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Detecting Smokey Wi-Fi Signal & Intrigue At La Quinta

September 7th, 2011 · Tags:Cities · Hotels · Satire · Wi-Fi

Soon after I started traveling to disaster cleanup sites — my Dirty Gigs — I was faced with a dilemma. Should I critique or review a hotel in which I live for two weeks or more? Would that be fair, since in the span of oh, say, 30 days, you probably get to witness just about every flaw? At first I voted “No.” I remember early on cutting some slack at a hotel in Louisville for this very reason.

I continued to debate this in the tiny courtroom of my mind. Then it occurred to me that the people who are really put on the spot are the hotel staff who only get one day to make a good impression — all or nothing. The hotels that fall under “my Wi-Fi microscope” for an extended stay have multiple chances to save face.

Game on!

So … I think my ruling in this case is more than fair. At my recent stay at La Quinta in Ontario, Calif., I gave the front desk several chances. I did everything but tell them, “Hey … I am a travel writer … that means I am taking notes.” Now that would bias the review a bit … So I stopped short of that.

So let’s talk La Quinta. It isn’t the Taj Mahal, nor does it want to be. That’s cool. There is a huge demand for this type of affordable, yet decent hotel. As a whole, I like the chain. Perhaps I am swayed by their easy-access waffle iron at breakfast … Also, for my first Wi-Fi road trip, I stayed at dozens of LQs during a 3-month, 18,000-mile journey to 43 major U.S. cities. (Interesting to note, the LQ hotels I encountered back then started adding Wi-Fi about halfway through that trip … )

So, I am no stranger to La Quinta, and since we are old friends, let’s start this off on a positive note. I have to give LQ a special bonus point for providing some special entertainment during my recent stay.

I luvs me a mystery, and the Ontario LQ hand delivered a nice one. Have you ever read the blogs on PingWi-Fi in which I talk about the crazy stuff I have found in my life?


False teeth on the farm … Indian head nickels on an old Model A … a weather balloon … adult packages under the dresser in the New York Athletic Club (home of the Heismann Trophy) … strange stuff like that.

Add this to the list …

Que es esto?

Que es esto?

First, hats off to the person who thought of this hiding place. It is the last place I would ever look.

Here’s the set up. If you travel as much as I do, you have probably seen this. At many hotels, the maids will put a fancy little envelope shaped fold on the in-progress toilet paper roll. Ha … I don’t care if there are only two sheets left on the roll, they will do the fancy fold rather than replace the darned thing.

Well … the fold-rather-than-replace rule was in play the other day at La Quinta, so when it was time to get down to business, I had to do the honors myself, and unwrap the toilet paper roll that was sitting in the on-deck circle in the bathroom. I unwrapped it and was about to thread the roller through the core, when out fell a little La Quinta branded Post-It note.

“Now that’s funny,” I thought … or weird. I ignored any germaphobe tendencies, letting my curiosity get the best of me, and I picked up the Post-It, which had handwriting on it. What could this be, and most importantly, why in the world was it stuffed inside the cardboard spool of a new roll of toilet paper, still in the wrapper?

Ha … good mystery isn’t it?

I hope it wasn’t a trick, covered with anthrax powder or something, because I kept it, thinking I would probably want to ponder this. What do you think?

Who is Amir? Who is Sasha and is Sasha mentally challenged? Who is Verona? What are these numbers — too short to be phone numbers? Not enough digits for a social? Lottery numbers? Are these the winning numbers for a PowerBall pool, and if so, why were they hidden deep in the bowels of the time capsule that is my next roll of toilet paper?

Ah the mystery. La Quinta? Anyone?

So enough praise. What about the other stuff — Wi-Fi, cleanliness, hospitality, service?

Let’s just start by saying, yes, I am a self-admitted “no-smoking Nazi.” I can’t understand how any hotel can allow this inside their properties, knowing what we know of this life-shortening poison. But some do. They put little signs on each and every door where smoking is allowed. However, I was staying on a no-smoking floor and the little signs offered multi-cultural icons that conveyed no-smoking.

When smoke started wafting under my door from the hallway, smelling up all of my clothes and flavoring my toothpaste as I brushed, do you think I called the front desk? Bet your arse!

The front desk attendant was basically uninterested in my call and said they couldn’t make anyone quit smoking in their rooms. I asked if there was a $250 fine like many hotels. “Nope. So, not much we can do.” I suggested they knock on the door and ask the people to quit smoking on the non-smoking floor, or pack their bags. The front desk pro said there was really no way to determine who was smoking. I said “I can see your point, but when I look through my peep hole, I am pretty sure the two huge dudes out there talking on cell phones, holding lit cigarettes and holding their own crotches as they talked, might be able to shed light.”

The desk promised to send security and to filter the air in the hallway. Neither happened — or at least the smoke continued to pour in. So I tweeted all about it, with the hotel’s address and the #LQ hashtag — a message in a bottle sent worldwide — for my fellow travelers. No response from LQ.

The next day … pretty much a repeat of the account above. More tweets. No response.

On the third day, the front desk sounded as if they expected my call. They had been pro-active and had a plan. Rather than kick out the people breaking the rules, they suggested they move me to another room. I tried to reason with them, “So, rather than fix the problem, you want to move me, inconvenience me, and probably just put me next to another campfire?” I suggested they might move the smokers to the top floor — which was designated for smoking.

