During a recent car trip, I spent a night in a Holiday Inn in upstate New York. With its predictable decor and view of a highway, it could have been a Holiday Inn in any corner of the world. The particular inn would not have been especially memorable except for the little blue reminder note that arrived with my bill under the door on my morning of departure. Here is what it said:
“Have you packed yet? Don’t forget to check for your …
• Cell phone charger.
• Electronic gadgets.
• Laptop and electrical cords.
• Personal pillow.
• Toys, games, books.
• Wet swimsuits.
• Small children.”
I roared with laughter at this list, at first simply because the Holiday Inn adviser’s sense of priorities was so bizarre. Who would put a cell phone charger and even wet swimsuits higher than one’s small children on the list of things that must not be left behind in the hotel?
And how could a person leave children behind without noticing the lack of them, unless the person intended to be rid of the kids for a spell?
Maybe, I reasoned, children were last on the list because they were left behind less often than the other items. I began to wonder if the list actually reflected the kinds of items that are forgotten by hotel visitors, and if the arrangement of the list actually indicated the frequency with which hotel personnel came across said lost items. If this were so, then the items at the top of the list would be more likely to be left behind than those at the bottom.
It seemed quite believable that cell phone chargers would be abandoned. After all, they have to be plugged into the inns’ always inconveniently located wall sockets. Electronic gadgets also seemed likely to be left behind, particularly if they were mini-sized. So far, this theory seemed promising.
But then, the more sizeable laptop, which for most of us represents a significant financial investment that holds masses of work and-or personal information, seemed a less likely candidate for being forgotten, as did eyeglasses, particularly if their wearer’s vision would suffer without them. Medicines, on the other hand, might be forgotten in dresser drawers or in the bathroom.
Personal pillows seemed odd in the extreme, since it seemed unlikely that most visitors transport pillows from home to inns. Toys, games and books seemed more memorable than the item underneath them. Wet swimsuits did seem somewhat forgettable, since they might be languishing in the bathroom tub or sink as the traveler gathered and packed dry clothing and other items.
By the time I returned to the last item again — small children — I had to smile at the question that inevitably came to mind. What about big children? Are they off the list because they are never left behind in Holiday Inns, or because, in the view of the reminder list writer, they are even less meritorious of being remembered than wet bathing suits and small children?