Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Mercer Hotel is my hero.

If a hotel room doesn't meet your expectations a rider gives you an out. The rider is something you and the hotel need to agree to ahead of time and you should be clear to communicate that it overrides their cancellation policy.

Learn from my experience in New York a few trips ago. After looking at three rooms in a hotel that will remain unmentioned -- all with stained mattresses -- I had enough and decided to check out. The reservation manager was delightful enough to ask me why I had a problem sleeping on other people's stains. I looked at her with crazy eyes. She insisted on charging me half a night's stay which amounted to just under $400 US. So incredibly thoughtful of her.

A reputable hotel will usually let you out of your reservation to keep you happy and their reputation intact. FYI, once you give a hotel your credit card number you are agreeing to their cancellation policy and it is within their right to charge you accordingly -- even if their hotel disappoints. This fact was confirmed by VISA. Unmentioned hotel's policy is a two night charge for cancellation without something like five days notice. I guess they thought they were doing me a favor. I'll do them a favor by not naming them.

I guess this was my penance for cheating on my go to hotel -- The Mercer. If other hotels are interested in mastering the concept of boutique, they should attend finishing school at the Mercer. The Mercer came to my rescue when I left the unmentionable and I have been loyal ever since. That's why I'm back on this trip. And this is my beyond fabulous and immaculate room. Hit.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Waiting for a home in New York.

Okay, there is a slight downside to having a rider. It takes the hotel that much longer to meet your demands which means you could be without a room for a while. It's 7 p.m. in New York and I'm still waiting for my room. In my opinion perfection is worth the wait.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My hotel room rider.

Celebrities have riders. So should you. I'll explain why in Friday's post. I leave tonight for New York so today I'm busy packing Hygiene Hunter essentials like saline mist, jasmine oil, rose hydrosol, wet wipes, hand sani, plastic sandwich bags, flip flops, slippers, socks, tissue and Echinacea Combo. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oopsy daisy.

Perhaps, just perhaps, in my quest for clean I used too much toilet paper. At the precise moment it became clear the toilet was plugged my husband received an urgent phone call from the bran muffin he ate for breakfast. He wasn't amused because he hasn't had to sit on a public throne in years. BTW, he is no longer my husband. After he left, I called housekeeping who immediately sent engineering to my charming room in the historic building at The Fairmont San Francisco. The gentleman with plunger in hand was clearly relieved he only had to contend with a roll of toilet paper in the basin. He did so quickly and efficiently. Overflow is another reason you should never walk around barefoot in public spaces. To the hotel's credit they didn't cut me off from toilet paper or tissue. Hit.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A souvenir you can't bring back.

Let's just say you're walking along the streets of San Francisco and you see a used mattress laying about. You think to yourself, "Wow! I sure would like to take that back to Canada with me!" Work with me.

The thing is you can't. I found this interesting tidbit while searching Canada Border Services Agency info online on the ins and outs of importing cherries. I bought some delicious cherry preserves from Happy Girl Kitchen Co. at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and wasn't clear on whether or not I was allowed to cross the border with them. I knew importing fresh fruit can land you a major fine. When I landed in Canada I asked a customs agent why you can't cross the border with a used mattress. She said because they can harbor ticks and all sorts of other bugs. My obsession with clean mattresses is justified. Thank you CBSA. I'm quite certain that's not something they hear often. Hit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This made me laugh.

I'm not sure which was funnier. Me stalking Jim -- the beer & wine manager at Whole Foods in San Francisco -- as I attempted to get the perfect angle for this picture. Or Jim's tail. Hit.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Banks doing good.

We are all so quick to complain about bank fees, their automated phone systems and those pesky security cameras that catch you without your lipstick on. But when was the last time you noticed your bank, or any bank, washing their light fixtures and then told others about it? Allow me. A few days ago I walked past the Imperial Capital Bank in San Francisco and they were having their giant lamps cleaned thoroughly by two conscientious gentlemen. I would really appreciate banks more if they could also sanitize their money so I wouldn't have to worry about touching it on those rare occasions when I withdraw cash. Hit.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Men behaving like gentlemen.

