Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
June 2006


 Remembering the Old-time Hotel Engineering Department
 
Remember the old-time hotel engineering department?  There was an older gentleman who looked and sounded like the actor that hawks the life-enhancing properties of oatmeal on TV, and maybe a younger guy with sideburns and a tattoo.  When not replacing light bulbs or pump seals, they lived in the “engineering office,” which was really a small hardware store with assortments of rubber belts, faucet washers, a pinup calendar and a half-used jar of Butch Wax, together with an assortment of tools capable of causing Blunt Force Trauma.

Not any more.  Sure, there is still the assortment of toilet parts and light bulbs, because commodes and lamps are just about the only things in the guestroom that can be fixed the old-fashioned way.  But now most of the space is taken up with instruction manuals rivaling the Library of Congress of a century ago, together with an assortment of electronic doodads -  programmers, testers, and probes.  These are not actually used to fix anything, but rather to confirm that something is broken, which the guest probably knew before he called the front desk to complain.

It's not the engineers' fault.  Pick up one of those manuals and turn to any page marked "troubleshooting."  It won't say anything like "replace gasket and check for leaks."  Instead it will say "the voltage potential between connectors S31 and S44 should be 3-4 volts when the unit is switched to "low" setting.  If it is not within these parameters, you can replace the voltumerator relay, which is of course more troublesome and expensive than just buying a whole new unit."

It used to be that Old Joe could open up a dead TV, solder a couple wires to each other, and bring it back to life.  Now when they say "no user-serviceable parts inside," they mean it.  The guts of TV's now consist of one tube, and one tiny circuit board constructed by outer-space aliens with powerful electron microscopes.  Telephones are no longer simple devices, because they are no longer used for speaking to other people across vast distances.  Rather, they are used for programming the time, language and ring tone of one's wake-up call, and have buttons that automatically summon any hotel department, the Poison Control Center, or the guest's choice of local Ethiopian restaurants. 

Remember when the engineering guys made actual metallic keys from "blanks" that had to have teeth cut into them?  Remember when vacuum cleaners could actually be disassembled and fixed?  When the airport van just needed some new sparkplugs and filters every 500,000 miles?  These days, reports from Engineering read like an absurd short story.  “Microchip in fryer control has decided it’s a Game Boy instead, must replace entire unit.”  “Key-card reader suffered voltage surge from lightning, is now producing bogus Visa cards.”  “New series of jet-swirl toilets require active internet connection.” 

Your Engineering staff is getting a hands-on education in computer programming, microchip design, conductor impedance and radio-frequency transmission, just so the guy in 206 can open his door.  I say, give them all a pat on the back.  As soon as they return from rebooting all the clock radios.



Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."
 
Contact:

Larry Mundy
LJM2804@yahoo.com

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Also See: Curse of the Hotel Lobby-Dwellers / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
What Do You Do With an Old Hotel? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Hotel Smokers: A Dying Breed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May  2006
The New Food & Beverage – Food “Just Like Home”  / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Guest Privacy – It’s Not Just a Door Tag Anymore / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
The Future of Hotel Reservations / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Soon Every Town in America Will Have an Unused Convention Center / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Hotel Pool Safety 101 / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy
My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006



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