Humor by Greg Schwem

The headline caught my eye as I sat in my Orlando hotel room, futilely struggling to open the complimentary coffee packet: "HOTEL STAFF 'READS' GUESTS' NEEDS."

The article was from a major national newspaper. Curiosity piqued, I elected to forgo morning java. Instead, I began reading and discovered that Affinia, an upscale hotel chain with properties in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., recently hired a "body-language expert." This announcement only strengthened my theory that if you are unemployed, simply invent a title for yourself and corporate America will hire you. At a recent company cocktail party, I met a "Director of Continuous Improvement," "Specialty Organics Manager" and "Social Network Evangelist." Not having the slightest clue what any of these people did, I greeted each with my standard opening line: "How 'bout them Bears?"

The Affinia body-language guru is responsible for training employees to spot guests' needs or wants simply by looking at them. A guest who constantly touches his face at the reception desk, the article states, could be anxious after a long day of meetings and require extra pampering.

Or a skin doctor. Or a psychiatrist.

I regularly travel more than 100,000 business miles per year. In the process, I have stayed everywhere from five star oceanfront resorts to fleabag motels that offer hourly rates and free high-speed Internet. Somebody needs to tell the fleabag motel desk clerks that any guest paying by the hour is not interested in surfing the Web, despite the 100 percent discount.

I have pulled back bedspreads to find cockroaches, checked into rooms with unflushed toilets, and discovered black, muddy substances seeping from my room's bathtub drain. The last incident occurred in a swank New York City hotel with a French name. When I contacted the front desk, the manager apologized and said he would send up a fruit plate for my inconvenience.

I told him that unless the dining staff could produce a banana shaped like a drain snake, he could keep the fruit.

According to Smith Travel Research, hotel-occupancy rates are on the rise and, in some destinations, even approaching pre-recession levels. The American public is traveling again, in spite of hotels' determination to mimic the airline industry with those extra, sometimes-exorbitant fees. Seriously, $5 for a can of minibar Diet Coke? I paid less for a case of the same stuff at Costco. Then again, how can I watch a $13.99 in-room movie without some liquid libation?

So, bravo to any hotel chain that offsets this price gouging by anticipating its guests' thoughts and desires. But there's no need to hire experts to scrutinize us. Just look for the following characteristics and know the meanings behind them:

Slurred speech and slight odor of Scotch - Guest prefers a room near the ice machine.

Carrying no suitcases - Guest just had lengthy argument with airline's lost-luggage personnel.

Carrying more than three suitcases - Guest just had lengthy argument with wife.

Accompanied by multiple children - Guest could be Brad Pitt. You never know.

Wearing bell-bottoms or other 1970s attire - Guest was recently released from prison.

Trouble keeping balance while walking - Guest is hiding at least three hotel towels in carry-on garment bag.

Angry tone and finger pointing - Guest insists he did not rent "Debbie Does Dallas" at 2:30 a.m.

Profuse sweating coupled with guilt-ridden expression - Guest eventually admits he did rent aforementioned movie and needs assurance that the charge will not appear on his company expense report. (That won't sit well with the Director of Continuous Improvement.)

Clad only in underwear - Guest stepped into hallway to retrieve complimentary newspaper without room key.

Gnarled fingers and bloody knuckles - Guest still can't open the #@$%* coffee packet.

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

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