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The Anatomy of a Perfect Hotel Room

What’s it take to get some free WiFi around here?

You would think the people who build and run hotels would have it down by now. It shouldn’t be that hard to get the little details right, even for the two-and three-star operators. First, let’s just assume the obvious — there’s a bed, a chair, a nightstand with an alarm clock, a TV with a remote control, a bathroom with a sink, shower and lavatory, and a working HVAC system with a thermostat. (Note to Swedes: I know you’re very outdoorsy, but when I say “bed,” I mean furniture, not the sort of thing you can fold up and stow in a closet.)

Every room should have a coffee maker, preferably one simple enough for an idiot to operate. (It’s quicker than hanging around waiting for room service, and a lot cheaper.) Granted, the coffee from these machines usually sucks, and you have to drink it with carcinogenic plastic milk; but travel always involves a lot of pain, and bad coffee is better than utter gloom. A lot of the ritzier hotels do away with the coffee maker, maybe on the theory that rich people would rather have no coffee than bad coffee. Please: furnish the unfortunate traveler the option of making terrible coffee.

Speaking of drugs, the smoking room not furnished with a balcony should have a window suitable for cracking open wide enough to smoke out of. Staff should turn a blind eye to the glow of cigarettes held outside said windows.

There must be an iron and ironing board. A guy I know has a trick for getting the wrinkles out of his clothes at a hotel: He hangs them in the bathroom, turns on the hot shower, closes the bathroom door and goes to sleep. When he wakes up, he claims, all the wrinkles are gone. Occasionally, the hotel staff will bust into the room worried that’s he’s committed suicide or something. But most people are more green-conscious than he, and prefer an iron and accompanying ironing board. The electrical socket shouldn’t be situated where you have to be an Indian fakir in order to do the ironing. Somewhere well lit, with adequate elbow room and preferably line-of-sight to the TV.

The alarm clock should have an illuminated display, not one with those fashionably pale-grey digits that flicker like the ghosts of Christmas. What the hell is the point of a clock you can’t see in the early hours of the morning? As with the coffee maker, you shouldn’t need any advanced degrees to get this clock to work.

A free wireless connection promotes warm, fuzzy feelings. A $25 daily charge for a wireless connection promotes only rage.

Moving on to the bathroom. The sink: Do not put a shelf right above the sink so that you can’t bend down to sluice your face without contusing your forehead. It’s amazing how many bathroom architects flunk this simple ergonomic test. Also, please don’t use some clever-clever mechanism for operating the plug: I don’t want to have to spend any time, after a long day’s travel, staring at soapy water and trying to figure out how to get it to go down the damn drain. I’m not in the mood to be impressed by elegant design. This goes also for the shower, tub, faucets, lavatory and all other plumbing fixtures and fittings.

That goes for folding the toilet paper into a point, also. I don’t really want to be reminded that the toilet paper has been touched by human hands other than my own.

The shower.

Preferably you don’t have to stand in the tub fighting off a wet plastic curtain which clings to your body as if the tub has been invaded by a large flat amorous fish. Preferably you have a nice, big stand-alone shower with a real door that shuts, or even a shower that’s so big it doesn’t need a door. Either way, please design it so water doesn’t end up all over the bathroom floor.

Here’s a surprisingly-oft-ignored feature: please make sure there is somewhere other than the floor to put all those little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and moisturizer, as well as bars of soap, face cloths, razors, etc. A shelf at roughly elbow height, away from the spray of the shower head, level so that things don’t slide off it, with drainage holes so the bar soap doesn’t get waterlogged. Obvious, and yet infuriatingly rare.

With regard to toiletries. So many unnecessary little bottles (see list above), but only rarely toothpaste. Just a little tiny tube would be good, to save you having to quibble with TSA bureaucrats at the airport security line. I’ll give up the shower cap and conditioner in exchange.

A comb would also be appreciated, because who ever remembers to bring one? Doesn’t have to be very elaborate, no tortoiseshell necessary, just the same toxic plastic everything else is made of. If you’re worried about the cost, here’s some areas in which you should feel free to compromise:

“Artwork”; those cylindrical cushions that just get in the way and end up on the floor; really heavy embroidered bed covers which ditto; bottled water at $8 a pop.

I freely admit that I’d rather be home in my own bed than in a hotel on business, which doubtless makes me somewhat irritable. Too bad for us all! But it will all go more smoothly if you will attend to the above details, at least until business travel is rationed in order to preserve what is left of the atmosphere and, mercifully, we’re all forced to teleconference instead.

Carl Hegelman is what you might call a businessman. He lives in Los Angeles.

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