Frequent traveller: Pushing buttons

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Anonymous 31 Jul 2009
at 11:10

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  • Anonymous


    In which our correspondent is baffled by hotel technology and has a near-death experience before breakfast.

    Being on the road has made me proficient in most of the technology I have to handle, and it’s fine as long as it’s not gimmicky and it works. When travelling, I need my PDA, I love the simplicity of Skype, I miss my electric toothbrush, and using IRIS to skip the immigration queues at London’s airports (or at least at the ones where it is installed and working) always makes me feel optimistic about the future.

    This is what technology is supposed to do – take the effort out of complicated tasks and make everything happen faster. Still, for every success story there are several missteps. In fact, recently I’ve begun to think that the process of innovation is little more than trial and error, especially when the attempt to solve one problem creates another.

    Take light switches in hotel rooms. The more sophisticated the system, the more frustrating it is to use. On more than one occasion, after a fruitless five minutes of walking around, I’ve given up on the idea of switching everything off and simply gone to bed with the lights on and the duvet pulled over my head. One thing I have learnt is to watch out for the hybrids. These are the “half” master switches, which dim one section of the room but only if another switch somewhere else is in the correct position. Running around the room, I often feel I am completing a task from nineties TV show The Crystal Maze, and I have now stopped going to the hotel gym as I count these nocturnal sprints as adequate daily exercise.

    Then there are the hotel rooms in Asia that have motion sensors. This solves the problem of people leaving on their lights when they depart the room, because after a few minutes they automatically switch off, saving electricity, money and, ultimately, the planet.

    However, there are two problems with this. The first is that if you remain still for too long, you are plunged into darkness and have to wave your hands around. The second is that once the lights are off, if you move they turn back on again. No problem if that’s what you want, but it’s less useful when they come on every time you roll over in your sleep.

    On a recent trip the lights went off as I was sitting on the toilet. Since this made it difficult to read, I waved my hands around and knocked the phone off the wall. I’ve always wondered why the phone is there. At first I thought it must be for very busy people who couldn’t stop talking even while attending to nature’s duties, but then someone said it was for emergencies. Personally, I would have thought the safest place to be during an emergency is on the toilet, and the phone would be better off situated on, say, the balcony, ready for when you lock yourself out. Still, assuming there are people who have to call for instructions in how to flush the loo, I do wonder how hygienic these phones are. Would you put them to your ear? Well, only in an emergency.

    Assuming you can tear yourself away from the light switches and the emergency phones, lift technology is likely to be the next challenge. Lifts work perfectly in the middle of the night – I know, because I can hear them chime outside my door as I struggle with my jet lag. But at any other time of day – ie, when you actually want to use them – they’re hopeless. They are slow, full when they come, and then you have to push your way in only to find you’re going up instead of down and they stop at every floor on the way.

    If there is a choice of more than one lift, then you have to guess which will come first, a process often made easier by the fact that the business traveller’s rule of lifts says that for every three, one is out of order. And, by the way, never approach open doors without checking the lift is actually there. I nearly plunged to my death down a shaft while reading the morning paper. That really was an early morning wake-up call.

    Speaking of which, why is it that the only wake-up calls that actually wake you up are your next door neighbour’s?

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