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Traveler's Corner

Travel Tips with Dr. J | Sept/Oct
By Chuck Johnson
Posted: 2020-09-22T19:19:00Z


Jay Tischendorf  -  Ceva Animal Health


Our last article focused on hacks and hints for making our travels safer.  For today, how about we discuss a few helpful tricks for making overnight stays in hotels more comfortable and safer?

For many of us in the world of pharma, overnight travel is part of our daily routine.  Selecting a hotel in a safe part of town or the particular city is always the first step in deciding on overnight accommodations.  A local rep or co-worker may be able to offer guidance on this, but if not, the local fire or police department is an excellent alternative.  Don’t be embarrassed to call and ask for help. 

Having settled on a hotel, check the internet for any evidence the place has, or has ever had, issues with bed bugs.  If it has, my advice is find another hotel.  These hematophagous creatures can show up anywhere anytime and will ruin your day if you happen to be exposed and, even worse, carry them home with you.  Such misadventures never play well with the spouse and kids.  So far in 20 years of pharma work and travel I have avoided contact with these nasties. But I always say that the first time I do will be the day I turn in my badge and retire.  While experts tell us that these little blood-suckers don’t transmit diseases, I’m not sure I buy that.  I don’t trust bedbugs any more than I trust fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, leeches, maggots, or Dracula.  Moreover, call me crazy but I’m just not comfortable with the idea of being fed upon by something that bit some dude from East Overshoe, Iowa on the butt the night before.  

As an aside, bedbugs are one reason I prefer to stay in the newest hotels possible, simply because they have had less traffic and, thus, probability-wise, less chance of contamination with them. 

At check-in, it’s nice to have a set series of requests.  Generally, the 2nd or possibly 3rd floor is a good choice for a room.  This gets you off the ground where prowlers might be lurking, and yet is also low enough that one could jump from a window and have at least a reasonable chance of surviving – never mind the fractured femur! - if there was no other possible escape from a building fire or other emergency. 

It also pays to get in the habit of asking for a room on the quiet side of the hotel and away from the high traffic areas like the elevators.  At a national sales meeting one year in Dallas I watched a co-worker deteriorate from a rational human being to an undead character from the latest Netflix zombie series because his room had a wonderful view of the nextdoor railroad tracks.  He was kept up all night, every night, with locomotives more or less plowing through his room on their way to places like Lubbock and East Overshoe.  It was tragic, especially because there wasn’t an alternative room to be had in the facility and the company wouldn’t let the poor soul move out into another hotel.  This might be another occasion when you consider turning in your badge….

It can be a sensitive issue, but here is where I’d also inquire, matter-of-factly, unabashedly, and in person, about any bedbug issues.  Yes, you checked the internet, but most of us know the folly of putting all our eggs in the online basket. 

Having made it this far you may actually find that the Pope happens to be in town and your room reservation with guaranteed late arrival has been usurped by an itinerant parishioner hoping to attend the papal programs.  This happened to me in Denver one time at something-past-midnight and I had to make a rough, bleary-eyed drive to Colorado Springs to find an open room. Even then I think I ended up in the Starlight Motel on the lower east side. 

Assuming you actually secure a room, please do several things before you unpack.  First, if there is a door to an adjoining room, assure that it is securely locked.  I then either set my suitcase on an elevated suitcase rack to block that door, or I move a chair in front of it. 

Next, lift the mattress and check for bedbugs.  Putting it bluntly, your internet search may have been incomplete and, oops, the receptionist might have accidentally lied.  To be extra thorough, check under the cushions on any chairs or couches.  You’ll rest easier that way.  If by chance you find evidence of bugs, your options are to ask for another room or perhaps better yet, get a refund and head to another hotel.  Or perhaps you enjoy sleeping in bathtubs.  That’s the safest place to hunker down when you’re dealing with a bedbug  infestation. 

Finally, before unpacking, check your windows for any damage and assure that they are locked. 

We each have our preferences as to room type and layout and probably even the hotel chain. With regard to room type, I like a double queen, for several reasons.  One of these is the fact you then have the choice of two different mattresses.  I’m a firm mattress guy, so I’ll pretend I’m Andre’ The Giant and do an atomic knee drop on each bed to determine which is the hardest.  That’s the one I sleep in. 

As for the other, well, we all no doubt have peculiarities as far as how and where we lay out our clothes and stuff, if we even unpack at all.  My preference is to place a towel or two atop that extra bed and lay my stuff out there, often also including my office supplies and any files or notebooks and paper work. 

Otherwise, I also like to remove the ironing board found in most hotel closets, unfold it, cover it with a towel and use it as an elevated platform for my clothes and such. 

Microbe maniac?  Germaphobe?   Maybe.  But I prefer to think of myself as “germ aware”.  I mean, who knows what goes on in East Overshoe?  Whatever it is, I prefer not to smell, feel, god forbid taste, or otherwise learn about it in my hotel room.  On that note, here’s a helpful hint:  If your hotel room bathroom has a telephone by the toilet, I highly recommend you never use it.  Unless of course you’ve fallen and can’t get up and it is the only lifeline available to you to get some help.  Just please try to use some Purell before you go back to floundering there helplessly on the cold tiles awaiting your rescue. 

Here are a few other hints or hacks for hotel rooms. 

Break open a coffee packet or two to help minimize musty smells or simply to give your room the comforting ambiance of your favorite Starbucks. 

If you need to wash clothes and don’t have laundry soap, the small bottle of hotel-provided shampoo is a good alternative.  Just empty the bottle into the hotel’s laundry room washer and let it roll. 

Full disclosure:  In a clothing crisis, there have been times where I literally showered in my clothes and with a lot of lather and the added boost of shampoo, washed myself and my garmentry all in one fell swoop. 

No shaving cream?  A mixture of shampoo and cream rinse works pretty well.   

Need some mouthwash?  If you have any salt packets, a mix of that and some toothpaste stirred into a cup of water is an effective option.  The salt is optional.  And in a pinch just squeeze some toothpaste into your mouth, tongue it around a bit, and then swish and swirl in a mouthful of water, gargle, spit, and go.  Easy peasy. 

Toothpaste is of course a mild abrasive and thus works as polish if for some reason you need to polish something like a belt buckle or perhaps even your shoes or boots.   

Happy trails!  See you all next month…