The older I get, the simpler I get. OK, that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean.
You see, I don’t appreciate unnecessary complexity since life is complex enough even when things are going well.
For instance, when I travel, I use my phone as an alarm clock because the hotel alarm clocks have become too complicated. Now, they play music, they offer several different alarm sounds and I think you can order room service with them. But you can’t reset the actual clock because it’s automatically linked to a satellite that downloads the time from a small town in Europe where the clocks are apparently ten minutes behind. It’s very frustrating.
Remember the days when you turned the alarm “hand” to your preferred wake-up time and then pulled out the little button? Today, if I want to set my hotel alarm clock, I have to watch a YouTube video on how to work that particular model and then test it several times afterwards to make sure I did it correctly. But even that doesn’t guarantee success. More than once, my hotel alarm has gone off at 2:00 a.m. because the previous guest had set Alarm B — and I didn’t even know that there was an Alarm B.
Recently, I was booked to speak at an exclusive resort. I do enjoy the accommodations of a nice hotel but to be brutally honest, it’s not necessarily simpler.
When I drove up to the registration area, I asked about self parking. The valet told me that the self parking lot was full and I’d have to use valet parking for $33 per night. You’d think having someone park your car would be a nice benefit but if you’ve ever stayed at a hotel and needed to leave the property a couple of times each day, you know that it makes things more complicated. You have to wait in the valet line until it’s your turn, then wait for the valet dude to retrieve your car. Then, he will expect a tip and after 2-3 retrievals throughout the day, you’ve paid more in tips that you did to have your car parked in the first place. So, I parked my car in the self-parking lot, which was not full, and walked the two miles to my room. Turns out a synonym for “self park”, is “nowhere near the hotel.”
When I got to the room, my bed was covered with resort stuff. In fact, I had to unpack the bed before I could unpack my suitcase. There was a resort bathrobe, a room service menu, a lap table, a note from the housekeeping staff reminding me that they were there to help (and to receive tips, by the way), an ice bucket overflowing with ice and 37 pillows. For the record, I’m quite comfortable with just one, or sometimes two, pillows. I don’t really need 37 but it did occur to me that I could have used a valet to park all the other pillows somewhere else.
As I cleared the bed, I considered lounging in the bathrobe while sipping on a cold beverage using the pile of ice cubes at my disposal, but all I really wanted to do was to sit at the desk and check my email. However, I couldn’t figure out how to adjust the chair. It was a high-end ergonomic device with several levers that could put you in any variety of uncomfortable, but chiropractically aligned, positions. Every time I pulled a lever, I sank to the floor and then had to crank myself up again. Ultimately, I resigned myself to checking email with my chin resting on the desk. It was more like an irked-onomic experience.
Luckily, all of these hotel amenities were included in the $50 daily “Resort Fee” so I didn’t have to worry about paying extra for them. Wait a minute.
This entire travel experience made me wonder what it means to be content. Is contentment about all the stuff around us or is it really about the simpler things?
At this same resort, I met a man in the coffee shop who was there on vacation. His wife had died two years earlier and he was determined to continue living even though he dearly missed her. During our conversation, he explained that after his wife died, he made a commitment to find one thing to smile about every day. Even though it has been difficult on some days, he found that it always made him feel better when he smiled. He was a delightful person and our fifteen-minute conversation was one of the richer moments of my trip.
The next day, I met a friend for lunch. He took me to an “iconic” local restaurant hidden in a block of shops near a somewhat less-than-flashy part of town. You wouldn’t have noticed the place if you hadn’t known it was there. However, they served the best fish sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Plus, they did this at a reasonable price and without any additional resort fees. The servers were quite pleasant and appreciative of our business. Between the food, the gracious staff and the wonderful conversation, my lunch experience was fantastic.
I’ve found that some of life’s greatest pleasures are not found in the complexities of a plush resort. Instead, they are often hidden in the simpler experiences of a nice conversation, the warm smile from a friend, or a perfectly cooked fish sandwich.
Maybe I’m getting simpler as I get older. But that’s OK because simple does not necessarily mean less. It fact, simple can be quite grand.