Monday, August 4, 2008

Sleep Deprivation

We’re back from Lake Placid, site of the world’s largest ice dance competition (“All Ice Dance, All The Time!”)

First, I have to brag and publish the link to, where Perry’s photos are published. He had some great shots in various events, including the Finnstep seminar, many of the Open events, and various others. Look for the “Perry Levine” watermark on the photos.

I was busy judging which I can’t discuss here, other than to say that as promised in a previous post, I am cranky, tired, and in dire need of a vacation. Our plane got in late last night, and after four 12-hour days of judging, critiqueing and assisting referees (timing lifts, a necessary evil), and a couple of sleepless nights, I am exhausted.

So, what to blog about since I can’t really discuss the skating? (Other than to say, in general terms, that everyone should make the pilgrimage to Lake Placid at least once; nowhere else will you see that many ice dancers all in one place, including all levels and disciplines; the level of skating is very high even for this early in the season and it is inspiring to see that ice dancing is not by any means dead).

I have not skated in 3 weeks because of my hip injury. I see the doctor tomorrow (I can’t believe it takes 3 weeks to get in to see a doctor these days, and meanwhile I can’t do anything because I don’t know the extent of the seriousness of the injury). I hope I’ll be cleared to skate after that.

Today’s admittedly non-skating topic will be the state of manners in this country. Yes, that’s right, I said manners, as in “courtesy.” I won’t go into a long discussion of table manners, although I could (I am tired of looking across a crowded restaurant to see Neanderthals of every age and gender chewing loudly with their mouths open … do they know how disgusting they look? … and it’s not just kids, it’s also their parents, which is why the kids don’t know any better … but that’s not what I want to talk about today even though I just did).

I’m talking about the more destructive problems that come about in our society because people aren’t courteous and they are no longer brought up to take accountability for their actions. I’m sure I sound very old fashioned saying this, and I have no problem being perceived as an old fart.

The last 10 times I have traveled, mostly for judging- and skating-related events, I’d say that at least 5 times – that’s half, by the way, and it may be more – I have had to call the front desk to complain about NOISE. I’ve stayed in four-star hotels and “economy” motor inns, and all have the same problem.

Now, when I put my good money down for a hotel room, I expect only a few basics, really. I expect cleanliness, and I usually get it at a tolerable level. I expect hot water to come out of the shower when I turn it on. Finally, I expect enough quiet so that I can get a good night’s sleep. So on weekdays I expect that there will be no screaming, running in the halls, jumping on the bed over my head, throwing up in the hallways, or prank fire drills between 10 PM and 6 AM. On weekends I can go to 11 PM, but would extend the quiet zone to 7 AM because sometimes I like to sleep in when I can.

Many hotels have a posted “quiet policy,” but few enforce it. In some venues, it seems they’d have to hire a full-time staff of burly bouncers to keep the peace. During just the past year I’ve had to endure multiple episodes of children squealing and running up and down the halls for hours (while their parents do … what ??? … I’m not sure …), people who have loud conversations punctuated by hysterical laughter for hours, drunken screaming parties (no further explanation needed), alarms clocks in the empty room next door which go off at odd hours and don’t get turned off by the “night clerk” for 45 minutes, people in the room above me tap dancing in lead boots while dragging heavy cadavers and rearranging the hotel furniture (that’s what it sounded like, I actually have no idea what they were wearing or doing and I don't really want to know). All of this during my “quiet zone” hours. And of course this usually occurs when I have to be up at 6 AM to do 12 hours of judging the next day.

(Don’t get me started on hotels built in the “Embassy Suites” configuration, with an open “atrium” – AKA “echo chamber” – which channels all noise from the lobby - and bar - directly up to the guest rooms. One time while judging Regionals in Seattle I slept in my car when Embassy Suites in Lynnwood couldn’t find a way to quiet down the people pacing and yelling above my head at 2 AM, to the LOC’s chagrin. I now ask for a top floor at the end of the hall when I can get it, but there are never any guarantees and even those rooms can have problems.)

This past week in Lake Placid Perry and I stayed at the highly recommended Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn. The reviews raved about Art Devlin’s, which has been run by the family for 40 years. The reviews touted the place as friendly (true, it was), close to the rink (also true), reasonably priced (for Lake Placid, yes), and quiet.

The first two nights were indeed fairly quiet, although we had to unplug the phone and alarm clock because they buzzed loudly any time they picked up a cell phone signal – which is disconcerting at 2 AM and woke us up enough times those first two nights for me to be cranky and tired by Friday. The next day was going to be a full one for judging and I needed my rest, so we retired early.

The party next door started around 1:30 AM, after we’d had about 3 hours of fairly restful sleep. It started with loud footsteps in the hallway, doors banging (how many times did they have to bang the doors? Just go in the friggin’ room and shut the door for crying out loud). Then they went out on the balcony and yelled across the parking lot to their friends for 10 minutes, and then the loud music, hysterical laughter and screaming conversations began.

After about 30 minutes we called the front desk, but there was no answer. We found later that Art Devlin’s doesn’t employ a night clerk, “to keep costs down.” So Perry got up, got dressed, and walked over to the office to knock on the door, since the proprietors live on site. (If they can’t afford a desk clerk, wouldn’t it be a smart idea to have the phones forward to their personal apartment after hours, in case there is a problem??? I don’t know, seems like a smart idea to me.)

The proprietor quieted the party down, but unless you were born yesterday you KNOW that parties don’t die a quick death. It was in full swing again about 15 minutes after he left, and we weren’t about to get up and walk over to the front desk again. We put the pillows over our heads and tried our best to sleep. Sometimes there would be a lull and we’d doze off, only to awaken with a start when someone screamed with laughter or the door banged.

When we complained the next day, the proprietor apologized but did not even offer to refund our money for that night’s stay, which would be the proper thing to do. He said he had tried to call us to give us his cell phone number in case the party got out of hand again, but “our room phone was off the hook.” I explained that this was so that we could sleep without being awakened every time someone used their cell phone in the town of Lake Placid. Hmmm, he said, nobody has ever reported that problem to me before. Hmmm, I said, very strange that you have so many deaf people staying here.

Interesting also that he said this was the first time in “two years” he’d had to break up a party. (Really? How interesting. It must only happen when I go to a hotel, and I guess this is true everywhere I stay, which leads me to believe that I should just stay home from now on for the good of society.)

I told Art that we would never stay there again, and that my only recourse was to bad mouth the motor inn to everyone I know since he had not done anything to make it right. But honestly, the same thing was likely to have happened in any hotel in town, even the most expensive grand resort. Based on my experience with travel lately, people leave their courtesy at the door when they travel, and if I want a relaxing vacation my best bet is to stay home and sleep in my own bed.

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