Monday, April 28, 2014

May 27th - I'll Be Here All Week

My debut novel, I'll Be Here All Week, is available as of May 27th, wherever books are sold.  Visit your local bookseller or order online today!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Five - My Five LEAST Favorite Christmas Songs

As much as I'm accused of being a fan of all things Christmas, I'm certainly not always that easy to please. In fact, there are many parts of the holiday that I just can't stand. Below are five examples of "holiday classics" that always manage to be far more grating than festive whenever I hear them on the radio. In fact, a surefire way to get me to zip my hand over the the "Off" switch faster than Mr Myagi catching a fly with chopsticks is to play any of these songs. Bah, Humbug, terrible tunes.

5. "Santa Baby", by Anyone. Although the original Eartha Kitt version annoys me the least of all, I can't stand this tune. First of all, while trying to be sexy, most women who sing it come off sounding childish. It's like watching someone trying to be sexy while wearing clown shoes. Secondly, the song is just plain creepy. It brings to mind a dirty old man being serenaded by a teenager which, unless you're one of the old broads who somehow doesn't realize how sick you are for loving Twilight, is not remotely what someone should think of when it's Christmastime.

4. "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas", by Gayla Peevy. This 1953 novelty song has thankfully not been one of those songs that gets remade or recorded countless times every year. In fact, I seem to hear it a little less every year, something that fills me with Christmas joy. Besides just being a dumb song about an oh-so-precious kid singing about wanting some crazy gift, there's really nothing about this song that says Christmas to me at all. You could easily change it to "I Want a Hippopotamus for My Birthday" and no one would even notice. And, by the way, with the exception of "Christmastime Is Here", listening to children sing isn't nearly as cute as people like to keep pretending.

3. "Feliz Navidad", by Anyone. This 1970 gem is one of the top 25 most played Christmas songs of all time. Too bad it's so damned annoying. It's not that it's in Spanish that makes it so; it's the fact that it's too freaking repetitious. There's only something like four lines in the the entire song, which seems to go on and on and on. On top of that, nothing about it sounds like Christmas. It sounds more like something you would hear while sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping pina coladas. Call me a purist, I can't think of Christmas if I'm building sandcastles and getting tan.

2. "Jingle Bells" By The Singing Dogs. There are people who absolutely love this 1955 novelty song. In fact, it has sold well over a million copies and will probably keep Denmark musician Don Clark's family pretty financially set for decades to come. But it's lame, and not even very creative. It's just samples of dogs barking the perennial classic "Jingle Bells" over and over again. Nowadays, a child could record this on a Casio keyboard but, for some reason, it's considered a classic. Mostly, however, this song is loved by holiday-hating jerks who like to think the song is somehow "rebellious" or speaks about how much the holiday sucks. No, the song sucks. Christmas rocks.

1. "The Christmas Shoes", by Newsong. It baffles me that so many people love this awful, manipulative song that masquerades as a Christmas tune. Luckily I am not alone, since it is also cited as being one of the most hated Holiday Songs of all time. Based on an Internet email chain letter that was sent around in the early 90s, this cheesy tune actually took the band Newsong four years to write. How it's even possible to take that long to suck this bad is an amazing feat all it's own. The song is about a woman dying on Christmas Eve (HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!) and her bafflingly stupid child trying to buy her shoes in which she can be buried. A lot of people love the song because the singer keeps saying the woman is going to "Meet Jesus Tonight" (Get it? Jesus = Christmas!) instead of saying that she's going to drop dead on what is normally a festive time of year for kids everywhere. Sorry, gang, singing about death on Christmas just plain sucks. Here's the biggest irony: Misinformed people always try to say that this song preaches against the commercialization of Christmas when, in fact, it's one of the most appallingly commercialized Christmas songs ever, having been made into a book and two TV movies.

The hardest (and most hilarious) part of writing about things I think suck is that people will defend to the death their love of the very same thing I despise. I have no doubt that people are already lining up to praise heaps of sugary love on that heinous "Shoes" tune, since nothing says Christmas like the awful emptiness that comes when the parent of a small child succumbs to death. Still, I stand by my hatred for each of these songs as much as I stand by my love for "A Holly, Jolly Christmas". One of them featured Burl Ives' majestic voice wishing us a happy holiday and singing of kissing under the mistletoe, and another had dogs barking in tune. Call me a Scrooge for preferring sleigh bells over dog crap.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Five - My Five Favorite Christmas Movies

The popcorn is ready, the hot chocolate is, well, hot, and the TV is calling my name. It's time once again to sit down and enjoy some of my favorite Christmas movies. As any Christmas fan like myself knows, it's important to have a nice stack of Holiday movies on hand for viewing during this time of year. The list of Christmas flicks to choose from is endless, but below are five of my personal favorites.

