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Saturday, March 24th, 2007

New Hotel in Honolulu

Because I dallied in booking my hotel in Hawai’i, the place that had been recommended to me by one of our other engineers, Derek, told me that they were full on the Friday and Saturday night in the middle of my planned two weeks.

So yesterday morning I checked out, went to work at MCBH Kaneohe Bay, and last evening, checked into the place I had found for the intervening two nights. This place is just a little more expensive, but the last place was charging an extra ten US dollars for parking, plus I needed to tip the valets. I think it breaks out even, maybe a tad cheaper. I was unprepared for the elevator – glass walls, running up and down the exterior of the building. I’m still afraid of heights, but I used the determination that got me through jumping out of airplanes and rappelling – trust in your equipment, remember the favorable statistics, and don’t give in to the fear.

When I got into my new room, I immediately starting thinking about how I could cancel my reservation for next week and finding out if I could stay here instead. My new room is a cozy little studio with a small refrigerator, microwave, two burners and even a dishwasher. The cupboards contained an adequate set of cookware and eating ware. The view of the Pacific is spectacular. And the internet is hard-wired.

However, this is a non-smoking hotel, and my room is on the thirty-second floor. Although my window cracks open, it faces the ocean and the breeze flows into the room.

When I checked in, I asked for a smoking room, but the clerk told me that smoking in hotels in Hawai’i was prohibited by the new anti-smoking law, called by many one of the nation’s strictest. I protested that the hotel that I had stayed in the night before had let me smoke in my room, and she responded with surprise, sawing that they would be fined if anyone found out. I asked if it was law or hotel policy, and she insisted that it was law.

Well, she had either been duped or was lying to me. I thought that is was very strange that the last hotel would have deliberately violated the law to let me smoke in my room, especially when they had been strict about enforcing regulations in the bar and lobby, so I had to look it up. The law does not prohibit smoking in hotel rooms, but limits smoking rooms to 20% of capacity. I think this sounds reasonable, because it’s fairly aligned with the percentage of American adults who smoke.

But apparently, many hotels are using the crackdown as an excuse to ban smoking entirely. I was able to find a listing of these hotels at Travel-Hawaii.com, and several major chains are starting the policy nation-wide.

It’s hard for me to understand the business sense of this move. Smoking is down, but despite the trend towards outrageous taxes on cigarettes and restrictions, there is still a significant portion of hard-core smokers that are not giving it up. Why would any business want to deliberately exclude 20% of their market? Tolerance towards second-hand smoke by non-smokers is way down, and I understand that, and don’t condemn it, but how does it affect whether someone can smoke in the privacy of their own room? I find it hard to imagine that it’s done out of sympathy by management towards the traditionally underpaid hotel cleaning staff, who have to empty dirty ashtrays and endure the lingering odor. The only thing that makes sense is bigotry on the part of hotel management.

I have to balance my avarice – how much money I could save from my per diem by cooking in my own room – against the inconvenience of submitting to my addiction. I’ve already had to take a break from writing to run downstairs for a smoke break (writing about it puts it front and center in my mind.)

Posted by Greg as Current Events, Travel at 12:37 PST

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