After spending two nights in a row at the Sheraton on Times Square, I’ve discovered there a number of hotel features I just took for granted at places such as Holiday Inn, Best Western, Quality Inn, and all their friends. There are also plenty of other things about New York that put living in other places into perspective.
(WARNING: I may sound a bit spoiled, but this is a learning experience.)
- Complimentary continental breakfast. Breakfast is by far my favorite meal, and I’ve grown used to being able to wake up in the morning and go to the lobby for some coffee, juice, and small danishes. If I can get eggs, bacon, or waffles, it’s like it’s my birthday. Here at the Sheraton, I could order room service — and pay $7 for a single bowl of cereal. At least there’s a coffee maker in the room I can use for free.
- Free WiFi. Definitely something I thought came standard with hotels. Last time I was in the city, I stayed at a cheap hostel and even they had free WiFi. Here, I can either pay $15 for one day of internet in my room, or I can go into the lobby (where loud construction is going on, mind you) and use free internet there. You’d think they might do some kind of special since there are so many people here for a journalism and communication conference, but they don’t. Oh well.
- Second and third floor rooms. Elevator rides are fun, but I still like to take the stairs. The highest floor I’d been on previously was probably sixth. Currently, I occupy a nice room on the 30th floor. We’re so high up, I have to squish my face against the window to see even the edge of the street below. The stairs will only be an option if the building catches fire.
- “Do not disturb” signs actually working. Maybe this isn’t the usual behavior of the housekeeping staff at the Sheraton, but I’ve never had this experience anywhere else. I put the sign on the door so I could take a brief nap the day after I got here. Ten minutes later, housekeeping calls the room to tell me a dozen times that the sign is on the door. She didn’t ask me anything for a while — just kept saying the sign was there. I told her I was trying to sleep and asked if she would mind coming back later, but she replied that she only worked until 4 p.m. (about 10 minutes away). I said okay, we can wait until tomorrow then. After being told a few more times that the sign was on the door, she eventually asked if I needed fresh towels or anything before letting me rest. Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be and I’m misbehaving. Or this is just rude.
- Being able to walk barefoot in the halls. This may seem weird to other people, but I like being able to pop out of my room without shoes, find a vending machine, and go back to my room without a fuss. There are no vending machines in these halls and, as previously stated, room service is expensive. If I’m that desperate, I can get dressed and walk a block over this deli I’m falling in love with.
- Using the sun to tell direction. Savannah’s a sunny place on a grid. If I get turned around, I can just look up and figure out a direction to head in. In New York, the most I see of the sun is its reflection on the buildings. My main reference point is 7th Ave. My hotel is on 52nd, Macy’s is on 34th. It’s either dark or light in the city, but that’s all the sun really accomplishes here.
- ATMs without fees. Since the great places were you can get coffee and a bagel for less than $5 will only take cards for purchases more than $10, cash is a must. And while you can hardly throw a stick without hitting an ATM, finding one associated with your bank requires a more vigorous hunt. Just how badly do I want that coffee and bagel?
- My weird assumption that guards at high-end buildings are super friendly. This is probably based on how many times I’ve watched Sleepless in Seattle, but I always had it in my head that security guards in New York are a special kind of nice people. Based on my experience at the New York Times building, this is actually true! I’d love to just hang out with the guards downstairs there. I don’t know if it was the stars in my eyes, my obvious state of panic and fatigue, or they really are just that kind and helpful, but they got me exactly where I needed to be.
- Revolving doors. I’m used to the kind you actually have to push, but the Sheraton has one that keeps spinning on it’s own. Until someone touches it, and then it stops and everyone starts sighing because they’re just going to keep pushing, thinking it will make the doors turn, and the rest of us feel like we’re in an overcrowded fishbowl. It’s only taken two days for this to become a familiar feeling.