5. The Ref. A bad decision was made in 1994 when this movie was released in the middle of summer, rather than during the holiday season, as it was originally intended. Someone at a studio somewhere was afraid it wouldn't be a hit. Well, releasing it during the summer was worse, and it went mostly unseen until it hit cable and video. It's a shame, because it's probably Denis Leary's finest work until Rescue Me. A hilarious movie that manages to still get the spirit of Christmas along the way, The Ref still doesn't get the attention it deserves. Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis are along for the ride, but don't miss Leary's trademark tirade during the closing credits. Close second: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

4. Miracle on 34th Street. I'm not mentioning which version of this movie that I like because, honestly, I like them all. The story of Santa Claus on trial because of a feud between rival department stores gets to the heart of the constant battle over the commercialization of Christmas. Plus, it brings out the kid in you as an adult to watch it and realize how differently you may view old Kris Kringle as you grow older yourself. It's not about whether or not Santa Claus is real. It's about whether or not you believe. Watching a movie like this one, I always want to.

3. It's A Wonderful Life. What Christmas movie list would be complete without this movie? Just today, I was thinking how--although countless movies have tried to imitate it--no one has actually sat down and tried to remake this holiday classic. And why should they? It still stands up amazingly well, over sixty years later. Not a big hit when it was released in 1946, it is now probably the most famous holiday movie ever made. The idea that a person can be shown, all in an instant, what life would be like if he were never born is inspired. Jimmy Stewart is amazing in what became one of his best-known roles. And you'll always remember "Merry Christmas, Bailey Brothers and Loan!"

2. Love, Actually. This 2003 romantic comedy was actually several different un-made movie ideas slapped together into one story, courtesy of the folks behind Four Weddings and a Funeral. Don't let that fool you; the movie is often very funny and almost always sweet and romantic. Definitely a Christmas movie for cynical adults, the flick examines everything from platonic love between pals to ill-conceived office flirtations with married people. Almost every actor in the thing is completely charming, which is a feat considering how many stuffy Brits are in it. You'll be in the holiday spirit and grinning like an idiot from the opening chords of "Christmas Is All Around", and the cheesy glory with which it is sung.

1. A Christmas Story. I saw this in the theatre with my family in 1983. I still remember that day well, despite the fact that watching it became an annual tradition in my house for years afterwards. Yet another movie that wasn't a huge hit in theatres yet has since become a holiday classic, A Christmas Story is hilarious, heartwarming, awkward, and touching all at the same time. For a kid growing up in the 80s, it introduced sayings I never knew, such as "Triple Dog Dare". Of course, everyone will remember "You'll shoot your eye out". Based on the writings of humorist Jean Sheperd, this movie captures the feeling of pre-war Midwestern America during the holidays, and it doesn't pull punches when showing just how crude kids can be when the adults aren't around. By the way, that's Jean Sheperd himself standing in line waiting to see Santa, scolding young Ralphie (Peter Billingsly) that "The Line Ends Here".

It seems that the problem with Christmas lists is that it's simply too hard to choose five Holiday movies that I love. The list goes on and on, and new movies are being made ever year which become instant classics. I suppose it's only a matter of time until one of the flicks on this list gets replaced by something else. Still, the movies here will always stand the test of time, as far as I'm concerned, and will always find their way into my home during the Christmas season.

These are five of my favorites. What are some of yours?

My Five - My Five Favorite Christmas Specials

Like every other child of the late 70s and early 80s, I was raised in front of the TV. Saturday morning cartoons were a staple in my house, as were after-school specials and countless sitcoms. Some of my favorite memories from my childhood come from the Holiday Season, when I'd sit in front of the tube and watch whatever classic specials the networks decided to put on that year. As luck would have it, they put on the same specials pretty much every year, so I always got to catch my favorites every Christmas. Below are five I remember the most.

5. Rich Little's Christmas Carol. This special wasn't just highly entertaining, it was also very impressive. Impressionist Rich Little played almost every single role, which leads me to believe that it must've taken forever to film the thing. There was W.C. Fields as Scrooge, Truman Capote (!) as Tiny Tim, and Paul Lynde as Bob Cratchit. Originally aired on HBO in 1978, the special looks quite dated now (most of the people being impersonated are dead), which is probably why it doesn't seem to be broadcast anymore. In the early 80s, however, I must've watched this thing three times a day, which is about how many times HBO showed it during the month of December.

4. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. This is one of those stop-motion animation specials that seemed all over the place in the 60s and 70s. With Mickey Rooney as Santa and Fred Astaire as the narrator, this special is a huge holiday classic, and is repeated on TV every single year. It has also been released numerous times on DVD, so it's easy to find it. Truly a timeless special, kids will love it as much today as I did all those years ago. Honestly, though, I soured of this special for a while. One Holiday Season, I worked at a Macy's that showed this on a constant loop on their TVs. After hearing it play 12 times in a row in one day, I needed about ten years off from it before it was cute again.

3. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. It was hard to give the number 3 spot to this one, simply because it tied with Frosty the Snowman, really. Jimmy Durante narrating Frosty will always be classic. But this animated version of 'Twas has always been a personal favorite, even though the main characters are adorable mice. Featuring the voice of Broadway legend Joel Grey, this special boasts the catchy song "Even a Miracle Needs a Hand", which I think deserves more Holiday airplay than it has ever received. It's on DVD, usually packaged with Frosty or some other lesser-known specials of the day.

2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The longest-running holiday special in history, and only one of four specials from the 60s which is still being broadcast annually, Rudolph is still a wonderful show to watch. This debuted in 1964, and I really wonder what it must've been like to tune in and catch it back then. It still stands up incredibly well (was digitally remastered in 2005), even if today's kids have no idea who Burl Ives is, other than being some talking snowman. Nowadays, it runs on TV several times every December. Back when I was a kid, however, you could only catch it once a year, and I always went out of my way to do so. This is the special that let us know that no one wants a thin Santa and that Bumbles bounce. (Runner up: How The Grinch Stole Christmas)

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Although it is perhaps now the most beloved Christmas special ever made, this Peanuts cartoon almost never happened. Officials at CBS thought Charlie Brown was a "loser" and that no one would care about him. On top of that, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz insisted on keeping in a key scene involving Linus quoting directly from the Bible, which network people were afraid would turn audiences away. Almost fifty years later, the special is now a bonafide classic and loved all over the world...even by agnostics like myself. It was filmed on a tiny budget, with poor animation and voice-over work by untrained children, yet it is still a great viewing experience during The Holidays. Originally sponsored by Coke, with tons of product placement (Snoopy tosses Linus through a Coke billboard in the original broadcast), we'll never see this again the way it was originally shown. Regardless, hearing Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy" and "Christmastime is Here" will make kids and adults everywhere smile each and every year.

With every single TV show in history now finding its way to DVD, we're lucky to be able to own our favorite holiday classics and to watch them whenever we want. Still, the excited feeling I got as a kid that one time a year when my favorite specials would air on broadcast TV just can't be beat.

Those are five of my favorites. Tell me about yours.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Five - My Five Favorite Christmas Songs

I admit it, I'm a sucker for Christmastime. It strikes many people as odd, considering that the other eleven months of the year I'm an incredible cynic. Still, the holiday season is absolutely my favorite time of year, and I'm probably the cheesiest person I know when it comes to the festive stuff. Although I'm not at all the person who starts listening to Christmas music before (American) Thanksgiving, I'm all about the holiday tunes once December rolls around.

Below is a list of five of my favorite Christmas songs. Honestly, though, this list could easily be ten times as long, so it was very hard to just choose five. In fact, I feel kind of Scrooge-like for being so stingy with the list in the first place.

5. "Last Christmas" by Wham! Yes, you have to put an exclamation point after "Wham", because that's actually part of the name. This song is pure 80s cheese, and yet it's a true classic to me when it comes to Christmas. There is hardly a finer modern pop holiday classic than this tune, all about a person with a broken heart who somehow manages to sound quite happy. Like every other holiday song, it has been remade many times, with only the version by Jimmy Eat World being a close second in my opinion.

4. "Christmastime is here" by Vince Guaraldi. Who would've thought that a jazz song would be such a perfect Christmas tune? Written for the classic Peanuts Christmas special, there aren't many versions of this song that I don't like, including the original, which is simply a piano, drums (played with brushes, not sticks), and children's choir. Surprisingly melancholy despite it's joyful lyrics, this is the song I listen to as I sit next to the fire with a glass of scotch. On Christmas night, after the gifts are open and you're staring at the tree lights in the darkness, this is the perfect holiday song to wind down with as the season comes to a close.

3. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Frank Sinatra. Another song that is one of my favorites no matter who is singing it, but Frank will always get the nod. How can you resist Ol' Blue Eyes managing to cheer you up despite what was originally written as a tragic lament about feeling out of place and getting older? It's no coincidence that most of the songs on this list are slow ballads, and that's because there's no better time to relax than The Holidays. If Frank can't help you unwind, there's no hope for you at all, Ebeneezer. Close runner up? "Mistletoe and Holly", also by Frank.

2. "Same Auld Lang Syne" By Dan Fogelberg. Technically not a Christmas song, but it's hard to listen to it any other time of year. A sad song about a man running into a former love on Christmas Eve, this song is the kind that makes you reflect upon an entire decade in under five minutes. It's the kind of song that makes you think about "the one that got away", only to realize that it's probably good it wound up that way. When he sings at the end "Just for a moment, I was back in school...and felt that old, familiar pain", you'll know exactly what that feeling is. You'd be crazy never to have felt it. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, indeed.

1. "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole. This is not only another example of a slow, quiet song being strangely uplifting, it's probably the one by which all others should be judged. Written by the legendary Mel Torme, the Nat King Cole version will always outshine any other version before or since. The popular Cole version you hear every year was actually his fourth take on it, in 1961, having already made it popular in the 40s. Torme (and his co-writer, Bob Wells) actually wrote the song during a brutally hot summer, dreaming of cooler weather. Since then, it has become the most recorded Christmas song in history. It may have been said many times, many ways, but it has never been said quite as well.

Perhaps one of the finest things about Holiday music is that it is only played for roughly six weeks every year. Yet the sounds of the season manage to stay with us for our entire lives, with words and music we never seem to forget. Call me sentimental, but I love that time of year, and am always happy to hear some of my favorite holiday music played on the radio. Of course, that doesn't mean you'll find me anywhere near a mall in the month of December. Holiday music I like. Holiday shoppers? Not so much.

Got a favorite Christmas song? I want to know. It's your turn to tell me all about it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Five - "Christmas Carol" Adaptations

I recently caught the Jim Carrey-starring, 3D version of my favorite book of all time, A Christmas Carol. I wasn't terribly impressed with the movie, mostly because it seemed more interested in showing off neato effects rather than having the heart and soul that makes me love the actual story as much as I do. I'm not just a casual Carol fan, mind you, so I can be a bit picky. I've been a big fan of the novel most of my life, and tend to catch as many interpretations as I can every holiday season. With the newest Disney creation out of the way, I looked back on some of my favorite versions of this timeless tale. Here are My Five favorite versions thus far.

5. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. When I tell people that this is one of my favorite versions of this story, it is either met with questionable looks or with high-fives. People tend to love this version, although I'm surprised how many have never seen it. The very first animated holiday special made specifically for television, this 1962 cartoon is still as enjoyable when I watch it today as when I stumbled upon it accidentally one weekend afternoon when I was ten years old. Sure, there are some liberties taken (The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present appear out of order) and the animation looks dated, but the songs are still catchy and the spirit of the tale rings true. It's on DVD in a few versions, so I highly recommend you check it out. Your kids will love it.

4. Mickey's Christmas Carol. I saw this as a kid (also when I was ten years old) in the theatre when they re-released The Rescuers. At the time, it was the first animated feature from Disney in thirty years. Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit is inspired, and the animation is still excellent. It's a very nice blend of Dickens and Disney, although a recent viewing has me admitting that it's much more for the kiddies than any of my other choices on this list. Still, at less than thirty minutes long, it's hard not to enjoy it at any age. And what better choice was there to play Ebeneezer Scrooge than...Scrooge McDuck?

3. Scrooged. To this day, I can't watch this 1988 Bill Murray movie without having the song "Put a Little Love In Your Heart" stuck in my head for three days. A big hit in theatres and on home video, this movie gets something very right that so many other adaptations (loosely-based or otherwise) seem to get wrong: It shows the "Scrooge" character as flawed but not completely soulless. Even when he's a complete ass, Murray's Frank Cross retains some humanity underneath his bitter narcissism. Dickens didn't write Scrooge as one-dimensional as so many adaptations have made him out to be, and neither does this light-hearted, fun flick. Yeah, it's dated and quite 80s in it's look and feel. But what's wrong with that, exactly?

