Monday, March 20, 2006

COLUMN: Motel Hell

I have always had a love/hate relationship with technology. I enjoy the advances of the Internet Age. I like that I can hop on the net and watch the news, download a podcast, even order a pizza. But every so often, the wonders of our era turn around and bite me in the fanny. This weekend was one of those deals.

My favorite band was coming through Chicago, ergo attendance was mandatory. (The band is Of Montreal. No, that's not a typo. No, you've never heard of them before. Yes, you should go buy their new album.) Some of my friends were interested in going as well, and we got together to plan our accommodations. That was when I opened my big mouth and suggested Priceline.com.

I've used Priceline in the past and loved it. I mean, come on, William Shatner is their spokesperson, and Captain Kirk can never steer you wrong. The idea of Priceline is fantastic -- you log on, name the price you'll willing to pay for a hotel, and Priceline tries to hook you up. When hotels have extra rooms that aren't reserved, they release those rooms to Priceline and, if your price meets theirs, the room is yours.

There's just one catch. Once you've entered your price, Priceline looks for a hotel within that neighborhood. If it finds one that accepts your price, it automatically books the room -- no refunds, no chance to go "Hey, I actually don't so much want THAT hotel, thanks." You're stuck with what you get.

This explains how I got booked into Motel Hell, almost an hour from where I wanted. I'm a tactful guy, so I won't come out and name the hotel. Let's just say it starts with a "C" and rhymes with Kandlewood Suites O'Hare.

I knew it was trouble when I got the directions from Priceline. Getting to my hotel was just as easy as (these are seriously the directions): Take I-88 to I-294 N. Proceed 9.3 miles. Exit onto I-90 W. Proceed 0.18 miles. Exit onto I-190 W. Proceed 1.16 miles. Exit onto I-294 S. Proceed 1.95 miles. Exit onto IL-19 W. Proceed 0.34 miles. Exit onto US-45. Proceed 0.46 miles. Do the hokey pokey. Turn yourself around. That's what it's all about.

Instead I found the hotel on a PROPER map and, after driving through 10 miles of what I'm pretty sure was the Sopranos set (nothing but strip clubs and Italian restaurants as far as the eye could see,) I finally arrived at my hotel. Priceline mentioned the spacious rooms, the kitchenettes, and the satellite television.

What they failed to mention was that the hotel was conveniently located on the edge of one of O'Hare's busiest runways. Yes, there's nothing like the tailwind of a departing 727 every 3.5 minutes to gently lull you to sleep. Still, I was positive. "It's like a free massage," I said to myself. The satellite TV was fantastic -- except when the signal got blocked by the 727's. "And I say to you all that the murderer is none other than ROOOOOOOOOOOOAAR! Further, you'll be surprised to learn that ROOOOOOOOOOOOOAR is really a man!"

My first order of business was shutting off the TV and testing out the bathroom facilities. Now, we're a family newspaper, and besides, you guys don't want the grisly details. Let's just say that toilets have a function, and I was happy to oblige mine. That is, until I flushed. That's when the toilet made a sound like "blorp" and I found myself racing to the water shutoff switch. Final score: The Mighty Gastroinestinal System of Shane - 1, Toilets of the Free World - 0.

After finding no plunger, I called to the front desk.

"Err, it appears that my toilet is clogged. Can I get a plumber's helper sent up to my room?"

"QUE?" came the reply.

"Umm, I need a plunger. The toilet's stopped up."

"QUE? HABLA ESPANOL?"

Faaaantastic. To each their own culture, but the only Espanol I happen to habla is the Taco Bell menu, and other than the word "grande!," that wasn't very helpful. So I had to wait until the next morning, when I called the front desk and was told they'd send someone straight up. Which they didn't. Same thing happened that night.

Ergo, by the time I had to leave Motel Hell, my bathroom was approaching biohazard status. I just hope the maid had a good sense of humor when she read my note: "Sorry - toilet clogged! Not my fault! Well, kinda my fault! But I called! Three times!"

The concert, by the way, was great. Plus, I got to see them dye the Chicago River green for St. Pat's festivities, and I ended up coming home with my body weight in new CD's, so all in all it was a good time. But until Priceline allows you to specify toilet pressure and preferred-distance-from-overhead-landing-gear, I'm going to be doing my future vacation planning with the computer OFF, thanks.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I'm sorry to hear about your motel horror story. I only know of one other person who has used Priceline and he's never had a bad thing to say about it.

Are you going to watch that show "How William Shatner Changed the World" that supposed to be on Discovery or TLC (or whichever of the zillion channels out there)? It ought to be fun to watch him poke fun at himself.