I've long had a theory that people who design and operate hotels and motels never actually stay in them.

Over the decades of my working career, I've spent hundreds of nights in hotel/motel rooms on most of the world's continents and in every state in the U.S. (except North Dakota, which I've never had occasion to visit and therefore am not really sure even exists, although at a Las Vegas show once, I shared a table with a guy who claimed to live in a North Dakota river valley where the winters were “relatively mild” — this after he'd made a pretty good dent in a bottle of champagne, and hey, I'd seen the movie “Fargo” with all that snow and ice).

The hotels/motels have ranged from mom-and-pop backwoods cabins with the barest of essentials to palatial resorts in breathtakingly beautiful settings that cost more per night than I once earned in a week, with service that ran the gamut from absolutely first class to execrable (one quickly learns that a higher rate does not necessarily insure a higher quality room or better service).

Among observations from all those “guest” nights away from home, no matter how fancy or plain the place:

  • One or more of the pictures on the wall will be hanging grossly crooked. Further, it will be nailed or bolted in that position (yeah, like anyone's eager to filch a painting of bulldogs playing poker or yet another starving artist painting of Venice).

  • At least one of the lamps will (a) have a burned-out bulb, or (b) will not be plugged into the wall socket, which usually will be in some unreachable spot behind the bed, or (c) will have a bulb with the wattage equivalent of two fireflies, making reading an impossibility.

  • The bedside clock radio will, in nine cases out of 10, be set to alarm at 3 a.m., at full volume, on the most grating music station on the dial.

  • The TP will be industrial grade.

  • The rack holding towels/washcloths will be centered directly over the john. It is a given that one or more of said towels/washcloths will be inadvertently knocked into the john.

  • The desk, if there is one, will be positioned (1) where the air conditioner will be blowing directly on you and (2) in order to have plug-ins for laptop and cell phone charger it will be necessary to unplug a lamp and/or the TV.

At a hotel in a major city recently, after several problems with balky air-conditioning, I was moved to a room so large one could have held a square dance. It was elaborately appointed. A fireplace. A wet bar. Lamps/drapes/TV electrically controlled with bedside switches. A very nice room. But the ever-so-elegant French provincial writing desk was barely big enough for my laptop computer and it was so low and the chair seat so high I couldn't get my legs under the desk and had to sit sideways to type.

Even a North Dakota Motel 6 desk would likely have been better (if indeed there really is a North Dakota).