2. A Christmas Carol (1951). This classic movie is often cited by critics and casual viewers as being the definitive version of Dickens tale ever put to film. It is excellent, of course, and only ranks #2 on my list because of pure sentimental reasons. It could easily tie for #1. Although it takes its liberties (in fact, adds things to the story which turn out to be good ideas), it's extremely faithful to the source material. As Ebeneezer Scrooge, British actor Alastair Sim became synonymous with the role, and there's not a December that goes by that his name isn't praised. In Great Britain, this was released as Scrooge, although it's rare to find it sold that way these days.

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol. I will not go a Christmas without watching this movie. Although it was released when I was in college, it always manages to make me feel like I'm a kid again. Michael Caine as Scrooge is inspired, and the story being anchored by The Great Gonzo (playing Charles Dickens) and Rizzo the Rat was a great way to keep the laughs coming. Paul Williams' music is so very catchy, and there's at least four different songs in here that you'll find yourself humming well after Christmas is over. Surprisingly, this is also one of the most faithful adaptations of the story and manages to capture a real Dickensian feeling, despite the fact that you're watching Kermit the Frog strolling around 19th century England. I saw it on a date when it was first released. I suggest you do the same. It's oddly romantic, and will one day be considered the true holiday classic it is.

It's actually hard to find only five versions of this story to recommend to viewers, since it seems a new one pops up every year and so many of them are almost as entertaining as the ones on this list. For TV fans, I'll always recommend the Family Ties episode where Michael J. Fox's character learns the true meaning of Christmas and buys his presents at a 7-11. If you can't find that show, of course, make certain you spend a little time with Miss Piggy this year.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Do Not Disturb

You know that little "Do not disturb" sign that hangs on the doorknob of your hotel room? Sometimes it is a large, plastic sign that hangs directly from the knob while, other times, it is a little shard that is inserted directly into the card-keyhole.

Well, what follows is a list of things that little sign keeps from disturbing you whenever you're staying at a home-away-from-home, from four-star hotels to awful, white-trash infested roadstop bordellos. Any of the people or things mentioned on this list might normally disturb your slumber, study time, or quality time with your adult imagination but, thanks to that nice invention of modern plastic technology, they are somehow rendered temporarily powerless, much like Superman when he stepped into that special chamber that took away all of his powers until he was tired of getting laid with that reporter lady and wanted to go back to being, well, Superman.

That sign is somehow able to ward off:

Hookers, pimps, drug dealers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Maintenance Men, neighbors, homeless people, groupies, journalists, The Salvation Army, tweakers, leprechauns, Hot Topic goth chicks, computer nerds, veterans, bill collectors, booking agents, vacuum cleaner salesmen, car mechanics, dog walkers, politicians, construction workers, the surgeon general, lawyers, sexy nurses, skateboarders, porn stars, NASCAR drivers, Lane Bryant employees, pizza delivery guys, assorted alcoholics, nuns, zombies, doctors, The Fonz, firemen, astronauts, ugly nurses, video store clerks, Chinese delivery guys, weight-lifters, serial killers, radiologists, vampires, lumberjacks, hitmen, tailors, florists, psychics, the Dukes of Hazzard, smokers, homeopathic students, the Verizon guy, guidance counselors, restaurant managers, police detectives, kidergarten teachers, ring announcers, street preachers, and the entire cast of "How I Met Your Mother".

You know who that sign does NOT keep from distubring you? Hotel Housekeeping Staff.
Apparently, sometime over the past couple of years, the housekeeping staff at every major hotel across North America has been given a special pass when it comes to adhering to that simple request placed ever so blutly on doorknobs everywhere. In the past three weeks, I have been disturbed by housekeepers in no less than six out of ten hotels. Each time that I pointed out the "Do not disturb" sign hanging in front of my angry index finger, I was answered with scoffs and grunts, as if no one had ever told housekeeping that that sign was actually created mostly for THEM in the first place.

At one hotel, a knock came at 9am. I work nights and rarely ever am awake before 11am. I'm also a chronic "late check-out" customer. If I can stay put in that hotel until 2pm, I'll do it, and try to get the late check out any time possible. That 9am knock sent my body and mind into a tailspin of confusion, exhaustion, and frustration. It's like that 4am phone call from a friend you haven't heard from in months, and you're convinced--before you've even answered--that someone close to you has died.

"Housekeeping", the voice on the other end of the thinly-chained door called into the darkness of my hotel room.

"Whatthehellitsnineoclockinthemorningjesuschristwherethehellamiwhathappenedhuh?" I responded from within the confines of my probably-dirty sheets.

"Housekeeping," she repeated.

"It's 9am," I responded, only just realizing it myself, "and there's a 'do not disturb' sign on the door."

