Bad Hotel

November 20, 2011

Greetings from BadhotelScheveningen! That’s actually the name of the place. “I kid you not!” as Jack Paar might have said. “I’m not making this up!” as Dave Berry might have said. “I am not a crook!” as Richard Nixon might have said. You get the picture.

What do you expect from a place that’s actually called Bad Hotel? Is this the next film in the series that brought us Bad Santa and Bad Teacher? That would be a hotel where everyone is vulgar and out for themselves. But since this is pretty much the reality at most hotels you might visit these days, it isn’t actually much of a premise for the next film starring Jason Sudeikis or some other punk I’ve never heard of. No, the pitch for “Bad Hotel” would probably go something like this: “Fawlty Towers meets The Office”. A klatch of dysfunctional losers occupy positions in the front office at the airport location of a chain hotel in some dismal Midwestern location like Omaha, Tulsa or Grand Rapids. I know, I know. Those of us here in Lansing think of Grand Rapids as the epitome of sophistication and cosmopolitan élan. But we’ve got to realize that the two-coasters who form the bulk of the film audience these days probably don’t see it that way.

At any rate, the head manager is some narcissistic fop who majored in hospitality studies at the local land-grant university (I spare myself and my employer no embarrassment at the Thornapple Blog), mainly because it was a great way to avoid interrupting video games or the occasional bout of heavy drinking to do something like actually crack a book. The special events director is actually competent and a subtly sexy and intelligent babe who read Rimbaud in the original French during college (not that our scripts will ever betray any hint of this), but she is continually stifled by the corporate structure and the unintended but devastatingly effective barriers to her advancement that are erected by the narcissistic fop manager. Then there are necessary losers we need to round the Bad Hotel scenario: vindictive petty bureaucrats, muscular, bright and generally disinterested security staff and a few well-meaning cultural stereotypes in the waitstaff or custodial service.  It’s tough to resist those can’t quite understand the language mis-cues in a vehicle like this.

So now that I’ve given away another million-dollar idea in the Thornapple Blog (see “Fat Elvis” for the earlier instance), I’ll say that the Bad Hotel here in Scheveningen is actually nothing like this. Oh sure, we’re a block from the actual seaside, with at least two multi-story apartment buildings thoroughly obscuring any chance we might have of catching a glimpse of the ocean. And it is November, after all, and by noon we find that the bone-chilling fog that rolled in off the North Sea is only just now beginning to lift a little bit. Not that the sun is out, mind you, but the impenetrable steel gray cloud cover has actually risen to the point that I can see the top of the 11 story condo building that is the second of two between me and that ocean view that people would actually pay to come here and look at. But the hotel itself is okay. Nice little dining room with a street-side window where I sat for hours sipping bitter coffee and watching snugly dressed Dutch couples out walking their dogs.

Ah the bliss of being an internationally recognized food ethicist! Expense paid out-of-season travel to bad hotels at North Sea resorts that normally have only about six weeks when you could actually wear a bathing suit, in any case. Excuse me while I gloat.

I hope that volcano doesn’t crank up again. I’m looking forward to being home for Thanksgiving. Or as McGeorge Bundy might have said, “Mistakes were made.”

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University