Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Crazy Obsession Flares Up Every Time I Check into a Hotel

Recently, I TiVo-ed an episode of My Crazy Obsession, which is essentially My Strange Addiction but with a more judgmental title.

The episode I watched featured a married couple obsessed with Cabbage Patch Dolls. The couple has spent over $1 million buying, maintaining, and housing their collection of 5,000 dolls. The Cabbage Patch-crazed couple has squandered, whoops I mean spent, over $2,000 for a backyard amusement park for their 'kids.' The park includes a hot-air balloon that sends Cabbage Patch dolls into the sky. (Oh, if only I could be there hiding in the bushes with a bow and arrow.)

Truthfully, I was appalled watching the show. Think of all this couple could have been accomplished with $1 million! Seriously, if you won $1 million in the state lottery, would you immediately jump onto eBay and do a keyword search for Cabbage Patch Kids?

But the show got me thinking. I suspect, if cross-examined by a district attorney, each of us would confess (perhaps in tears, for dramatic effect) to a crazy obsession. So here's my confession:

I'm obsessed with hotel toiletry mini bottles. Actually, let me be more precise: I'm obsessed with stealing hotel toiletry mini bottles.

I'm not entirely clear when this obsession began, or from which of my neuroses it stems. If I had to guess, I'd say the obsession combines my love of several things.

My Crazy Obsession with Hotels

I love, love, love to stay in hotels.

As a kid, I longed to travel but rarely got the opportunity, which may be the root cause of my hotel lust. On the few occasions when my family and I would actually stay in a hotel or motel, it was the Downtowner Motor Inn in Manassas, Virgina, near which my eldest sister and her family lived. During our Downtowner stays, I was crazed with delight. Perhaps in my fervor, I swiped a little bar of soap, thereby launching my life of crime. I can't be sure. I do recall my family was banned from staying at the motel after my sisters and I raced and screamed down the hallways like the kids fleeing the schoolhouse in The Birds.

Miniatures and Why I Love Them

I love miniatures of things. Why do I love miniatures? Maybe it goes back to my days as a kid, playing endlessly with Matchbox cars. Regardless of the origins of this obsession, it continues today. I have a miniature of my Mini Cooper on my desk, which I suppose means I own a Mini Mini.

The other day, when shopping for birthday cards in a gift shop, I came across a small box containing tiny martini glasses and a cocktail shaker. I wondered if the martini glasses would fit in my miniature Mini, so I could create a teensy "Drink and Drive" tableau? Years ago, during my Titanic craze, I purchased a miniature blow-up Titanic, which of course came with a small blow-up iceberg. I put the items to good use one Halloween by affixing them to a white hat and christening myself "Shipsinka."

A Kleptomaniacal Kid

As a kid, I loved pinching candy from the grocery store. But before you alert the authorities, please be assured my kleptomania is apart of my distant past--until I'm confronted with an unattended housekeeping cart in a hotel, that is.

In that moment, something comes over me. I scheme, my heart pounds. I case the hallway, trying to determine where there may be maids or hotel guests lurking. I calculate which cart is a) closest to my room and b) farthest from the main traffic areas (like the elevator). Briefly, I stand next to the cart, trying to differentiate between shampoo and conditioner. I don't really use conditioner often, so why steal something I don't need? I mean, one must be practical.

When the moment is ripe, I swoop in, grabbing as many miniature bottles of shampoo and body gel as possible. If the hotel also offers small bottles of mouthwash, I'm nearly catatonic with happiness. And if they're like Hyatt Place and have colorful pens, they too, are snatched. In volume.

I walk back to my room as casually as possible, pockets bulging, and deposit my bounty. In extreme circumstances, such as during a stay last year at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, I go back--and back, and back--for more.

The Drake, which is part of the Hilton chain, now offers Peter Thomas Roth toiletries that are unique to the Hilton chain. You can't even buy this stuff if you wanted! And so, by the time I'd sated my obsession, the housekeeping cart was nothing more than a pile of embers. I had amassed a cache of toiletries so large that even our friend Tim, who earned the nickname "Scofflaw," gasped when he saw it. I considered putting my loot in a box and asking the hotel concierge to ship it to me. I thought this might be pushing my luck, however. So I took the box to a nearby UPS store and shipped them home myself.

