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March 18, 2011

Holiday Inn Express Runs Out of Internets

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:00 am

I bitch about hotels a lot. Almost always, the subject of my bitching is their terrible internet. Occasionally it’s just plain broken, usually it’s slow, sometimes it blocks important ports.

The other night, I returned home from a show to the Holiday Inn Express in Ft. Pierce, FL, and saw this:

I tried to refresh a couple times just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, and then decided that I was exhausted and wasn’t going to deal with it. Some of my other cohorts also reported the shortage of internets.

I. have. never.


April 6, 2010

Last Leg Begins

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:20 am

Well we’re back! Our five days of vacation are over. The overall verdict was that they were very welcome, not long enough, and yet we all missed each other a lot.

Today we all flew to Shreveport, LA from wherever we were (I was with the largest group, from New York), where we all boarded the cast bus. The crew bus needed some last-minute repairs, so we found out a few days ago that the cast bus would take us all from the airport in Shreveport to our first destination, Ruston, LA — about an hour and a half away.

I’m not sure if this is the first time ever — I can’t imagine it is — that the company has had the entire traveling company (22 people) all traveling between cities on the same tour bus. The bus is designed for 12 people to live on comfortably, but between the large music singalong party going on in the back lounge, a few people in bunks, and a few in the front lounge, apparently nobody was bothered by the overcrowding. It was actually kind of a nice bonding experience between cast and crew, especially since we haven’t seen each other in almost a week.

I had a rough day — I started out with a headache, and flying always messes my body up, so it just got worse throughout the day. By the time we got on the bus I just wanted to sleep it off. I borrowed one of the actors’ bunks (my first time sleeping in the coffin-sized bunks the 12-person configuration creates) and attempted to sleep the whole time. It was nice to be able to close my eyes, be in the dark, and lay horizontal, but I don’t sleep well on a loud bus when I don’t feel well, so I don’t think I got more than 10 minutes of actual sleep.

We just had a crew room here, but because of how awful our schedule is this week, I had a plot that depending on how I felt, if the hotel had some rooms and could match the company rate, I might want my own room, just to store up as much comfort and sanity as possible before the craziness begins.

Given how rough the day was, I decided to go for the room even though we didn’t have the best discount here. It’s a colossal waste of money, but the room is nicer than I expected, and I’m lying in a big fluffy bed watching what I want to watch on TV, able to use my computer comfortably on a lap desk, I can sleep in quiet and darkness, with access to a bathroom, and in the morning I can take a shower easily. I think I stand a much better chance of waking up feeling fine and being useful at load-in.

And in answer to the bus question, we have a different bus, not either of the two we thought we were getting, but it’s so close to being identical to the one we just had that when we first saw it in the dark, we really weren’t sure. Even after we walked inside, I looked around and thought the sconces in the front lounge were a different shape, which is the only reason I was able to say, “This is a different bus, right?” The artwork is also different, but also cool, which is a tall order, because I loved the art in the last bus. I didn’t even get as far as checking out the accessories in my bunk before checking into the hotel, so that’s the big thing that to me increases the comfort level. Little details like where the outlets are located, a hook, and a pouch or pocket of some kind to hold the TV remote, headphones, your phone, wallet, etc. make a huge difference.

So I think we’re all ready to begin the final leg. We have two weeks of hell and then what should be a nice sit-down in Philly to finish it off. I’m going to be sad when it’s over, but it will also be nice to be home for at least a month.


March 28, 2010

Choo Choo (Chattanooga, TN)

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:02 pm

I feel like I haven’t blogged much. That’s because our usual breakneck pace has slowed down these last two weeks. Today we did our first performance in a week. In the last two weeks, we’ve only played one other venue.

I wish I could say more about our hotel, the Chattanooga Choo Choo (yes, seriously). It’s a converted train station (well the lobby and shop area is), and some of the rooms are actual period train cars parked on the remaining tracks (not ones we can afford on our per diem, not that we were given the option to splurge — I’m afraid I might have!). Behind the tracks are more buildings where the normal rooms are. As a hotel, it’s a little bit run-down feeling, but comfortable. The internet was amazing the first day and has pretty much sucked thereafter. Curses!

