Someone once said that “common sense” is really “uncommon sense” because it seems to be in such short supply. This very well may be true. I remember attending my first Boy Scout camp and a group of older scouts convinced me to go ask the camp director for a “left-handed smoke grinder.” Needless to say, left-handed smoke grinders do not exist. Neither do right-handed ones. Ultimately, my quest led to a thirty-minute lecture from the director during which he explained that I had been duped and that I really should be more careful. He then suggested that I join some of the other young scouts on a snipe hunt later that night. Geez.
Anyway, now that COVID has become a bit less threatening, in-person conferences have returned and my travel schedule looks like it did in 2019. And while I find myself dealing with a new world of cancelled flights, understaffed hotels, and closed restaurants, it’s the situations where I encounter uncommon sense that frustrate me the most. Every time something inane happens, I think to myself, Who thought that was a good idea?
Let me illustrate.
I recently attended a conference at what might be called a “rustic” resort. I say “rustic” because it wasn’t really designed for upscale vacationing. The resort has several water parks, a dozen arcades, and a few fast food kiosks. But it doesn’t have upscale dining options or stylish rooms. From what I could tell, the goal is to get people out of their rooms and into the water parks, arcades, and fast food kiosks. However, one slight flaw in the resort’s design is that it also has a conference center. This means that business people like me stay there as well. And to be clear, we aren’t particularly interested in the water parks, arcades, or fast food.
So, as I typically do when I travel for speaking engagements, I work in my hotel room. I check emails, review proposals, write pithy blogs like the one you’re currently reading, and doze off at my desk around 1:00 p.m. just like when I’m back at my home office. At this rustic resort, however, they don’t want people to stay in their rooms, much less doze off at their desk. So, a technique they have employed to encourage their guests to engage in other activities is to furnish the rooms with a tiny rustic table and two rustic chairs that seemed to have been constructed by someone without access to professional carpentry tools.
The arms, backs, and legs of these chairs looked like tree limbs manufacture from some sort of imitation wood presumably harvested from an imitation forest. Suffice it to say, the chairs were neither ergo nor nomic (and I’m not even sure what that means). To give you a sense of the way these chairs fit my body, the back of one had a simulated knot that protruded directly into my left kidney. Luckily the back of the other chair did not hit my left kidney but instead, put pressure on a nerve in my spine that eventually led to numbness in three toes on my right foot. There was no other seating option in my room so I folded the duvet from my bed into a cushioned tower that would raise my back above the knots on the chair. After toppling off the duvet several times, I finally gave up and retreated to the lobby where I sat on a couch that was covered in what looked like moose fur. But thankfully, the couch had no knots. That being said, I did discover a few unexplained insect bites on my leg later that night and wondered if the couch had fleas.
When I retired for the evening, I wanted to plug my phone into an outlet near the bed so I could use it as my clock. As I was looking for one, I noticed that this resort, like so many hotels, still offers an overly complex clock radio that no one uses. In fact, in one hotel I stayed in last year, the alarm clock went off at 2:00 a.m. I spent an hour the next morning trying to disable it. Finally, I looked up the instructions online and one article suggested that it was easier to throw the clock away than to disable the alarm. So, I simply unplugged it. At 2:00 a.m. the next morning, the alarm went off again. Apparently, there was a backup battery installed which allowed the alarm to work should the power “somehow” be disconnected.
Even though the rustic hotel had a clock, I felt more confident using my phone. However, there was only one outlet on the entire wall behind the bed and it was located in the center of the headboard but below the mattress. I’m sure this lack of outlets violates more than one building code but it makes sense for a resort that’s trying to create a rustic Davy Crockett experience. I mean, he had no electricity either.
To plug in my phone, I had to pull the mattress back from the wall and feed the cord through a narrow opening in the headboard. Once I did that, I was able to run the cord across the box springs and anchor it over the corner of the bedside table with the hotel phone. After getting all of this situated, I was exhausted and hopped into bed. The weight of my body on the mattress yanked the phone off the table and it landed in between the mattress and the side rails. I had already set my alarm so I just left it there and went to sleep.
After a fitful night waiting for the alarm on the clock radio to go off, I got up early and took a shower. As I finished, I looked for a towel and discovered they were located on a shelf under the sink about twenty feet from the shower. I wanted to take picture, just to prove my point, but my phone was still caught in the side of the bed. I couldn’t imagine who thought it was a good idea to put the towels so far from the shower? I did consider walking out into the hallway to let my naked body “air dry,” as a form of protest, but I didn’t want to run into someone I might see at my presentation. I’ve heard it said that speakers should imagine audience members in their underwear as a way to reduce their anxiety. But I suspect that most audiences have no good reason to see their speaker naked.
After my program was over, I was relieved to leave the rustic resort and head back home where my chairs, my outlets, and my towels are exactly where they should be. I boarded the plane and soon found out that our departure time was delayed because of a mechanical problem. The pilot told us that he wanted to conserve fuel while we waited so he would not be using the air conditioner. I sat there sweating like Davy Crockett at the Alamo and decided to pass the time by watching a movie that I had downloaded to my phone. I opened the app and got an alert that I my phone only had 2% of its battery left. Apparently, the outlet on the wall behind the headboard and beneath my mattress only worked when the overhead light was on.
I couldn’t help thinking, Now, who thought that was a good idea?