When we went on a trip last week, my wife surprised me by booking us into a Bed and Breakfast, rather than an ordinary hotel. The owners were a friendly family, the room was tastefully decorated, and the grounds were picturesque. We had real maple syrup with our French toast at breakfast. In other words, I hated the place and couldn't wait to leave.
I know it's not hip or "in" to say this — and you can call me an uncultured boor with no taste or class — but I would rather stay in a cookie-cutter, charmless chain hotel than in an "adorable" B&B.
I've never understood their appeal. Why would I want to stay at some stranger's house so I could have the privilege of eating breakfast with other strangers? I like to meet people, but I like to meet them when I'm standing up, not at the breakfast table. And at that breakfast table, you don't get a menu or a choice of items. They place food in front of you, and they expect you to eat it. Of course, nobody forces you to eat whatever they give you, but if you don't like it, you feel just as uncomfortable as you would at your Aunt Shirley's house. So, you're given food that you may or may not want to eat with people you may or may not like. Does that sound like a vacation to you?
At a B&B, if the dresser drawer happens to be broken — as it was in our room — they just stick it back in the dresser, and you're supposed to consider it "charming." You'd think a creaky Bed and Breakfast would at least be a bargain. Think again. It was more than twice as much as the uninteresting, but comfortable, hotel we stayed in the night before.
At a hotel, you don't have to choose between hot or cold water. You can actually get a combination, something called "warm." I also like having that store in the hotel lobby, even though it outrageously sells two aspirins for 75 cents and a mug with a monkey's face for 19 bucks. It's nice having an ice machine down the hall. I like those incredibly crisp hotel sheets and the little light on the phone that tells me if I have any messages. I even like the little bar of soap that only takes me five or 10 minutes to unwrap.
Am I such a bad person because I enjoy having a newspaper waiting outside my door in the morning instead of the owner's cat? I like a place with room service, even if I don't end up using it. And of course, there's the Biggest Perk of All — you can have as many fluffy, white towels as you want. You'd never think of disturbing the owners of a Bed and Breakfast to ask for more towels. They might be sleeping or trying to calm that cute, screaming baby.
I don't care about being in a room where George Washington or Jackie Onassis slept. I just want to sleep in one that's clean and gets HBO.
So, what is it about Bed and Breakfasts that some people like so much? They must enjoy them because they're homey. The thing is, if I want homey, I can stay at home. When I go on a trip, I want hotel-y. I want something different from my home when I'm away from home. So, there's only one logical conclusion I can draw about those who consider it a special treat to stay in an old house when they travel: When they're not traveling, they must live in hotels.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
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