I didn't see one male patron attempting to relieve himself at the urinal hanging on the wall at the SFMOMA. That means they understood it was art. Or. They were shy. Or. They didn't understand the two in one concept. Alex Schweder's Bi-Bardon (2001) is the cleanest public facility I've ever encountered. If you dared me to, I would rub my bare hands all over it. But I would stop at drinking from it with a straw. Hit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Art that sings to me.

This is art. Question mark. This is art. Period. The brilliant body of work produced by Bay Area conceptual artist David Ireland (1930 -2009) pays homage to everyday life. This particular piece brings together toilet paper rolls, cleaning powder and wood furniture to create A Decade Document, Withcomet, Andcomet, Andstool (1980-90) . The SFMOMA describes it as a classical altarpiece. The type of altarpiece The Hygiene Hunter prays at every day. My altarpiece just happens to be comprised of paper towel rolls and bottles of biodegradable Ecover. My mom on the other hand is partial to the powder. Read my "Blame or thank my mother." post. Hit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Apples have feelings too.

To be fair, we all touch fruits and veggies as we make our selection and that's why you should wash your F & V before you eat them. But did you ever stop to consider how the rejected fruit feels? Dan who grows organic Red Rome Beauty Apples and operates a stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco certainly does.

This past Saturday, Dan watched a lady manhandle almost an entire basket of his apples before rejecting them because some had slight imperfections -- even though he explained to her that less than perfect-looking fruit actually tastes better. The imperfections are a sign of stress the fruit has sustained and as a result improves flavor. "I started to feel bad for the rejected apples." Don't cry for the apples people because I bought some and then triple washed them. Hit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

People who wear gloves.

If I wasn't The Hygiene Hunter I could be a doorman like Andres at The Fairmont San Francisco. Gloves are a required part of his uniform and he says they definitely help keep his hands clean. Here. Here. Hit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A presidential welcome.

Oh my goodness! I was so touched. So overwhelmed. As we left San Francisco Airport and approached the city I noticed the streets to be suddenly clean and free of traffic. In fact, ahead of us was an advance car with flashing lights. Leather-clad motorcycle officers wearing gloves were lined up to the left and right of me. A helicopter kept pace. I thought perhaps the hotel does indeed know I am The Hygiene Hunter. Bless their hearts.

Then my driver Clovis looked in his rearview mirror and said, "That's President Obama behind us." We pulled over and jumped out of the car. Obama waved. I cried. BTW, my room at The Fairmont San Francisco was 99% perfect. They lost one percentage point for a long black hair on the duvet; likely a housekeeper's. I went to bed wondering if Obama got a clean mattress too. Hit.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Another city. Another mattress.

I leave tomorrow for San Francisco and I'm staying in the same hotel I stayed in on my last visit there just three months ago. For Hygiene Hunter fun, I've requested the same room. The room had just been renovated on my previous visit and the mattress was stain-free. Any guesses as to the condition I will find it in? The hotel knows Eva Polis is checking in, but they don't know I'm the Hygiene Hunter. It's like being Bruce Wayne.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's the polite thing to do.

I found this thoughtful reminder at Refresh (a raw food restaurant). Putting down the toilet seat is that little something we can all do to protect our energy flow (according to Chinese medicine). And, help lower the germ count in public restrooms and our own bathrooms (according to a study I read and threw away so unfortunately I can't quote verbatim). The flush creates an invisible germ-laden mist that can end up in far flung places in a washroom. As far flung as the sink.

This is why I have a love/hate relationship with the automatic flusher. Love because you don't have to deal with the flush. Hate because the sensor usually goes off while I'm mid-tinkle (inevitable after a long flight). When I encounter an automatic flush toilet I try to time my tinkle to avoid the complimentary spritz. If a toilet is without a toilet seat cover and has uncovered toilet paper rolls I will always tear off quite a few layers of TP before using. I never said I was planet friendly.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A hygiene vigilante in emergency.

