The first time I visited Paris was my first real trip abroad unchaperoned and fully in control of my own destiny. That journey helped start me on the path to who I am today. I have a lot of great memories of that trip. Now I’m back for a few days and I’ll try to find out what’s changed – both here and within myself – and rediscover my younger self in the process. This is part of a series of my reminiscences of Paris.
It’s December 31st, 1999 and a 22-year-old me stands in the Paris night watching the millennium count down on the Eiffel Tower. The crowd, standing together tightly enough that most are sweating despite the chill, bubbles in anticipation like champagne when shaken. It hits 0…the year 2000 has dawned. The cork holding the crowd is released and a hundred thousand bodies jump, dance, scream, throw up their hands and complete the metaphor. A new year…century…millennium has dawned; a thousand years has ticked off the clock in a second.
I learned something today from AOL. I had to read that sentence a couple of times before I believed it myself. But it’s true! They’ve got an article on how to spot fake hotel reviews and it’s worth a look. Many of these are something that you look for anyway, but some aren’t obvious. After reading this I have a better sense of what I usually do when I spot a review and say “This looks like an ad.”
It was an odd feeling putting my socks in their drawer. I unpacked my bag and washed my clothes as usual. But instead of packing them back up, I folded them and put them in drawers. It was a solemn end to a long trip.
I haven’t put socks into a drawer in almost two years. I’ve traveled just about every week for the last 23 months. When I wasn’t traveling I was taking short trips or was parked in some foreign place. Although my house has remained in Atlanta over that time period, I have considered the “Away” my real home.
I initially passed on this new job because of the pains of staying in one place. Traffic. Living expenses. Ironing. Neighbors. Permanence. Stagnation. Complacency. It was many of the things I wanted to do next in my career. But…the same views of the same things and the same people in the same places…these things bothered me.
I wrestled with the idea of the job. I struggled with the idea of not traveling. I dreamed about the idea of taking my knowledge and creating bigger things. I came to the conclusion that it was time to either move on or move out.
It’s not that I couldn’t move up in the same path, but I decided to move on to this new position because consulting was beginning to show its own pains. Travel. Expense Reports. Ironing. Businessmen. Change became permanence, my personal life was stagnating and I was becoming complacent anyway. The consulting lifestyle still had a great attraction. But…the same views of the same things and the same people in the same places…these things bothered me.
So now I have an office. I have an office. A singular place in which to work. I’m moving back to Atlanta from Away. For good and for bad.
Welcome to Ireland. I landed on Sunday, last week. I got bumped out of coach and into business class so I had a great seat for sleeping. So I did just the opposite, of course, reading, eating and watching movies. I did manage to catch an hour or so but that wasn’t really enough and I slogged through the day tired.
First order of business when I landed was getting my rental car – no good public transit where I was headed. So I spent about 10 minutes trying to find the doorlock before I realized it, and the driver’s door, was on the wrong side. Oh yeah now I remember. They drive on the wrong side here, too. Right, now I’ve got that sorted.
Next stop was a shopping center to pick up a suit. My dry cleaner apparently went out of business and took my clean suit with him. Note to self, keep an extra suit clean for cases like these. The exchange rate is much better than my last trip here but it’s still not great. I found a good suit that looks great on me (if I do say so myself) but I paid a lot more than I wanted to. Ouch. Damn dry cleaner better not steal this one.
Next stop, the Amber Springs Hotel and Spa, in Gorey. Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s a hole. The Internets didn’t work in the first room I had but it does in the one from which I’m writing you. None of the rooms’ doors seem to close fully unless you pull them shut. I thought it was odd that the hallway smelled like mildew until I saw the large dark patch on the carpet indicating a leak from behind a wall. It’s been there all week so I assume it’s been there longer than that. It’s probably the hot water from my shower, as that seems to be missing. But being a spa, they at least help you get in shape. The elevators don’t work. I give it a half-star – the lone highlight being the sausage in the breakfast buffet.
It’s been beautiful and sunny here all week, but it started raining just in time for the weekend. Ah, lovely Irish weather. I’m heading to the west this weekend, out to Galway or Limerick or something. I’ve got a car I figure I might as well use it. Alright, off to dinner and a Guinness.
I do a whole lot of traveling around and it means that I generate a lot of extra waste that I wouldn’t if I had a local job (unless I drove 45+ minutes a day to work). The bulk of this comes from flying and staying in hotels. There’s not a lot I can do about the flying part, but here’s what I’ve been doing to try to cut down on the amount of waste I’m producing by staying in hotels:
1. No Service. Put the little card on your door that says you don’t want to have anybody come in and clean. You can reiterate this at the front desk and ask that they don’t deliver the newspaper or leave clean towels at your door. I usually don’t have time to read the paper and I’ve always got towels and things that are clean.
2. Only Use One Can. I usually just use the trash can in the bathroom. This can save some bags, important if you don’t want to use the rule above. Or maybe I’m just being too cheap. I’m not sure.
3. Turn Off The Thermostat. Most of the time I find that I can safely turn off the A/C or heater in the room. The area next to you is going to be thermoregulated (you like the word I made up?) on at least three and usually five of your six sides. I don’t typically have a problem unless I’m in Florida. Usually in the winter and/or in the cold areas this isn’t even an issue. Everybody is blasting their heater and you get the benefit. Not that it costs you anything but still….
4. Use Your Own Soap. Those little bitty bottles are great if you want to feel like a giant, but it creates a lot of waste if you’re constantly using only a couple of days’ worth of shampoo and conditioner and soap. I usually get the mini bottles at the drug store and then refill them when they get close to empty. Also, different soaps and shampoos use different ingredients to clean you. Some will pull more or less or just different oils off of you and leave traces of different things on you. I have found that my hair and skin don’t get nearly as dried out when I stick to the same brand.
If you run a hotel or if you just want to make suggestions to someone who does, here are a couple of things that really bug me:
1. Energy Efficient Lighting. Begin using energy efficient bulbs the next time you have to replace one. It’s cheaper that way than doing them all at once and will probably save you money within a year. And inside of two years you’ll probably see a difference just in the cost of light bulbs.
2. Follow The Rules. Make sure your housekeepers are sticking to the “floor=change rack=leave” policy. Some hotels say they do but they don’t. Also, don’t replace the bath mat. It’s on the floor because it’s supposed to be.
3. Don’t Half-Ass It. I’ve been in several hotels where they claim to care about the environment but all the things they mention are things they want the guests to do, while not contributing themselves. Or they contradict themselves. For example, they ask me to conserve water and power. But they have incandescent bulbs and run the TV when nobody’s watching it. Or maybe they’ve got a nice water fountain out front of the hotel in a place where there’s year-round 80 degree days with 5 percent humidity. That makes the guests not care.