For the past eight years, I’ve had a brochure from the Talland Bay Hotel, in Cornwall on the southern coast of England, floating around in the slurry of papers on my desk. Every so often, it’ll bob to the surface and I’ll notice it and think, “I’ve got to get that in the newspaper somehow.” But the opportunity is never right.
Now the opportunity is right. There is, as the editors say, a hook: Holiday Inn, the mid-market motel chain, has a branch in London’s fancy Kensington area, which flashed in the world press with a strange offer, a gimmick in response to the unusually chilly English weather– a “human bed-warming service” where, upon request, a hotel staff member will show up in your room, dressed “head to foot in an all-in-one sleeper suit” and pop into your bed for five minutes to warm the sheets for you.
This is daft, of course –never thinking about all the people who’ve slept in that bed is absolutely essential when staying in hotels. There is also a creepiness factor — what kind of hotel employee is going to be rolling around under your sheets, a buoyant housemaid or Gustav, the burly maintenance man? That would seem to matter.
Anyway, one hopes that it’s just a PR gimmick, like the $100 hamburger or the $1,000 cocktail, and not something guests will actually avail themselves to.
Which leads to the Talland Bay Hotel. They have a practice that is as sweet as bed-warming is strange, and not nearly as uncommon — other hotels in England feature it as well. They call it a “baby-listening service” and it works like this. You call the hotel operator and tell them you want the service, then set the phone down next to your sleeping tot and go to dinner. The operator keeps the line open. Then if the baby awakes and starts crying, the operator, or someone designated to keep track, hears it, and has you paged at the restaurant, so you can drop your fork and hurry back to your room.
I suppose actual new parents will divide evenly between those who think that idea is as insane as human bed-warmers — they’d no sooner leave their infant in a strange hotel room unattended then they would put her in a basket and float her down the Nile. While others, I suppose, sigh wistfully and strain to remember the last time they ate dinner together without the presence of a small third person who might spit up on them at any moment.
I didn’t try out the service — I was there without a baby, accompanying a pack of journalists in Cornwall for reasons of no consequence today. But the baby-listening service, well, that seemed worth remembering and passing along, eventually. And now I have.
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