Hotel Babylon: For Men, A Promise Of Impunity

By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Men love hotels.

Men love hotels perhaps a little bit more than women love hotels, which is saying a lot. Men love hotels in a different way, a dirty way. A hotel -- whether four-star or adjacent to Red Lobster -- is for a man a paradise of discretion, a suspension of one set of rules for another.

A man on a business trip checks into a hotel by himself and picks up the television remote and clicks ON even as the handle of his rolly suitcase is still gripped by his other hand. The screen immediately offers him the pay-per-view movie menu, from which he is not going to watch "Atonement" or "Ratatouille." The naughty nymph parade begins. He sets down the bag, stares at the choices and then thinks, no, wait, later -- after the client dinner meeting. He then makes sure the television gets ESPN. In hotels, televisions always get three kinds of ESPN -- and the Weather Channel and Fox News and one HBO channel and the networks. But not Bravo, not the Style network, not HGTV.

This is because hotels love men as much as men love hotels. Yes, of course not all men, but enough that Hilton and Marriott and Sheraton would be nowhere without them. We are a nation of Hampton Inns, filled with the wandering thoughts of misunderstood men. Go to the free breakfast buffet tomorrow and take attendance. Prove it otherwise.

To read the court documents that pertain to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's alleged participation in a flurry of telephone calls and negotiations related to his alleged Feb. 13 activities in Room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel (and his alleged nighttime meeting with "Kristen," who took the train from New York with orders to pick up an envelope at the concierge, which contained the key to the room with the already opened door -- complicated!) is to understand the central erotic quality of any hotel. It's exhausting to read Client 9 (allegedly Spitzer) worrying about his deposit, the timing, the key, the room. It's like reading the transcript of a customer service call. But then comes the good part: the supercharged familiarity of the wonder of checking into and out of hotels.

(Motels are different. That's hard core.)

He left, this Kristen woman tells her supervisor (which the FBI secretly recorded), an hour or two later, a couple of minutes after midnight -- Valentine's Day. The assignment went "very well" according to the wiretapped conversation:

"I don't think he's difficult. I mean it's just kind of like . . . whatever. . . . I'm here for a purpose. I know what my purpose is. . . . I am not a . . . moron."

Men who stay in a lot of hotels talk about how sick they get of hotels. This only means they want to be in better hotels.

Women also love hotels. They also have secret affairs, they also rent movies. What a woman loves most about a hotel room is coming back to it and finding it spiffed up, and finding everything exactly where she left it. Men lose their minds in hotels. Women find peace of mind.

What the FBI overheard on Feb. 13 about the Mayflower Hotel is as old as hotels. It was evidence of the deepest sort of affection, between a guy and a room, and service in that room. They call home and swear it's the worst, another hotel room in a life of hotel rooms.

The cheating heart loves a hotel room more than it loves the sex. Absolutely nothing can happen and it still feels guilty. Men watch gobs of "SportsCenter" and, almost always, no one's the wiser.

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