The 2016 Great American Escape
In a recent post, I mentioned the sticker shock that my wife and I experienced upon searching for a reasonably priced hotel in Manhattan. It did not take us long to realize that, at least in terms to which we are accustomed, there is no such thing. Three hundred dollars a night appears to be the bellwether, with more chic accommodations going for many times that price.
At The Library Hotel, for example, a “petite room” with one full bed, not at all appropriate for two very large people (the website indicates “most suitable for one person”) goes for $305.15 per night, plus taxes and fees. While I was intrigued by the hotel’s large book collection for which it is named (and from which guests may borrow for bedtime reading) and its midtown location right by the world-famous main branch of the New York Public Library, I must remind myself that this is considered a luxury hotel and far outside my budget.
So we started thinking about another really nice place that’s not in Midtown, the Bentley Hotel. What’s that they say about location, location, location? The farther away from Times Square, the cheaper, right? It’s not like we wanted to stay in the Bronx or anything, but this hotel is in a decent upper east side neighborhood hard by the Queensborough Bridge. We can deal with it! Let’s check availability and rates. (Gasp, gag) $375.50 per night!
Clearly, this is not working. Another approach is in order. A friend of ours from the Central Valley who often ferries out of town tour groups around Manhattan tells me she either stays in New Jersey or uses the Hotel Tonight app to catch a same-day reservation on the cheap for an in-town room that would otherwise go vacant. The latter choice will not work for us, as we want to have advance reservations, not wander around Manhattan wondering where we’re lay our heads for the night. New Jersey is starting to look better and better.
I made a last ditch effort to stay in Manhattan by furiously clicking around until I found a hotel room on the Lower East Side that went for about $120 per night once tax and fees were added on. “Only one room left!” the website warned.
“Quick, look at this!” I implored my wife. She called up the place on her own laptop while I yanked my credit card out of my wallet and hurriedly entered my information. After all, the web page said that eight others were looking at the room. “I don’t know if I can do this fast enough,” I confessed as I harbored images of the screen flashing a laughing message: “You lose, sucker! Room booked by someone else 1.5 seconds ago. Better luck next time!”
But that’s not what happened. I successfully booked the room before it was gone. “Whew!” I proclaimed in relief, congratulating myself on snagging such a good deal. “Walking distance to Katz’s Deli,” the site assured me as the reservation confirmation hit my email box. Great! My wife wants to try out Katz’s (or at least gawk at the place) while we’re in town.
Only then did I take a look at the online reviews. There were many of them, which I hoped would present me with a balanced picture. Unfortunately, most of them said the same thing, in the most exclamatory of tones. “Bedbugs! Bedbugs! Do not stay here! Shitty sheets! Blood on the sheets! Bedbugs, bedbugs!”
I was crestfallen. Oh, my God, how could I have been so stupid! Of course, you’re going to get what you pay for. (Or at least you won’t get what you don’t pay for.) As if that weren’t bad enough, my wife could not believe the depth of my imbecility in having reserved through booking.com. “You never go through those services!” she informed me.
Obviously, I am way out of my depth here. I have to learn not to mess with things I so clearly do not understand.
The next evening, when I arrived home from work, I accessed the reservation and cancelled it. Luckily for me, the screen assured me that there was no charge for cancellations at least 48 hours in advance. It was still a month in advance, so I was good.
So where are we going to stay in New York? Well, it looks like Manhattan is out, so New Jersey it is. I found a trucker motel for $60 a night plus tax near the Pulaski Skyway. Memories returned of my father’s old Rambler breaking down there one night when I was about ten years old, with the trucks whizzing by while Dad cursed and tried to figure out what was wrong with that piece of crap car this time. Let’s see, there’s Tonnele Avenue to Routes 1 and 9, that’s close to the Turnpike, right? Near the Holland Tunnel? I’m sure I can figure it out.
Ultimately, my wife found us a better answer. We booked into a very nice chain hotel in my hometown in Rockland County, about 40 minutes from Midtown and right by the New York Thruway. Hot breakfast included, even a refrigerator and a microwave in the room. Decidedly lacking in some of the finer New York amenities, such as bedbugs.
One of these days, I will learn to trust my wife’s judgment in all practical matters and stay the heck away from expensive, messy errors.
I may have learned this lesson a little too late, however. This evening, our Visa bill turned up with a charge for a two-night stay at Bedbug Heaven.
And that, my dears, is the reason that mistakes are so painful. No matter how hard you try, they can never be fully corrected.