Treadmill Granny and Rooms without Views

In New Jersey this week. It was all a blur with the 6 AM flight and the meetings and whatnot, and I was challenged yet again by the cosmic forces when the TV in my $260/night hotel room was not working. I called the desk, they sent up an engineer, and I took off for the fitness center. Let us branch off to that while the engineer does his work on the TV. I get to the fitness center and have to take a detour through the spa due to some construction, and the spa was weird, all the dark little rooms with the massage tables and the low lighting. A whole lot like a club, just without the lap dancers. I passed a guy in his spa robe, and that is always weird. Men -- spa robes are always disturbing. Try not to pass by other dudes when you are at a spa, for whatever you may be at a spa for.

So I get setup on a treadmill and clean up the paper towels and plastic cup (with lipstick marks) from the previous exercise-ee, and I see an older lady working up one of those elderly cold sweats in her space blanket outfit. Could this be Judy from the Jupiter 2 in her old age? I guess the space suits have their benefits, but come on -- the place has a spa with saunas.

Grandma from Mars

Even though I know the treadmill codes for turning closed captions on and off (hold down the UP buttons for volume and channel until the menu comes up), I've largely moved over to watching Netflix on my phone, which comes in astoundingly well over a 3G connection. I actually built a foam support to move the phone up and over the treadmill display, but that beauty is the stuff of another post.

Decided to watch "Apocalypto" because you need action on a treadmill, and I was surprised at what a snore this movie is. Not bad mind you, but surely too politically correct in its overly clad natives and with too much drama between the energetic club bashing scenes. And how about those translations -- like tribal utterances to formal British English from 1890. "I say tribal leader, you were smashingly good with your cricket bat when whomping those overzealous neighboring tribesmen. Good show, Akulamon!"

So I run, and by the time I am done I am the last person in the place. Everyone else seemed to come in at 6 PM, iPods and velcro straps and workout clothes and water bottles and all, and exit by 6:20 PM. That doesn't work for me -- I need to be wiped out enough to sit through the commercials and reruns on HBO, TBS, AMC, and the lot of them. Hence the longer runs.

I go down and explore the spa area in an effort to get to a sauna that actually has heat. I wait in the spa lobby and a woman there points out the beautiful cupcakes that are actually soap. Super. I get directions to the locker room, and I'm thrilled to find a sauna with real wood and decent heat. I start to sweat it up, and I can hear two old dudes talking while getting dressed after their workouts. Apparently you can sign up to this "fitness center" with some kind of membership, and they lament the reduced membership price and how the riff-raff have started invading their space. Towels left all over and whatnot. General slobbery. Come on -- this is a HOTEL. And the economy sucks. They should be glad they are in a place where picking towels up off the floor is a skill executed with cat-like swiftness by almost everyone in the place. Moving on then.

I go back up to my room, and a chair is moved and the TV looks the same, so I shower and wait. Nothing. Turn the TV off and on. Now it works, so I'm happy. 20 minutes later it flickers and goes off, so I call the nice woman at the desk. Up comes the engineer, and he tells me he will give it a "hard boot" by unplugging it for a minute. Good Lord. That fix never works in software, so I'm pretty damn sure nothing will come of this bonnie idea. He offers a free pay-per-view movie of my choice, so super, I pick one and start to watch. But again, this is a HOTEL. Not like I want to enjoy great cinema while I try not to get my dinner of peanut butter, bagels, and granola on the white bedspreads.

Sure enough, 20 minutes later the screen flickers and goes out. I call the front desk. Change rooms? Sure, what the hell. I had zero confidence in the engineer short of swapping out the TV for a different one, and really all I wanted was access to the HDMI port. I'm willing to dismantle swanky wood frames around TVs once during a given stay, but that is it. Anything else is past the point of diminishing return.

I move to a room a few doors down, and as a final lick of comedy the porter (sent up to help me move, but he just gives me the new room keys) asks me if I think it could be the remote. Really? Yes, Brian, I think that when my TV goes out every 20 minutes after not touching the remote that it is, in fact, the remote. Somehow the unidentified, invisible goo on the remote buttons does a slow, timed release until some magic combination of button pushes sends a signal to the TV and tells it to play dead, flicker, and fall over.

So there I finish, in the new room, with a working TV. The first TV had access to the input selection, and the second one does not. I could have run HDMI to the first TV but only for 20 minute increments. With the second TV I get all the bad cable I want but no access to the HDMI from my computer. Yet another week of travel fun, but I remain undaunted.