What’s Missing?

June 10th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

Have you noticed that certain things are missing from hotel rooms lately? I am not suggesting a rash of thefts – I mean items that were once routinely found and no longer are. Specifically, I’m referring to towel bars and Gideon Bibles 

Why newly renovated or built hotel bathrooms frequently have no towel bars is beyond me.  I understand that a bathroom missing this necessity initially looks sleek and uncluttered. However, that is only until one uses one’s towel. At that point, what are you supposed to do with it? Drape it over the tub or plunk it next to the sink? Neither option seems terribly attractive. 

Not only is the option unattractive, it also seems contradictory. While I dislike the policy that asks me to save energy by reusing my rumpled towel and informs me that only towels on the floor will be replaced, not having a towel bar makes the floor look tempting . Surely even people who are greenophiles hurl their towels to the floor in disgust when they can’t find a better place for them. In fact, faced with a modern-looking bathroom minus a towel bar and despite the fact that my mother drilled into me that one does not throw towels on the floor, my husband and I tend to request extra towels and toss more than our fair share downwards.

The missing Bible probably affects fewer people. We notice it because in preparing speeches in a city we are visiting, we sometimes want to see what the English translation of the Bible says. For years, we have counted on popping open the bedside table’s drawer and pulling out a Bible. Alas, it is frequently no longer there. The Bible’s presence dates back to 1908, when the Gideon Association, founded by Christian businessmen in 1899, decided that placing Bibles in hotel rooms would enhance their mission. For decades, the Gideons have presented Bibles to hotels, and they estimate that about 25% of visitors read them.

No more. Many hotel chains no longer distribute the Bibles. Standard room fare is more likely to include coffee makers and hypo-allergenic pillows. Some boutique locations associated with major chains even provide courtesy condoms.  

I believe in free enterprise. Hotels cater to their paid guests and Christian businessmen are no longer the large demographic they once were. Nevertheless, the missing Bible saddens me, reflecting as it does, society’s changing values.

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6 comments

James says:

Not being in the business of frequent flying or traveling, still even I have noticed both of the trends you cite. The Great Towel Shuffle is mystifying. Like you, I suffer painful qualms at dumping towels on the floor, a dismissive gesture that shows scant respect for fine cotton wares, and still less respect for the fragile sacroiliacs of the hapless housekeeping staff who must stoop on a hazardous wet floor to retrieve them.
As for the lapse of Gideon Bibles, at first glance one is tempted to exclaim: Aha! The timid hotel staff is concerned, lest some malcontent curmudgeon come along, find a Bible and feel a chip knocked off his atheistic shoulder, resulting in dire repercussions!
But no. A few years ago we escorted my aging father to his family reunion out near the Mississippi River in far-western rural Tennessee. So as not to inconvenience the relatives, we stayed overnight in a familiar motel. I entered the office to procure the rooms. But how the motel had changed! From the kitchen beyond there wafted the unmistakable aroma of curry. And there on the large mirror behind the front desk was a devotional card depicting Ganeshan the elephant-headed god to evoke good luck.
The demographics of the hotel / motel industry in the U.S. have undergone a sea-change in the last thirty years. South Asians seem now to hold this industry, lock-stock-and-barrel. Draw what conclusions you will, but demographics have consequences, in hotel linen and in hotel theology and beyond. If many of these folks have little regard for chenille or for the Judaeo-Christian tradition, I for one would hardly be surprised.

The hotels I’ve been staying in are still American owned, though you are right that certain chains are dominated by immigrants who come from different religious traditions.

Lora says:

Public Bibles, like public phones, are slowly disappearing. The difference is that while personal cell phones have become nearly ubiquitous, how many people carry their scriptures? I know we (our family) often tend to, and if we didn’t, there are plenty of places to look up scriptures online. Still, cell phones caused the slow demise of public phones; what all do people replace their Bibles with? All sorts of things, I suppose.
This thing about towel racks, however, I haven’t encountered yet. It sounds pretty lame. Many attempts to be more environmentally conscious actually trigger behaviors that are less so. Humans are part of the environment too, after all. We adapt: either ourselves, or the situation around us, or both.

You are so right that many environmental initiatives end up causing more harm to the environment rather than less. Too many of our politicians live in a world where good intentions trumps the actual results.

The “social engineers” are messing with EVERYTHING!!!!
Somehow they despise the way things have always been done (for whatever reasons) and simply want to “recreate” this world into a “new earth”, a “new world”, and one according to their “image”

Talk – wait until you see this week’s Musing.

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