The Smoke Bomb
No, this is not discourse on the proper creation of potentially potent, portable pyrotechnics. This blog has to do with the inevitable stay in a “smoking” hotel room- or what I like to call- my personal hell.
You see, with all the travel that I do for work, it is inevitable that I will stumble across a room in a hotel that has been previously occupied by Smoky the Bear. Or perhaps, Smoky the Bear and his entire family reunion. This past week, I was accosted by this plight at one of my usual haunts in south Texas.
I knew going in to the hotel that I had not picked a ‘winner’. There was something going on in town that had booked all the good hotels, and therefore, the good rooms (hint: the NON-smoking kind). When I reached my destination and saw the exterior of the joint with at least 3 layers of peeling paint I knew I was in for a rough night. Sure enough, after getting my room key which looked like a punch card that NASA used in the 50’s (yet another sign that the establishment is woefully inadequate), I was on my way to the rear of the hotel to find my room.
Imagine my surprise to see a sign on the exterior door that said: “This door to remain locked 24 hours a day for guest security. You must have key to enter building.” Of course, that wasn’t the case- either at 2PM or 2AM - the doors were never locked. So much for security. But I digress.
Upon entering the hallway on the 3rd floor, I was hit with a giant wave of stale, dank odors that only a lab technician could properly identify. It was an odoriferous concoction of all the things in life that the human schnoz distastes: stale sweat, mold, and week-old cigar smoke. (What a nice greeting after being stuck in a car for 4 hours, wouldn’t you say?)
The door to the room that bore my prescribed number (310, for those of you who prefer accuracy), appeared to be brand new. I thought, “Ok, this won’t be so bad, the room has been recently remodeled.” Not so. Not even close as I entered the room after using my antique NASA card-key. (Wonder if I could sell this on Ebay?)
The odor in the hallway PALED in comparison to the room. I was immediately offended -personally and professionally. How dare they put a registered, “ELITE” member in a smoking room- what were they thinking? A quick call downstairs to the front desk confirmed my worst nightmare. It was the only room left in the hotel, and no cancellations for other rooms that were non-smoking were expected. (And evidently, no apology was forthcoming.)
I was trapped in a hotel room that was probably as old as I, with a heavy odor that could best be described as a bevy of cigar-chomping, sweaty bigfoot creatures. I asked the lady downstairs if they had any air fresheners. “Why, yes”, came the reply. “I’ll send someone right up.”
Sure enough, two minutes later, a large Hispanic woman appeared at my door with a can of Wal-mart grade aerosol that was labeled CHERRY JUBILEE. She headed for the wall mounted A/C unit (which dated to the early 1970 Hotel La Quintas period), and started to empty the entire can into the ventilation/filter portion of the unit. Not satisfied, she started fumigating the entire room much to my chagrin. For a nano-second the room smelled 100% better. She left the can on the counter top and said I was welcome to keep it during my stay.
Upon my gracious servant’s departure, the room did a 360 (or maybe it was me after all the CFC’s were released within my 10’x10’ cell-block and went straight to my brain). Bigfoot had returned, and this time- he farted cherries- lots and lots of cherries. Cherries that had been dipped in cigar-filled ashtrays after being extinguished in a hairy armpit.
What’s a weary, road-worn traveler to do? Opening the lone window didn’t suck the air out of the room. So I opened the door to the hall- too late, I realized, the dank smoke encrusted air from the hallway simply replaced the cherry/smoke-ladened air in my room. This was getting serious- I had clients to mingle with. I couldn’t show up in their office smelling like I had spooned with a cigar smoking, cherry-popping, flatulent, sweaty Bigfoot.
They say that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Well, folks- I came up with a solution that cost me nothing and worked pretty well. Soaking a hand towel in cold water, wringing it out and then placing over the entire A/C vent, I turned the unit on full blast with cold air cycling through the towel. Within about 20 minutes, Bigfoot had vanished. Within another 20 minutes, the cherry cloud went away. After another 10 minutes, I could barely smell the smoke in the room. The makeshift ambient air neutralizer worked. Now if I could just find that parka…