Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
May 2006

 “Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing,
Because They Never Existed
I am here to mourn the disappearance of a great American institution, the exterior-corridor motel.  Actually that phrase is a misnomer, because an “exterior-corridor” property has no corridors at all.  The guestroom door opens directly to the wonders of nature, the singing birds, the gentle breezes.  Countless immigrant forefathers, living in the crowded tenements of the northeast, labored long hours so that succeeding generations could someday have their own exterior-corridor home in the suburbs.  An exterior-corridor motel is a metaphor for America, opening its doors to a vast land of opportunity.  And it’s being killed off by criminals, lawyers, energy prices and concerns about “homeland security.”  A shame.

A motel room whose door opens to the outside is not good for occupancy control.  Remember the days of drive-in movies, when you would hide four friends in the trunk of dad’s Chrysler, and only pay for the two occupants of the car visible to the ticket-taker?  Motels used to be like that, where a single-occupancy room could end up with six buddies sleeping on the floor, nursing killer hangovers.  Why is this a problem, if your housekeeping staff have strong stomachs?  You have added to the general happiness of mankind, and your bar made a wad of money.  Today, we have to check all incoming guests for photo ID’s to make sure none of them is a wanted terrorist.  If Osama Bin Laden decides to check into a Comfort Inn in Dubuque, do we think he will produce his official passport?

Outside entries are harder to secure, I’m told.  Bad guys can follow a guest right up to the door, force their way in and do all manner of hideous things.  Do we presume that a deranged criminal will hesitate to loiter in an interior corridor, or that the front desk employee has memorized all the mugs on “America’s Most Wanted?”  And let’s be venal: will the guest’s attorney find it easier to skewer you on cross-examination if you didn’t hang out in the parking lot looking for miscreants, or if the serial rapist first had a chat with you at the front desk and asked for a pack of matches?

The security issue in reverse: “It’s easier to steal room contents from exterior corridor properties.”  At one time, sure, motels had to secure their fancy new color TV’s with anti-theft cables.  Today, you can buy a TV at Wal-Mart, to watch Oprah, for about the same cost as taking the family to McDonald’s.  Looters in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina took as many mattresses as TV’s.  No one even steals the TV remotes anymore, because they’ve come to understand they don’t work with Wal-Mart TV’s.  Instead, they steal the batteries out of the remotes, and put them in their iPods, sauntering right by the front desk on the way out.  And I have yet to witness a motel guest trying to stuff a mattress into his Civic.

It’s said that exterior-door properties are less energy-efficient.  If that’s true, it’s only because the guest is given actual, individual control of his or her environment.  Yes, during a blizzard a lot of room heat escapes when the door is opened.  Do we assume that most guests pop in and out repeatedly during blizzards, just for fun?  On the hottest day of the year, will a normal guest blast the AC and leave the front door open?  Is it really better to heat and cool a zillion cubic feet of corridor, than to trust guests to be sensible?

The exterior-corridor property has many guest advantages.  The route from the car to the room is about a thousand times shorter, or at least it seems that way if I’m toting the hundred-pound suitcase my wife needs for a two-day trip.  If my Cocker Spaniel accompanies me, I can walk him right outside on a leash to do his business (in today’s “pet-friendly” interior-corridor hotels, you can bet the wet spot on the carpet is not a spilled martini).  If I forget and leave Aunt Mabel asleep in the car, I can saunter right outside and fetch her, and not have to drag the old bat through a maze of corridors and elevators.

And best of all, when the Harley needs an oil change, I can do it right in my air-conditioned room.  While watching Oprah.

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

Larry Mundy
[email protected]

Also See: 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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