Have I used these toiletries? A little. But the vast majority sit nicely organized into plastic shoe drawers from the Container Store, a store with which I'm kind of obsessed.

As I write this, I realize I've revealed more than one crazy obsession. In fact, I think there are enough here to keep a SWAT team of psychotherapists busy. But obsessions are what make people interesting, right? Obsessions are the fertile soil in which eccentricity blooms, and my goal is to one day grow into a genuine Southern/San Franciscan eccentric.

Now enough about me. Let's pretend you're under cross-examination by a district attorney. What are your crazy obsessions and why? And where were you on the night of January 16th?

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  1. weird as it is.. i seem to obsess over left behind clothes.. usually sweatshirts that someone, somewhere simply forgot to pick up and take with them upon leaving an area... i would take them home, and no one was interested in touching them... (I had a long talk with myself.. seriously analyzed what i was doing - by the way, i never considered it an obsession; now i do - and i realized it stems from being 1 of 11 children. you had to be there to get your share, or forget it... so, i guess i am still trying to compensate for never having enough).... Since my talk with myself, i have stopped snatching, and just keep walking.. "you can afford to buy your own" i tell myself until i am long past the clothing piece....

    BTW: i, too, snatch the little bottles... i think we are supposed to... but off the cart! never - i might try that next time. LOL

  2. If it really gets out of hand, consider donating some (notice, I didn't say all) of your ill gotten gains to folks who run day programs for homeless in your neighborhood. Thank goodness you do this in the hotel, where you could pretend to actually need the mini-shampoo etc. If you did this in the dollar aisle at Target you would be arrested and brought up before the law.

    And, since you asked, I was at home the night of January 16th. See, it is written in my calendar. Ooops, guess you know what one of my obessions is writing things down...

    1. That's a really good idea, Will, to donate some of those toiletries. I'm going to do it! Thanks for the excellent suggestion. (Plus it will make space for more!)

  3. Well, according to the guy in this video, I was hoarding butter.

    I know a number of people who pilfer hotel toiletries to donate to rescue missions in their communities.

    My personal obsession is to push buttons on elevators. One, at the Civic Auditorium in SF I push the alarm button on the elevator. Do you know how loud that alarm is?

  4. I am obsessed with toilet paper. I must have my bathrooms fully stocked. If we get below 10 rolls in the house, I get a full on panic going.

    When I go into public restrooms, I panic if there is no back up roll, even if the roll on the holder is a brand new one.

    Nothing makes me happier than the 60 Roll Package of Quilted Northern Toilet Tissue. Ahhhh.

    And, Will J always comes up with the BEST comments.

  5. Really funny and relaxing blog to read. Yeah I too love hotels, don't do much ttraveling I say about every couple of year. I could develop an obsession w/ hotel restaurant - yeah I'm a foodie. Favorite all-time hotel & restaurant combo pack stay would be The Peabody Hotel in Memphis,TN. Gotta luv the ducks. 3 stays so far. Rack of Lamb is heavenly. Have you ever visited The Peabody?

    1. I did stay at the Peabody one night, on my one and so far only Memphis visit. Loved the hotel and the ducks. I wish I still had the toiletries I'm sure that I nabbed!

  6. This is too need your own talk have us all opening up about these things.

    I never even questioned my taking all those soaps before now. I had about a case of little spa soap bottles from the Queen Mary 2, and I could have just gone to the spa and bought a big bottle, I am not poor.

    This is like AA, whatever you do, don't bring up church camp! LOL

    Have a great weekend in SF...

  7. It only seems crazy when it is someone else's obsession, doesn't it?

    I have a couple:
    I cannot leave an empty hanger in a closet.
    and If I get french fries with any meal, I have to eat them ALL.

    I may have other crazy obsessions, but they just haven't been pointed out to me.

    1. Bill, the more I learn about you, the more I realize how much we have in common. I always eat EVERY last french fry on my plate. And then I start looking hungrily at the fries on Nick's plate. It's the one area of our relationship where knives are routinely drawn in battle.