Friday, November 19, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

I stay in hotels frequently because I have to go on site to spend time with my company's clients, who are distributed all around the country. I'll stay in the occasional hotel for private travel as well, although I'm mostly too cheap to spring for a hotel when I'm paying for it out of my own pocket and prefer instead to have the family scrounge up a few scraps of cardboard that we can lie on under a bridge. After many years of staying in places that ranged from crappy to really nice and everywhere in between, I think I've seen pretty much everything there is to see in terms of hotel amenities.

One thing about most of the hotel rooms I stay in: they always have a lot of towels. Way more than I know what to do with. And in the last couple of years I've observed an innovation in how they present all those towels. It used to be that when I went into the bathroom in my room, there'd be a couple of hand towels and a washcloth or two hanging over the towel rack by the sink. Nowadays the hand towels are usually folded so that there's a little pocket at the bottom of the half of the towel that hangs over the front of the towel bar, and the washcloth has been arranged to stick out of this pocket in a sort of scallop pattern. This is one of the little things that I, as a business traveler, really appreciate. Damn it, if I can't be at home with my family, then I at least want a bathroom full of nicely arranged towels.

Cotton Splendor
Occasionally, one of the hotels I stay in will have a white terrycloth bathrobe in addition to all the towels. I'm never quite sure what to do with this; if I had wanted a bathrobe, I would have brought one along with me, and when I'm in my room alone, I'm not sure why I even need one. It's not like I need to spare anyone from the sight of my unclothed self. Besides, I'm an average-sized guy, but whenever I've tried on one of those hotel room bathrobes, it's always been hilariously small on me. Maybe they're only meant for the ladies.

There aren't always enough towels in the room, though. The most extreme example I experienced was some years ago when my family and I stayed in a Formule I hotel on the outskirts of Paris, France while driving long distance across France and Germany. This particular hotel chain caters to long-distance travelers on the Autoroute who just need a cheap place to stop over for the night on their way to somewhere or other, sort of like a French Motel 6. Except that F1 hotels not only all look alike in the way that all Motel 6's (and other chains) do, they look like they were actually produced as part of the same batch in some kind of hotel factory.

Living in a Box
This factory-like atmosphere is reflected on the inside as well. The rooms have an ultra-compact, spartan design. About the only thing that isn't bolted down is a chair and a couple of mattresses. The (tiny) bathroom of the one I stayed in looked like it was molded out of a single piece of plastic; maybe that's so the staff can just hose the whole thing down after you leave (I don't recall whether there was a drain in the floor). And it had all of two towels for our family of four.

This is the Life!
The towels were not that great, either. You know that one old towel in the back of the closet that you took with you when you moved out of your parents' house twenty years ago? The one that's so worn through that it's almost transparent in the middle? The one that's barely big enough to be even considered a bath towel? The one that you're only hanging onto because you don't want to use your other towels to wipe the mud off the dog's feet before you let him in the house on a rainy day? Well, that towel's a lot nicer than the ones in our F1 room were. But crappy as they were, a couple more would have been useful, so I went to ask for them at the front desk.

Welcome, Weary Traveler
The front desk folks were cheerful enough, but found my request for an additional one or two towels completely unfathomable. I tried to explain in my fairly limited French that if the room is meant to accommodate more than two guests, it would stand to reason that it would be possible to obtain more than the default set of two towels per room. Mais non, mon ami! This is not the F1 way. Towels are a valuable and limited resource and not to be handed out to any joker who comes begging for one. One room, two towels, how could it possibly be any other way? It's not so much that they were arguing from a standpoint of policy, as nearly as I could tell, it was more like they were just perplexed by the request. After a few minutes of trying to pursue this fruitless discussion with my somewhat rudimentary language skills, I remembered that we had a couple of towels in the car, since we were at the time returning home from a rented guest house to which we were required to bring our own bedding and towels, so I didn't pursue it any further. But I think this is the only hotel I've ever been in that was so stingy with something as basic as towels.

So, returning to the present, what a relief to be in a hotel in the Land of the Free, where the streets are paved with towels. Freedom Towels, I shall call them. But behold: towel arranging technology continues its inexorable advance. When I came to my room after checking in, the towels were arranged as shown in the very first photo above. By the time I left my room the next morning, they were no longer arranged so nicely. But when I returned to my room that evening, what did I find in my bathroom? Why, it's a cute little towel elephant!

The Little Cotton Elephant in the Room
I hadn't seen this before. The elephant has been there to greet me every evening this week. I feel truly pampered!

I wondered whether there is more of this kind of hotel towel origami to be found. So I did a Google search on "hotel towel origami". Wow! I had no idea that this was such a widely practiced art form. The possibilities seem endless! I can't wait to show that to My Favorite Wife and tell her that this is how I always want the towels at home folded from now on. I bet she'll be thrilled!


  1. Truly LOL-worthy. Say, how do you get those nice borders and captions on your pictures? Is that something Blogger offers?

  2. I have no idea how that happens... I'm just using the standard features without thinking a whole lot about it.

  3. I looked into the insertion of pictures in a little more depth and noticed the "add caption" feature. I wonder how long that's been there. It certainly would have made my job easier, because trying to insert a caption as part of the text of the post gets a little wonky sometimes. Boy, do I feel silly.