row2k Features
Regatta Road Trip Hotels…The Silence of the Ice Machines…an outlet too far…linen closet’s revenge
December 8, 2004
Rob Colburn

A Word About Hotel Architecture. First, the architect draws a box. This is the room where the ice machine will thump and crackle all night. The architect then draws a second box next to the ice machine. This box will inevitably be your room the night before an important race. Additional elements may be sketched in as needed, such as "this is the broken hot water pipe," or "air conditioner w/ busted knob."

Our coach broke that particular curse. Simple, really. Always request the rooms next to the ice machine when making the reservation. Since it is bedrock hotel policy never to give guests the rooms they've actually reserved, you're usually home free.

"The rooms you asked for are unavailable," the desk clerk said.

"You're sure?"

"Never been surer."

"Any rooms right next to the elevator shafts?" Coach asked -- hastily pre-empting another threat -- "where the clunk and whir of the machinery resonate through the headboards directly into one's skull?"

"Those rooms," she said with all the warmth of ice floes grinding off the coast of Newfoundland, "are not available either."

In the spirit of compromise she assigned us two rooms where the showers dripped loudly, a room where the broken blade of the ventilation fan rattled, and one where the telephone message light could be safely disregarded, as it had been flashing inconsolably for three days.

There are two schools of thought about where coxswains should sleep during road trips. On the floor somewhere where they won't be stepped on, or shut up together in one room at the end of the hall -- not because they snore (we totally don't), but because coxswains are famous for talking in their sleep. (Course we do; we talk all the time.) Nick's roommate once heard him cox a shell out of the boathouse and down to the dock while dreaming.

With all of our CoxBoxes, cell phone chargers, and laptop computer plugs, the room quickly runs short of viable electrical outlets.

"Disconnect all non-essential lamps! Commandeer this outlet in the name of-"

"Whabout the coffee-maker?"

"That too. The electrical supply must be made safe for democracy."

Cords snake everywhere. It's a fire marshal's wet dream. Not surprisingly, the hall circuit breaker trips about seventeen steps into the eighteen-step process of setting the clock radio.

Road-trip food can be hit or miss; we bring a lot of our own. Patrick (our walking produce stand) shoulders open the door to the stern four's room laden with oranges, grapes, and a cantaloupe for which no one has remembered to bring a knife. Ian weighs it in his hand a moment - consideringly -- then bashes it open on the edge of the night table.

It is still full dark next morning when Greg (who probably asked to do reveille duty just because he likes it and because he feels responsible for us in a vaguely protective but, no doubt, emotionally sustaining way) kicks our door open and starts pummeling us awake.

We should probably stop a moment here and point out that this is not the way a World War Two British commando would have done it. World War Two British commandos were trained to wake their comrades into instant alertness - without startling or crying out - by tapping them lightly just under the cheekbone where a network of small nerves comes together. Unfortunately for us, Greg isn't a British commando.

"It's four forty-five. Hey, do you know your phone isn't working?"

"That's a fascinating piece of information. Glad you woke me up just to tell me. Would hate to have missed the moment." Then, the full horror of that simple declarative sentence hits all of us. If 4:45, and IF weigh-ins at 6:00, THEN must get up. Now.

There is a trail of wet footprints across the carpet. Landon has already showered and is standing in front of the TV, shaking his head like a labrador retriever to dry his hair, while listening to the weather channel turned down low. Listening -- not watching -- because previous occupants of the room spilled good Canadian beer down the back, reducing the set to a large -- and expensive -- radio.

"Quartering headwind, five to seven miles per," he comments. I nod my thanks and file the information mentally on the way to the shower.

Something is wrong. I sense this immediately when I do not trip over any of our five duffel bags, which are usually piled together on the floor in the very place we are most likely to trip over them. Landon rolls his eyes to indicate the top of the wardrobe. "You didn't lend your key to anyone yesterday, did you?" (Our taller rowers enjoy torturing coxswains by sneaking in and putting all our stuff up high.)

"My turn," Aaron says, going from sleep to wakefulness in three tenths of a second, squirrel-climbing the shelves of the wardrobe like it's the set of "Master and Commander." He tosses our bags, and the jar of peanut butter ("hey, I've been looking for that!"), down to us.

Even at this hour, the lobby is crowded with rowing people waiting for their vans. Ninety percent of the clientele must be regatta-related. Tomorrow we'll just pull the fire alarm and get everyone up at the same time.

Either by predestination or luck, relatively similar groupings of neatness are rooming together. (Categories range from: "Biohazard," to "So? You Can Still See the Floor") By afternoon of the second day, the room inhabited by most of our top erg scores looks as if it was hit by an absent-minded tornado with time on its hands. Housekeeping staff have long since given up; they simply toss a pile of fresh towels inside the door and run. The used ones get piled successively deeper all over the floor or stuffed in the top of the wardrobe, until the place looks vaguely like a Swiss alpine snow scene in a school play.

"Did one of you commit an anarchist outrage in a linen closet?"

In contrast, all their rowing shirts are put away neatly in drawers, crisply folded as if done with a T-square. Yes, they have their priorities straight. Deep down, they're sincere, well-adjusted neat freaks who got horribly misunderstood somewhere along the way.

Guest satisfaction survey card. (Gimme that!) That's asking for trouble. Landon fills out about twelve of them under different names in the hope of winning something. Please rate your satisfaction with the lobby and check-in areas. "No opinion," Landon writes, "We climbed in through a window."

Perhaps we'd better leave by the same route...

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