I travel a lot for my work — sometimes on EFF business, sometimes on book tours, sometimes to do talks. Before I got married, I was spending 27 days a month on the road (I stopped bothering to plug in my fridge). Now it's more like one third/one half of the time.
There's plenty about life on the road that sucks, but the thing that baffles me, really baffles me, is the absolutely insane placement of light switches, taps, TV power switches and the like in hotels. Because while there's good reasons for the frustrating dimness of hotel rooms (overhead lights require ladders to change bulbs in and lock in the location of the bed, limiting reconfiguration options, so all the light has to come from a myriad of lamps), I can't think of one single fucking reason why a hotelier, outfitting 300 new rooms in a shining new tower, would opt for a weird, designer shower faucet that requires two diagrams and a phone call to reception to figure it out.
I literally can't count the number of weird-ass shower configurators I've seen. It doesn't matter if the hotel is high-end or bottom-tier, inevitably someone's decided to conduct radical UI experiments with the faucet. Now, don't get me wrong. I like weird UI as much as the next person who likes weird UI. But when I've bought something weird for my own home, it was with the expectation that, after a few awkward weeks, I'd grow accustomed to it (and even then, I often regretted it when I had to explain it to a frustrated houseguest). I'm never going to stay in your hotel long enough to figure out your stupid avant garde plumbing statement.
Not just showers. Light switches. If your hotel room is lit by between one and eight little lamps, they should have really obvious switches, obvious even to a human who has never seen them before — a human who is exhausted after a transoceanic flight, say; or who has come back from a 16 hour work day at a conference to discover that someone has "set the mood" by switching on three lights that shine directly on the pillows, but which have no obvious off-switch. These days, I just unscrew the bulbs, or, failing that, unplug them (even if I have to move the bed to do it).
It goes on. Rather than rant, I'm going to make a list.
The VIII Commandments of the Well-Labeled Inn
I. Thy lamps shall have large, obvious switches that are not obscured by the shade nor hidden on their bases, nor their power-cords.
II. Thy wall-switches shalt be labeled with the parts of the room they correspond to.
III. Never shall thine electrical outlets be controlled by light switches, lest they cause a device to go uncharged overnight.
IV. Thine faucets shall be as plain as fuck.
V. Yea, and thou shalt label them, with large, sans-serif writing, HOT and COLD, in red and blue, for an icy shower at 4AM doth enrage a traveler and lo, first degree burns art a liability for thee and thine underwriters.
VI. Thy shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer shalt be labeled in the largest type that will fit on the bottles, for travelers may not be able to find thine goddamned lightswitches, and yea, may not wear their glasses to take a shower and thus be incapable of reading the tiny curlycue type used to label the bottles.
VII. Thine housekeepers shall never leave the TV on, even if thy in-room entertainment system has a muzak channel it can be turned to.
VIII. Thy TVs shall have large, obvious, front panel off buttons.
(Image: Martin Birkin)