(I’m at the School of the Arts this week, so this post is a prewrite. I’ll be back next week, hopefully burgeoning with new knowledge and renewed zeal.)
I was doing some internet research on a hotel this morning when something caught my eye. The reviews were all over the place, some almost gushing, while others were viciously scathing. Here are a couple gushers from Trip Advisor that caught my eye:
"I've stayed at the **** in the past and then again recently with my family, and I must say I love it. This hotel has so much character, and provides a one of a kind experience. …The rooms have a rustic atmosphere and a charming country feel. The location is stunningly beautiful..."
Wow. And how about the next one:
"The ***** is quirky. The ***** is unique. If you want a place where everything is spotless and new, don't come. If you want an experience you will never forget, try the *****. I have stayed there at least 5 times and each was fantastic… "
I don’t know about you, but I love quirky and unique. So imagine my surprise when I found this on Yahoo Travel:
"Disgusting, Dirty, Disrepair, Rude Should have known something was wrong when I received rude service when I booked the room. It got worse from there. Lobby/hallways freezing, you had to wear your coat. "Shotgun" suite dark,in disrepair and had a 300 gallon concave tank tub with no way in or out, very unsafe. decided on the "Float" Fantsy Suite. Tub,heart shaped, dirty and cracked. The boat that encompassed the bed was dusty and dirty, light fixture was rusted. The heater didn't work our own blankets only warmth all night. Whirlpool had disgusting stuff floating on top, bathroom dirty. Told girl next morning she didn't care. Beware!!! "
Or what about this dismal report:
My husband and I stayed at the ***** just last weekend-it was so not what we had hoped for. We stayed in one of the Fanta Suite rooms(very creative) and were realy let down with the whole experience. The exercise room has broken parts on their equipment(still lying on the floor) ,the game room was equally blessed with all broken equipment. The underground tunnel attaching the hotel to their restaurant is poorly lit(broken light bulbs) smelled like sewer (as did the fanta suite rooms off that floor-our room being one of them ) the tunnel also had green mold growing off a good percentage of the walls. The customer service was equaly poor-apon checking in the attendants couldn't give us the respect to stand up and come over to the counter until we'd stood there for at least 10 minutes(they were too busy gossiping) We checked out of the hotel before it had even gotten dark. "
I’m still shaking my head. These people are talking about the same place, right? For a minute, I had a hard time understanding how people at the same hotel could have such diametrically opposed experiences.
Then I remembered. Perception. It’s the same reason five people at a crime scene can offer five completely different accounts of what happened. And it’s what makes a story sing or sink. Point of view and all the mysteries of the human psyche it encompasses. Motivation. Background. Psychology. Shakespeare put it beautifully (doesn’t he always?) in Hamlet: “…for there is nothing good nor bad but thinking makes it so.”
In this scene (Act II, Scene ii), Hamlet is expressing his frustration over being trapped in Denmark with all its miseries--the loss of his father, being haunted by his father’s ghost, being forced to see his mother marry his uncle, who he knows to be his father’s murderer. To Hamlet, Denmark is a wretched prison, even though he acknowledges it is not one for others.
This reminded me of a trip my husband and I took to Jamaica a few years back. We knew some other people staying at the property and, to hear us talk, you’d think we were staying at two different resorts. My husband and I thought our room was clean and comfortable if a tad spartan, the activities varied and entertaining, and the food tasty and plentiful. That’s how we look at life. We’re good sports. We believe it’s up to us to make life fun. And we think of our glass as half full.
Our acquaintances, however, were miserable. The room wasn’t to their liking, they had nothing to do, and they thought the food was disgusting. Next time, Sue told me, they were staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Montego Bay. I shrugged my shoulders and figured Sue was just a pain in the ass. I felt sorry for her, not being open enough to life and its opportunities to have fun in a place like Jamaica.
Good sport that I am, I booked the questionable hotel. Come Labor Day, we’ll see what happens. I know what eyes I’m traveling with, though, and I expect that will make the difference. I’m hoping for kitsch. I’m hoping for quirky. If nothing else, I’ll get fodder for a story.
One more thing: I did not correct grammar or spelling in the reviews I pasted above. Note whose reviews were riddled with lousy grammar. Yep, the bitchers. Credibility. It figured into my decision.
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