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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2007

What, No Room Service?

TUESDAY

3 PM

I hate B&Bs.

Cute. Cozy. Quaint.

Blech.

And yet here I am, staying in one

This B&B, in a charming New England city, is exactly what people think of when they imagine a charming New England bed n breakfast. It s a classic Greek Revival house, built in the 1830s and filled to the rafters with art and antiques. The room my college-shopping daughter and I occupy has a truly beautiful and old marble fireplace, gleaming plank floors, gobs of Eastlake furniture, and massive paneled pocket doors dividing our bedroom from our sitting room.

Sounds ideal, doesn t it?

It s not.

And the reason: People. The people factor is what I hate about B&Bs.

First off, you have to make nice with your hosts (who, if they were truly hosts, wouldn t charge you for the experience). They invariably want to know where you re from and why you re in town, and oh by the way, here s their life story, too! Yes! Can you believe it? He was an accountant in his former life! And she was a lawyer! But they always dreamed of a running little place just like this, right here in fill-in-the-blank!

Oh, and have you met their cats?

Sigh...

OK, that part I suppose I could live through if I gritted my teeth long enough. But then there s the rest of the people factor, which is to say, the other guests.

B&Bs are typically run by people who think of themselves as people persons, and they most definitely attract as guests other people who think of themselves as people persons. That means, as I was reminded earlier, that there is no such thing as a quiet cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Nooooo. There s nothing but a dining room full of perky, smiling, upbeat people persons and they all want to know (1) where you re from, (2) why you re in town, and (3) whether or not you d heard yet where they re from and why they re in town.

The forced conviviality of the B&B experience is enough to make me long for the welcome anonymity of a huge, impersonal chain hotel where no one knows who you are, where you re from, or why you re there. Best of all, no one expects a conversation.

Look. I've been married to the same man for 21 years, and even HE doesn t dare speak to me in the morning until I m at least on my second cup, without which I am unable to string together a complete sentence. Meanwhile, a complete stranger a junior-high Spanish teacher from Philly -- sat across the table from me this morning and gave me an exhaustingly detailed and unwanted rundown of the best walking routes for campus. And he did it all with a wide-awake smile.

You re asking yourself right now: Roberta, if you re such an anti-social old crank who hates B&Bs so almighty much, why in God s name are you staying in one? Good question. The answer is: It s $120 a night, far cheaper than a hotel, or at least cheaper than the hotels in this charming New England town.

But I will say one thing for this particular B&B, which offers something I d never expected -- namely, an incredibly dour innkeeper. Now, you d think there must be some B&B Code of Ethics somewhere that mandates all hosts and hostesses to be sterling examples of good cheer.

Not in this place Our hostess is a crosspatch. A sourpuss. A big ol sorehead. Meeeaaaan.

Um, excuse me, but could we perhaps have a fan for our very warm room?

No.

Could I possibly borrow her campus map until I could get one of my own?

No.

Economical with the words, this one. At breakfast this morning, when she asked if I wanted more coffee, her tone of voice made the very question feel like an accusation.

My daughter is straight-out afraid of her. But, I have to admit, I kind of like the scowling old bird...



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