“Can’t do it …. but they are scheduled to leave tomorrow.”

I suppose the smoking floor had a waiting list.

But there’s more. Guess what. California is a legalized marijuana for “medicinal use” state. I attended my share of rock concerts in the day, so I am no stranger to the grassy smell of hemp. So I am sure some of the floors at the hotel were a virtual health clinic of medicinal use. I stopped calling the front desk. I hadn’t felt bad complaining about the guys giving themselves cancer in the hallway by my door, but who am I to stand between a person and their cure?

I decided to grin and bear it. The next day, I ambled down the stairwell to the breakfast buffet. What’s this? Yet another strong scent in the stairwell? I was in luck. It wasn’t smoke. It was urine … and with my polished skills, I was detecting essence of fox terrier, or a similar sized breed.

Soon I was foot to face with the perpetrator. At the breakfast buffet were a couple of women with dogs sitting beneath their tables, a few feet from the famous LQ waffle iron. I figured a liberal state that will turn a blind eye to marijuana is probably all progressive and pet friendly. Hey, I love animals .. in the yard … at a park … but not where I eat … Sorry … I have seen the extraordinaire things they can do with their tongues.

Some states have sanitation laws prohibiting pooches from food preparation areas. Probably not California … didn’t bother researching it. More grinning and bearing it.

But you know this cleanliness issue and the puddle in the stairwell continued to hound me. Yes … grouchy man called the front desk again, and HA, the lady told me it was illegal to have a pet in the food prep. area. But, that she “hadn’t seen any.” She told me this after I had breakfast five days in a row with several dogs. She promised to keep on the lookout.

“And while you’re there, see if it smells like something is burning, oh perceptive one …”

OH .. speaking of breakfast at the kennel, as mentioned, I do fire up the La Quinta “grow-your-own” waffle iron every chance I get. They have the mix down to a science. And they have perfected the free breakfast buffet apparently, so perfect that they don’t dare allow the muffins to sit out a minute past the 9 a.m cutoff. This rules-are-rules attitude goes for the coffee too. One morning I stepped over the dogs to get a hot coffee refill from the canister at 8:59. Ha! Got there before the coffee was put away. Ha … laugh’s on me. The canister was empty.

I decided I would try my luck and quite politely asked the server if she would step behind the door and get more coffee.

“is the coffee for you?” she asked.

You might have picked up on the fact that I have about had it with this hotel … but I tried to make nice … tried to make a joke.

“No, I just thought I would ask on behalf of everyone else,” as I stood there smiling, with an empty coffee cup in my hand.

The lady was not amused.

She grabbed the cup from my hand, and as she turned for the door, took another gentlemen’s identical paper cup. She disappeared behind the door, then reappeared with two cups of coffee.

Could I let it be? Nope.

“Just curious. How do you know which one is mine?”

She said mine was the clean one. I scratched my head as I dissected her response.

Ha … she scowled at me for days. Finally, I stopped her in the lobby and apologized profusely, telling her that my sense of humor is pretty whacky and that I didn’t mean to sound so rude. We made up.

Let’s see … what else got my little panties in a wad?

Not the swimming pool. It was actually pretty nice, and I hit it a couple of times, enjoying great California weather.

OH … I almost forgot. On these Dirty Gigs, I sometimes work weird hours. This time, I was working the afternoon shift, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., so naturally, even though it might be a hassle for housekeeping I requested a late cleaning of the room … you know … a time when I was not asleep in my bed. I suggested late afternoon … after I had showered for work and left.

The first week, housekeeping showed up at 9 a.m., and would still be in the room, when i returned … some days … lucky enough to have a clean cup of coffee with me … ready to send out my daily rants on Twitter. Ha … obviously this annoyed my curmudgeon self for days, but I got accustomed to it. Hey, I can adapt.

Then the Dirty Gig messed up everything. My work schedule was shifted to morning. I had to be up by 4:30 a.m., at work by 5:30 a.m., but got to return to my hotel room at 3:30 p.m. This happened like two weeks into the job. Guess which day housekeeping decided to honor my week-old request to clean the room in the afternoon. Yes! On the very day I did not want housekeeping bothering me in the afternoon.

I called the front desk one day and although I dreaded it, asked them why there were no wash clothes in my room. And, furthermore, would they bring me some … please?

“No … we’re out.”

Did I mention I like their waffles?

Ha … and what about the Wi-Fi? Despite my sarcastic venom spewing over every other aspect of my stay at La Quinta … The Wi-Fi was pretty good. It was not the fastest ever, but adequate. I mean … one night I was e-mailing a large file photo to a friend, and the file took 2 cigarettes (several minutes) to upload. But, it was a monster file, with lots of waves and beach and seagulls and people and stuff.

More kudos/positive notes at the end sort of stuff. Yes, the Wi-Fi hotspot worked perfectly out around the pool, and I sent several tweets out with the #LQ hashtag in between my precision watermelon splash dives.

Let’s count ’em … here a smoke, there a smoke, everywhere a smoke, smoke … reefer madness, (I won’t mention the purported working girls or the slow elevator) … carry the two … add a point for a good unsolved mystery … man’s best friend marking territory for breakfast … and decent Wi-Fi — La Quinta in Ontario gets 3 pings … three of the clean ones.

Know what I saying?