FYI. The Hygiene Hunter is not the best person to have at your side in a medical emergency. Stress causes me to say insensitive things like, "I can appreciate you're injured, but could you wait to bleed until we arrive at the hospital?" and "Uh, excuse me? Please wipe that up before you exit my vehicle." On top of that, I levitate in hospitals -- for obvious reasons. And, when I levitate, the attention is drawn away from the truly sick.

I was the only person available to deal with a family emergency this past Friday. As the saying goes, when God closes a door, he opens a window. While my son was in X-ray, I met Marlene. She was making a big fuss in the waiting area. A hospital staff member was nodding her head politely in response to Marlene's directives and then began clearing reading material from a table. I asked Marlene what transpired. She told me the woman who had been sitting there (points with her hand) was sneezing and coughing all over the magazines and newspapers. "It was disgusting! You should have seen her! Wiping her nose this way and that way and then touching the magazines!" Marlene wanted to protect others from the woman's obliviousness. When a man with a mask sat down in the very chair occupied by the woman, Marlene whipped out her hand sani and went over to sanitize the armrests of the chair. They say, one of the best places to get sick is in a hospital.

I asked Marlene if she's always carried hand sani with her. "Just started to this year," she said. Then she shared her home remedies with me. Which I'll share with you in an upcoming post. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Can't get behind this blog.

My daughter's friend told her that he's been reading my blog, but can't go on doing so because he doesn't support my viewpoint. I say live and let live as long as you keep your hands off my doorknob. He went on to tell Lexi that his mother participated in a study focused on curing people of their obsessions. They were successful with some. Got nowhere with another. To my delight, the one obsession they weren't able to rid people of was cleanliness. That means you're stuck with me.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Not all theatres are this pristine.

The majority of theatres are nowhere near as glorious as the above pictured private screening room at the Soho Hotel in London, England. That's why I bring a garbage bag, or two, to sit on. Trust me, it's not weird. Masturbating to Orson Welles at the cinema is weird and does nothing to generate hope in mankind for the Hygiene Hunter. The rhythmic thumping in the seat behind me has stopped, but I don't smell any hand sanitizer.

It's dark inside a theatre. No one will see what you're sitting on. And you won't be sitting on what you can't see. Sanitize armrests or incorporate a workout by hovering your arms above the rests. I never said this was going to be easy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The mattress inspection.

My family and friends have learned to sit on their luggage until I’ve approved of what I believe to be the most important aspect of a hotel room ... the mattress. I don’t sleep on stains at home and am not prepared to sleep on somebody else's history. Humor me. The next time you check into a hotel, check the mattress. Not the mattress pad. The actual mattress. More often than not, you'll find a stain. Unfortunately, the number of stars a hotel has makes little difference.

Treat the inspection like an episode of CSI. Start by adding the name of the city you're in after CSI. As in CSI Istanbul. CSI Vladivostok. CSI Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is where I encountered the largest bloodstain ever. Think severed artery. The front desk responded with a new room and an embarrassed, “Oh. Our housekeeping staff is normally excellent. I don’t know how they could have missed that.” Hmmmm? Have any of your housekeepers not shown up for work recently?

The following morning I saw a man and his son exit our rejected room. I doubt they bothered to check the mattress and I doubt the hotel replaced it. Flipped it? Likely. Read my "Six hurricanes and a mattress." post. The good news is, crimson stains are not as common as the yellow varietals.

If I find a stain, I ask for a new mattress. Sometimes I just ask for a new mattress because I'm the Hygiene Hunter. If there are no new mattresses available I will ask for a new room with an acceptable mattress. This process can take hours and incredible patience. And, it can ruin the first day of your trip. If the situation can't be resolved, I will switch hotels.