"Yes, but we're housekeeping.".


As if that list I already mentioned, the one that includes "zombies" on it, was somehow true and the housekeeping staff had managed to avoid being on it, the woman on the other end of the door seemed amazed that I would even suggest that she not be there.

"Who the hell is that sign supposed to be for, then?" I yelled back, "Besides, if I did want my room cleaned, it wouldn't be at 9am".

If this was the one and only time this sort of thing happened, I'd probably simply have forgotten it. Since, however, this practice has beome a growing trend, I can't help but throw my thoughts out like this, hoping to somehow get an answer as to why and when it happened. Or, at the very least, perhaps I can get out the frustration I have that would otherwise be directed at these poorly underpaid (yet still annoying) cleaners.

Before I was a comedian, I worked in hotel and restaurant management. I can say that, when I did, housekeeping didn't even start working at some hotels until 11am, after the typical check-out time, when most guests were already gone and most new guests had not yet arrived. Sure, there were other members of the staff already there at 6am, but they weren't doing nearly the same amount of work, and certainly weren't knocking on doors at 9am.

So, what changed? When did hotels start insisting on getting guests the hell out of their rooms as opposed to hoping they'd want to stay?

What follows is my description of an actual exchange I had with several members of the hotel staff recently while on tour in the midwest. I was awoken at 10am by a knock on the door, even though the apparently useless sign was, as always, hanging on the damned doorkob. This particular hotel had a check-out time of 12pm, so I could've easily kept sleeping for a while longer. If you don't think the extra time is that important, keep in mind how insane people are about hitting that "Snooze" button on the alarm clock...for the chance to sleep only 9 more minutes.

The knock on the door came loudly, with the obligatory "HOUSEKEEPING" shouted at me from the background. When I responded that I wanted them to go away, I was greeted with the word "Housekeeping" three more times with such a clatter that I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. I opened the door, freezing and wearing nothing but the Spider-Man underoos I sleep in, and confronted the housekeeper face-to-face.

"I'm sleeping, and there's a 'do not disturb' sign on the door," I have to admit, I was not very nice.

"But I'm with Housekeeping," she responded. For a minute there, I thought I was just dreaming the same encounter over and over again.

I sent her on her way and went back to sleep, only to be awoken twenty minutes later by the phone on the nightstand ringing.

"This is the front desk," a woman's voice came from the other end, "will you be checking out today or staying another night?"

"It's barely past 10am," I said, "and I have a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door."

"That's why I called instead of knocking," she said.


"The phone ringing IS disturbing," I said, exhausted.

"Well, we need to know if you're checking out or not so we know whether or not to keep a housekeeper on staff to clean the room."

I explained that I didn't care about the hotel's staffing issues and, quite honestly, why the hell should I? Honestly, faithful reader, why should any of us care what the Ramada Inn needs to do with its employee schedule? Last time I checked, they didn't give me a discount for checking out before the alotted 12pm time, so why should their payroll be of any concern to me?

Secondly, regardless of staffing issues and housekeepers waiting to clean the hotel room, that 12pm check-out time is more than just a cut-off point for the money I've spent. It's the time I have, if I choose to, to live in absolute seclusion. Barring some unforseen emergency or natural disaster, I am legitimately allowed to be a complete hermit, especially in regards to hotel staff, until 12pm rears it's ugly head. Whether that time be spent sleeping, watching tv, studying, or doing anything legal I choose to do does not matter; it's my time to do as I please and to do so completely without the disturbance (there's that word again) of the staff at the hotel.

So, if every minute up until 12pm is MY minute, I am under no obligation to inform them, until those minutes are up, whether or not I'll be paying for more mintues. Since that time is mine to do as I want, perhaps I will spend some of that time deciding whether or not I'm going to stay at the hotel another night or not, and I'm under no rush to make up my mind during that time. As far as I'm concerned, I don't have to tell the hotel staff anything until 11:59am.

And I don't.

"What time is check-out?" I asked the voice on the phone.

"12pm," she replied.

"Then you'll find out at 12pm whether or not I'm staying".

I hung up the phone and slept for another hour.

Upon leaving, I walked through the lobby, wearing my overcoat and scarf, with my luggage being rolled behind me and my briefcase strapped over my shoulder. As I made my way to the front door, a woman behind the counter, presumably the voice from the phone, called out to me.

"Are you checking out?"

"No," I said flatly, "around this time every day, I take my luggage out for a stroll around the parking lot."

She looked at me like I was, well, disturbed.