Over the years when we’ve traveled, we’ve stayed in a variety of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and quaint inns. Most of them were adequate, comfortable, relatively clean places that filled the bill quite nicely and left us with pleasant memories. Others were also memorable, but for entirely different reasons.

We arrived late one night at a hotel where we had reserved a room, only to find that the room was on the third floor, and there was NO ELEVATOR. I explained that we wouldn’t be able to drag our suitcases up three flights of stairs and asked if they had a room with easier access. The desk clerk said that they were completely booked, as were most of the hotels in the area, because of the big Tattoo Convention that was going on that weekend. Well, that was an interesting bit of news.

Oh, but wait! It was our lucky night because the manager came and told us that one room on the first floor had just been vacated and we could have that one. By then it was almost midnight so we drove around the parking lot to the room which was in the back of the building. On the way, we noticed colorfully painted cars and vans and even an ancient Volkswagen bus that had been very creatively tattooed, probably much like their owner.

We were so tired that, in spite of the previous tenant’s garbage still in the wastebasket, black streaks visible under the rim of the toilet, and a carpet that made me decide to put my shoes on for overnight trips to the bathroom instead of contaminating my bedroom slippers, we actually had a pretty good night’s sleep. Of course that was after I carefully pulled the bedspread off the bed with two fingers and checked for critters.

We enjoyed a wonderful shower in the morning, even if I did put a towel down to stand on just in case the shower floor was as dirty as the rest of the room! But a teensy problem occurred when I tried to dry my hair. There was a hairdryer on the wall, but no matter how I fiddled with it and the GFI outlets, I couldn’t get it to work. In the meantime, my hair was in the critical styling stage and I was regretting the day I decided I didn’t need to pack my own hairdryer anymore because most hotels furnished them. I called the front desk and explained my dilemma.

The maintenance man went into the bathroom and tried the same things I had tried, then said he’d have to go “borrow” a hairdryer from another room, so it could take a while. In the light of day, I could see that the room was even dirtier than it appeared the night before and I just got the willies and wanted to pack up and move on. After I used the pilfered hairdryer, we finally loaded the car and went to the office to check out. There we saw a man who had more than a dozen microdermal pierced earrings decorating the top of his bald head in neat rows, and his entire upper body was covered with tattoos. Like I said, it was a memorable stay!

I did a bit of research after this experience and found that several studies have been done regarding the levels of cleanliness of rooms in some of the major hotel chains. In fairness to those hard-working people whose job it is to clean a number rooms in a short amount of time, I have to say I can understand why sometimes they have to cut corners just to be able to finish before check-in time for new guests.

The findings were surprising in that the places with the most germs weren’t necessarily in the bathroom, where you might expect, but on the TV remote, light switches, ice bucket, telephone, cups and glasses, and even the room key cards. High levels of E Coli and other bacteria were found, indicating that fecal material was present. Eewww! It appears that these items are not disinfected at all, or maybe rarely. Coffee makers, air conditioners and Jacuzzi tubs can all harbor molds if not deep cleaned regularly.

And about that bedspread or comforter? Keep in mind that the researchers found that they are only cleaned two to four times a YEAR! On my next trip, you can bet that I’ll pack disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, and maybe a blanket in addition to my hairdryer!

Another memorable stay occurred when I was in Ireland a few years ago. I was at an elegant hotel that was close to the airport where I had an early departure in the morning. I entered my room, but couldn’t get any of the light switches to work. I called the front desk to ask what the problem was. After the clerk had to repeat his response several times, I finally understood that there was a gizmo that I hadn’t even noticed on the wall, and I had to insert my room key in it to activate the light switches.

Now that I had lights, I went into the bathroom to take a shower, but couldn’t find any washcloths. I hated to do it, but I had to call old Shawn Patrick O’Malley, or whoever he was, at the front desk again and try to explain what I needed. What I eventually found out was that hotels in Ireland don’t give you any washcloths. I never did figure out the reasoning behind that, but I managed to use a large hand towel, even though it was a bit harder to wring out.

Staying in a room in the turret of a gorgeous mansion was certainly another unique experience. It included breakfast in a crystal chandelier-lit dining room having an antique table adorned with fresh flowers and sumptuous upholstered chairs for our comfort. We met some of the other guests and enjoyed a selection of unusual breakfast items. I remember the poached pears in particular that we both liked, and we felt truly pampered during that stay!

In a neighboring state, we had another unusual time in a cylindrical building that used to be a grain elevator owned by the Quaker Oats Company. Our room was indeed round, and there were pictures explaining the history of the building. The smiling guy from the oatmeal box was everywhere and we loved our time there too!

We’ve stayed in a variety of places over the years, and are still looking forward to finding even more, in spite of knowing about all the germs that could be lurking just about anywhere. Who knows? Maybe being exposed to germs could actually make us tougher, but I’d like to avoid the norovirus or the flu or even a bad cold if possible!

Maybe Gary’s Aunt Mae wasn’t just being a bit eccentric by bringing her own sheets, blankets, pillowcase, towels and Clorox when she had to stay in a hotel. Maybe she had the right idea after all!

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