And I should say, I’m the kind of person who once spent the better part of a week showering in the dark (Tuscon last year) because I didn’t feel it necessary to bother the maintenance people to change my bathroom light. I have had to call the front desk almost every day. Admittedly one time it was to order a fridge so I could chill the cache of energy drinks I was given by our company manager. Otherwise it’s been for problems. I’m debating whether I’m going to mention the fact that I came home from the show to find my door had been left ajar by the cleaning person. I’m just kind of tired of hotels right now, which should be great because on the next leg we’ll be sleeping most nights on the bus! I’m just ready for vacation.

Today was a really nice day. We loaded in yesterday (well, other people did — Nick and I did our 8AM load in and then spent the rest of the day at rehearsal for Alice in Wonderland, so it felt like we missed the whole thing), so all we had to do today was show up for show call. It was a 3PM matinee — not too early, not too late — and we left the theatre, not having to load out, while the sun was still shining and the weather just perfect here on the picturesque campus of the University of Tennessee. Because everyone has to be shuttled to the hotel in vans, it normally takes three trips (the buses were released when we got here because we’re about to go on vacation). A bunch of us, cast and crew, walked the 15 minutes back to the hotel, which was a nice change of pace.

Tomorrow night we have a show, and then in the morning it’s vacation time! Having never actually taken a Vacation with a capital V in my adult life, I’m going back to New York, where my activities will consist of sitting at home, surfing the internet, playing video games, sleeping, probably visiting Phantom, going to Stage Manager Drink Night, and visiting my parents’ house on Easter. Basically exactly what I would be doing with five days off any other time. And I can’t wait!


March 12, 2010

Dear Civilization: Please Help. Crew Starving. Send Interwebs.

I call this: On the Road Again,phones,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:54 pm

Here I sit, at the Fairfield Inn in Ottumwa, IA. Clinging to a single bar of Edge on my iPhone.

I know what you’re thinking: “why are you even looking at your phone and expecting it to work? — you’re in Iowa. AT&T has made it clear they don’t care about Iowa. You should be happy you have any signal at all.”

Well, about that. The Fairfield Inn is charging us $90 a night. What in Ottumwa is worth that much for a hotel room? I have no idea. ¬†It must be something or else they’d be out of business. ¬†All I know is it’s half a mile to the closest source of food, and this afternoon we had to have our bus driver drive us to the grocery store, and tonight he’s taking us downtown for dinner. ¬†The bus driver, by the way, is not really supposed to have to do that. ¬†His job is to drive us between cities, to the hotel, and to the venue. ¬†Otherwise he should be sleeping, or picking up chicks, or whatever else bus drivers do when they’re off the clock. ¬†Any other trips beyond that are just to be nice.

The bus internet, which uses Sprint, is struggling a bit here, too, which is surprising because it always does better than AT&T in places of dubious importance to wireless carriers.

No problem though. We have two days off here. We have hotel rooms. We can just sit in the hotel and use the internet all we want. WRONG.

THE HOTEL INTERNET IS BROKEN.

They don’t know when it will be fixed.

Let me recap what we’re getting for $90/night at the Fairfield Inn in Ottumwa, IA:

  • No access to food aside from the snack machine in the hall (I don’t know if it works)
  • Located in the middle of nowhere where both AT&T and Sprint don’t provide reliable service
  • NO INTERNET

Look at this smug little anthropomorphized ethernet jack. Lies. All lies. Now, a hotel advertising “high speed internet” almost always means that one time, about 10 years ago, their bandwidth would have been considered high speed. When I installed my first 56K modem I felt like I had put a rocketship in my computer too, so I get where they’re coming from. But seeing the little sticker on the wall when I checked in did not fill me with hope. I did kind of expect that there would be something coming out of it, though.

We’ve complained, but the manager won’t be in until tomorrow, so who knows how it will turn out. I wouldn’t mind paying half the price for a place to shower, sleep and do laundry, but we’ve stayed in nice hotels in the downtown areas of major cities for less, and they had internet, too.

If we were just passing through it would be one thing, but this is where we’re spending two days off. The cast, lucky sons-of-guns, are staying an extra day in our previous hotel, which was near a lot of stuff, including a fast food / ice cream joint called Culver’s, which I’d never heard of, but about which I will be fantasizing for months if not years.

