Trailing the King of Diamonds
I hadn't noticed before, but every vanity holds a tiny jar of cotton swabs. The Inspector looks inside. To get at toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms, you untie a golden drawstring on a velvet pouch. The Inspector looks there, too.
I feel like stretching out on the sultan-size bed in one suite, but the Inspector examines it with a frown. "Don't like those flappy bottom sheets," he says. "Hotels like this should think of fitted sheets, like you have at home."
Does AAA ever do a black-light test of hotel bedspreads, I ask, to check for stains? The Inspector says no. "A black light isn't always reliable. But we inspectors check for that. We check for vermin, too."
The Inspector has never met a rat while on the job, but once, he says, he spun around and caught a field mouse sprinting down a motel hallway.
"The mouse ended up crawling under a guest room door -- you know, they collapse their bones to do that -- and the motel manager screamed."
No mice here, though. At least none we can find.
Mice need mini-bar leftovers to feed on, and we don't see any. Not so much as a speck. The Inspector does make a note about some inconsistency in the array of clothes hangers and warns the manager that some of his mirrors "are starting to de-silver, just at the bottom."
Are there Gideon Bibles in the night table drawers? I ask at one point, just to be helpful. The Inspector shoots me a look and reassures the manager that he's already confirmed this.
It is time for the big moment. Four diamonds, still, for the duPont? Or a new, exclusive five?
We're sitting again in plush, embossed chairs in the manager's office. You could hear a hotel pen drop. The Inspector clears his throat.
"Things went extremely well," he says.
"Good, good," says the manager. "The team has jelled."
"I'm going to recommend," the Inspector announces, "that the Hotel duPont . . . retain its very strong AAA four-diamond rating."
© 2003 The Washington Post Company