I also check mattress pads, pillows and duvets (always after the mattress inspection). These items are easier to replace. In my opinion, a mattress pad isn't a good enough barrier between me and a stained mattress. I will reject a stained mattress pad. Ditto for pillows and duvets.

Here's some common sense advice. If Aunt Flow is visiting, wear appropriate protection. If you’re traveling with a bed wetter, or are into golden showers, ask for a waterproof mattress protector. Or stay home. If you have to kill someone read my "If you have to kill someone." post.

A number of houskeeping directors have told me hotels tend to bring out the worst in people. Surely, they aren't referring to me?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ban the buffet.

While waiting for a vegetable roll to be prepared for me in a grocery store, I looked over at the buffet and thought, "The food is so vulnerable." On cue, a man walked up to the salad bar. He stopped in front of the imitation crabmeat. He looked left. He looked right. Thinking the coast was clear, he shoved his bare hand into the crab dish, grabbed three pieces and popped them into his mouth. Then he walked away. The dual moral of this story? One. When stealing food from a buffet remember to also check behind you. Two. Should be obvious.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My prayers have been answered.

Thank you dear Lord. Thank you H1N1. For those of you who think the Roman Catholic Church is slow to change, you didn't go to church on Sunday. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I paid attention to the sermon during mass. That's because I wasn't strategizing on how to appear Christian-like while avoiding the peace-be-with-you handshake. The cease and desist order came from above. Holy Water has been removed to avoid communal dipping. Holy Communion can now only be received via the hand -- the priest can no longer place the host directly into the mouths of parishioners (a common practice among older parishioners). The let's-all-drink-wine-from-the-same chalice is also a no-no. And the handshake? Like it was never part of the mass ritual. Perhaps the real reason for lapsed Catholics is closet germaphobes. Maybe, just maybe.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My dirty laundry.

I've only thrown caution to the wind once. And the wind was not impressed. In a reckless moment, I chose to eat in bed.

At the Opus Hotel in Vancouver, Canada I decided to treat myself to a few extra minutes in bed with a power cookie and Vogue. After about fifteen minutes, I looked down in horror at the sheets to see long brown streaks on the white linens. I don't sleep in the nude! I'm a fastidious wiper. Was I being framed by housekeeping? Using my CSI skills gleaned from David Caruso, I launched my investigation. "Long brown streaks. Looks like something brown. And long. And streaked." As it turns out, a couple of chocolate chips dropped from the cookie onto the bed. The chocolate chips caught my heel which I in turn dragged across their 400 thread count sheets. I didn't feel the chips because I was wearing socks.

The moral of the story? In addition to not messing with the wind, carry travel soap. I spot cleaned the bed sheet and blew it dry so no one would ever know. Until now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blame my mother.

The following is a guest post by the Hygiene Hunter's daughter Lexi.

Extreme paranoia for germs can go too far. When I was younger, my best friend and I would spend our days off school with my mother. We would feel so grown up lunching at fancy restaurants and shopping at Holt Renfrew. Inevitably, the three of us would find ourselves in a painful situation. We'd be standing at a door in the parking garage with no tissue. My mother would never open the door. It was up to us.

The doorknob was the round-turny kind -- so the option of using our feet was out. We were stuck -- on more than one occasion. "Get the door," my mother would order me. Being the Hygiene Hunter's daughter, I felt I had the right to refuse such insanity. My right took the form of a whiney, "Noooo." This resulted in my mother telling my friend to open the door.

My friend felt there shouldn't be such a big fuss made about touching a doorknob. And after all, she thought Eva Polis was the coolest, so opening the parking garage door was a task worth doing. This tissueless situation kept recurring. I guess my mother expected us to learn from our past mistakes and come better prepared. We were young and foolish. Then one day, my friend said to me, "We need to talk."

It was a brief phone call and the end of our friendship. She felt like a used tissue and was no longer able to deal with the high-maintenance Hygiene Hunter and her daughter.