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A Hotel With Word Problems

For environmental and economic reasons, I’ve tried to cut my travel back this year, but every now and then, for the sake of my work, it is necessary for me to go on the road. Right now, I’m in Chicago, staying out in the nether regions around the airport.

I’m being put up this week in the Westin O’Hare, a place I’ve been to many times over the years. The repetitive nature of my stays here enables me to notice differences that take place in the hotel over time.

Today, the Westin O’Hare is showing me concrete signs of a failing economy.

Little things are missing. There is one less towel in the bathroom than there used to be. There are no pads of paper to write on, and only one pen in the room. There is no more bathrobe in the closet.

The menu, which used to be printed up very nicely, is now a crude, wrinkled computer printout, stapled together.

Corners are being cut.

There is one little thing that the Westin O’Hare is trying to do to cover for these cut corners, and that’s to create the appearance of luxury by stuffing an extra thick envelope for my room key with brainbodyfitness tips. The idea, I think, is to give me the impression that the Westin is somehow a place of retreat and recuperation, when in fact it’s just a place with a room to sleep in, like any hotel.

The brainbodyfitness cards give me advice about how to be fit. One card, designated for the evening, advises me, “At the end of every day, connect your brain to your body.”

This explains a lot. Apparently, it’s a new trend in business travel to go through the day with your brain disconnected from your body, only to have it reconnected at night, so that you can enjoy sitcoms. I haven’t been doing this. Maybe it explains why I haven’t been getting ahead.

Then, for the morning, to give the brain I’m about to disconnect a little stimulation, there’s a card with a workout entitled, renew the mind elevate the senses. It gives me a math problem to do: “Morning Warm Up: What’s the next number in this series? 4 9 16 25 ___”

One thing I have never thought of as a reason to go to a hotel is to have worksheets with elementary school math problem on them. I did not find my senses elevated by this little bit of math work, and my mind was not renewed. Sadly, it is the same old mind as ever.

What’s next? Word problems?

An economy is careening out of control, riding an out-of-control locomotive down a mile-high mountain pass with a speed that starts at 5 miles per hour and increases 5 additional miles per hour every 100 feet. How long will it take for the economy to finally hit bottom? (Bonus question: What sauce should brussels sprouts never be served with?)

Are your senses elevated yet?

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