing Affairs

Department of Plumbing Affairs, 2012

When I travel for business I usually stay in hotels that cater to frequent travelers. I’m mindful of my clients’ budgets and, unlike some consultants, don’t try to live it up too much on their dimes.

I stay in hotels that are, if not five-star resorts, at least respectable, clean and generous with the Wi-Fi. (Like many travelers, I find it ironic that the hotels that cost the most are also the places that charge extra for feeble Wi-Fi. Are you hearing this Intercontinental Hotel Dallas?) Free breakfast is nice. But many of the budget places that have free breakfasts are playing fast with their interpretations of what constitutes a meal.

I stay in these vanilla places so that when Mrs. B and I travel we can stay in something a little nicer. Sometimes it doesn’t matter; you’re going to be in the hotel such a brief amount of time that clean and safe and convenient are what you look for. But sometimes, like this recent trip to California, we were vacationing and it was also a trip in celebration of a couple of landmark birthdays.

The place we stayed in Santa Monica—the one with the “intimacy kits”—was a good example of this. Our room wasn’t exactly roomy. But it was comfortable and—this is another one of my pet peeves about hotels—had a comfortable sitting chair. The bed was very comfortable. The lighting was just right. The view from the windows was heavenly. Everything that was supposed to work worked.

It was the plumbing that got us. I should mention that the latest thing in boutique hotels seems to be bathrooms “with a view.” The one in our Santa Monica hotel had not only glass walls, but also curtains and a large window that opened between the bathroom and the bedroom. Theoretically, one using the tub—or the toilet, for that matter—could pull the curtain back, open the window and look straight out across the bedroom to the blue Pacific Ocean.

We Bonneys are a little more modest when it comes to that kind of sharing. The curtain and the window stayed closed. But living as we do at the dead end of a street and, therefore, the dead end of a city water line, we're used to the level of water pressure in our house that you might expect from the end of a long water line that passes a whole lot of houses before it reaches you. Therefore, we really appreciate a hotel with robust water pressure. 

This reminds me of the story of how when Lyndon Johnson moved into the White House after JFK’s assassination, one of the first things he did was have water pumps added in the family’s quarters so that the president’s shower would have extremely robust water pressure.

LBJ probably had a butler to run his bath. At our hotel in Santa Monica we had only our wits to rely on. And, at least at the outset, they weren’t enough.

Mrs. B. was initially impressed that there was not only exceptional water pressure, but also water issuing from three different fixtures. At first blush I thought that was pretty impressive, too. But upon further thought, I realized how incredibly wasteful that was, especially when you think of just how precious water is in the Los Angeles basin.
The answer to this profligate behavior was to simply turn off the tub and shower fixtures that were issuing water you didn’t want. This proved to be easier said than done. 

I’m neither the worlds’ smartest nor dumbest guy. But to adjust the flow of water in in this bathtub/shower, it seems you needed either be a plumbing engineer or have a frequent flyer account at Restoration Hardware.

At first, the flow and temperature of water didn’t seem to have any connection with any of the knobs and controls. You’d turn one off that seemed to control, say, the showerhead, and instead you’d loose all the hot water. You’d turn off the one that looked like it might control the cold water and the tub faucet would stop.

We did finally master the plumbing. But it took so long that I’m sure our names have already been added to a list of people who will automatically be turned away should we ever again try to make reservations as chic boutique hotel.


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