I think I may be doing a lot of writing for these days, although usually when I write I do refer to the internet for things. I will get by with whatever I can eke out of my one bar of Edge. I can only imagine what a disaster my life would be right now if my phone wasn’t jailbroken and I couldn’t tether. You hear me, AT&T? I’m stealing the bandwidth I already paid you for — 1KB every second!

UPDATE

Well things worked out OK. An hour before we were supposed to check out, Bobby called to say that the hotel was going to take care of us and let us stay all night (we have a 4AM load-in, so we were going to check out at 1PM and then sit on the bus in the middle of nowhere until our 3:30AM departure). And on top of that, they just fixed the internet! So the ability to stay all day, time to grab some sleep before load-in, even shower again if we want to, and the access to internet while here, have made it worth the $90 (I consider that a day-and-a-half hotel stay, which works out to just about what the room is worth).

I had just settled in to spend my last hour in the hotel beginning to prepare graphic elements for the next version of my stage management database, which I will begin working on once the tour is over. I figured it’s the one project I can accomplish completely offline. I want it to share the look and feel of the website, so I began importing the graphics. Here’s what I came up with in the five minutes before the phone rang.

And this whole experience allowed me to return to my childhood, when you could click a web link, go take a shower, and come back to see if the page had finished loading.

In other news, their internet seemed really fast, maybe fast enough for gaming, which is what I usually hope to do when staying in a hotel for a day off, so I headed over to DSL Reports to see what the speeds were. One time it tested at about 100kpbs, and another in excess of 1MB. Anyway, I’m happy with whatever it is.


February 20, 2009

An Open Letter to the Hoteliers of America

I call this: On the Road Again,random — Posted by KP @ 12:32 pm

Dear Hoteliers,
I am tired of filling out those little comment cards, and quite frankly they don’t leave enough room for the rant that is about to ensue, so I will address all of you in the hopes that some of you will shape up before I stumble half-asleep across your doorstep some afternoon.

First of all, I see that your comment card asks me lots of questions about things I could care less about: “overall exterior appearance of hotel,” “responsiveness to your needs,” “condition of furniture.” ¬†Let me save you the time and tell you that when I walk into your hotel, I expect 3 things:

  • A bed
  • A shower with decent water pressure
  • an internet connection with sustained speeds over 1.5mbps

I don’t care if the room has a TV, a couch, or a chest of drawers. ¬†I hope it has lights and maybe a fridge. ¬†A desk and chair would add to my comfort greatly, and frankly the bed is not strictly necessary, but would be preferable to sleeping on the floor. ¬† But really, the only reason I am here is to take a much-anticipated shower, and to use my little free time to play an online game that demands a reliable connection, and perhaps to download some episodes of “The Wire” from iTunes.

In my travels thus far, I have found few hotels that can meet even two of these needs. ¬†Everyone has accomplished #1, and for that I congratulate you. ¬†But Holiday Inn Express in Harrisburg, PA, and Hampton Inn in Hampton, VA, are you pumping the water into my shower with a bicycle pump? ¬†Is there a little man in the wall who pours a cup of water at a time into the back of the shower head? ¬†I haven’t had a shower in THREE FUCKING DAYS, give me some damn water!!!

Ahem, now on to the most important question, and the area where almost all hotels need to improve. ¬†With the exception of the Holiday Inn Express in Poplar Bluff, MO (!!) you all failed to provide sufficient internet services. ¬†Every hotel I have stayed at has advertised “high speed internet,” including the Holiday Inn Select in Lafayette, IN, which provided consistent speeds of 250kbps, which might have been considered high speed 10 years ago. ¬†Here’s a tip: ¬†I have just run a speed test on my laptop using my cell phone’s connection (in an area with 3G and full bars), and pulled down 818kbps / 348kbps up. ¬† I don’t think it’s asking too much for your rather large, stationary, and overpriced building to provide better internet service than a fucking PHONE.

A few other things of less importance:

  • I’d really like the soda machine to be on my floor and not sold out of everything but Diet Pepsi. ¬†And at least one snack machine in the building.
  • Why do some of you hide the listing of the TV channels so well that I only discover it when I’m packing up to leave?
  • Laundry – you must have laundry machines. ¬†When I get a spare hour or two at 2AM, I need some clean clothes. ¬†I might only get that chance once a week, and if I’m in your hotel when it happens, you better be ready for it!

So get it together, folks.  I will be adding to this list as I see fit.