TRYING TIMES FOR TRAVELERS – Marilyn Armstrong

We almost never travel these days. The last time we stayed in a hotel was when we went to a wedding in Boston. We made the pricey decision to stay overnight in a nice hotel, or at least the nicest hotel we could manage. That way, we could enjoy the wedding without worrying about the long, dark drive home late at night.

I made the reservation about six weeks in advance, just after getting the invitation. A few days before the event, I got a bunch of emails from the hotel’s parent chain. I assumed that amidst all this communication there would be a reservation confirmation. I had already given them a credit card, so there was no reason why there should be any kind of problem.

aloft hotel aerialshot

There was no confirmation or even a reference to our having made a reservation. Nor was there any information about the hotel and its facilities. Instead, when I opened the email, it told me to log-in to their “club.”

You know how it works, right? Your airline, hotel, rental car are part of a much larger corporation that includes other hotels, motels, and rentals. They want to parlay your one-night reservation into a long-term relationship. Not likely, in our case, but I understand it’s their job to generate business. I don’t mind all the rest of the stuff, but where was the information I needed?

The problem was that this login screen required a username and password. I had neither. The email also lacked a few basics. Like the hotel’s address, phone number, directions, and information about parking. All of that information was probably accessible in their application. Which I couldn’t access.

They did include a corporate phone number. No address or reservation number. No confirmation number. I sighed that huge heaving sigh I use when I know I’m going to spend the next several hours dealing with customer service.

aloft lobby

I called the corporate office. They couldn’t help me. Nor could they transfer me to the hotel, but they found the hotel’s phone number. I called the hotel. After being put on hold for far too long, a man got on the phone. I explained the problem and he said, “Sorry, I’ll send you a confirmation now.”

The email turned out to be a full 6 web pages. In full color with animated graphics.

My printer has never in its life refused a direct order, but in the face of this massive overload of data, it would not load. It tried. Gamely kept trying. Eventually, it locked up my computer and refused to print.

I called back. “Can’t you just send me a plain text confirmation? And this time, please include the hotel’s actual address, phone number, and whatever other information I will need during check-in.”

So he sent me another email. Still no address, email, or telephone number.

I called again. “Uh … an address … and the check-in, check-out times … and your phone number … would be really helpful.” I paused, pondered. “What’s the parking situation? Are you walking distance from the Sheraton?” This hotel was part of the Sheraton group, so I had a feeble hope that they were near one another.

It turned out parking was $40 per night and was several blocks away. In a lot that was not adjacent to their hotel. Moreover, the Sheraton was on the other side of Boston, so we’ll definitely need a taxi. I was getting a headache. Why was this so complicated?

“I’m disabled,” I said. I really hate having to explain, but if we have to haul our stuff blocks from car to hotel, there’s no point in staying overnight. Goodbye convenience. Hello, expensive and inconvenient.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, we have disabled parking at the hotel. You could park there. That would be a lot less walking.”

“Can you promise me there will be a space in the disabled parking area?” I’ve had problems with this before, where they have two disabled spots and both are taken.

“Oh,” he assured me. “There’ll be space.” I’m wondering how come he’s sure because I’m not.

aloft guest room

Eventually, I copied and pasted the plain text email into a document, manually typed the address and phone number, then printed it. Supposedly, they’ll save a handicapped space for us. Maybe put an orange cone in the space. All of this adds up to why the joy has fled from traveling. A night in a good hotel should be fun. Easy. Why make it so complicated?

It was a nice hotel, though it had no dining facilities, not even a coffee shop. The only food you could get was from vending machines. Still, the room was clean and bright and the bed was comfortable. It was a tiny room without a dresser or closet. Just a bar with a couple of hangers. Clearly not a place you’d want to stay more than a night. It was the airline seat of hotel rooms. Rather like the least expensive room on a cruise ship when you won’t pay extra for a bigger room.

I’m old enough to remember when travel was something to which we looked forward. I would call a hotel or motel, made a reservation, then off we went. Sometimes we didn’t even make reservations but stayed wherever we happened to be. I fondly remember the good old days when a reservation involved one phone call, not half a day trying to get basic information and confirmation. Isn’t computerization supposed to make our lives easier?

Ironically, when I later googled the hotel, my reservation came up online with a note that only I could see displaying my reservation. Why didn’t I think of that? How did the information get into Google when I couldn’t get it on my computer?

SAD MOMENT OF THE DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m making dinner for the dogs. Usually, they all swirl around my feet. This time, Duke was sitting quietly watching me … and Bonnie was waiting at the top of the stairs for Gibbs to come in for dinner.

And there was nothing at all I could say to her except “I’m sorry, Bonnie, but he won’t be coming home again.”

GIBBS IS GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

Today, sometime around the middle of the afternoon, Gibbs died.

He was having what seemed a normal day. Up in the morning, begging for treats. Barking like crazy at anyone going up or down the stairs. Then, he went to sleep on the sofa.

We were going to a concert and friends were coming over for dinner and coming with us, so I was just getting ready to get dressed for the event. Garry went in to feed the dogs. Gibbs didn’t show up for dinner, so he came in here to shake Gibbs awake, which we often have to do because he was had become a very heavy sleeper, something  I attributed to aging.

Gibbs

Garry shook him, but he didn’t wake up. He shook him again. Gibbs normally woke as soon as you touched him. I had that instantly bad feeling you get when something is very wrong. I went over. His eyes were open and were unresponsive. He was warm and his nose was cool and moist, but he was not breathing.

Gibbs

He had died on the sofa in his sleep sometime between mid-morning snack time and four in the afternoon.

We had him for 3 years and 11 months. He was just about to turn 13 in April. He arrived on my birthday, nearly four years ago. He never seemed as old as Bonnie. I  always assumed he would outlive her.

I hope we gave him a good home. We had him at the vet just four days ago for his 3-year rabies shot and while we were worried about those enlarged glands in his neck, he was on antibiotics in the hopes it was merely an infection.

The vet said it had to have been some kind of cardiac event, possibly a slow-growing tumor — the kind you never know about because there’s no prelude, no warnings. We’ll never know for sure.

On the way back tonight, I almost went to look in the shed to see if, by some miracle, he had woken up. But I knew better so I didn’t.

I’ve had many dogs over the years, but I’ve never had one simply die in his or her sleep like that. I’m a bit in shock right now and of course, we have to take him to the vet for cremation tomorrow. I would have liked to bury him here, but we live on rocks and without a backhoe, we could not dig deep enough to bury him properly.

He didn’t make a sound while he died and I was sitting just a few feet away. He must have been asleep. Owen points out that he died on his favorite sofa without that terrible, prolonged illness that is typical of old animals. I hope we gave him a good home. At least for these last years, he was free to come and go and get some of the love he never got when he was young.

Rest in peace, Gibbs. You were a beautiful boy.