When my wife and I finished up our regional trip to Hagerstown, Maryland, we felt very satisfied and complete.  We had the good sense to not stay at a very attractive but pricey (250.00) B&B and been quite content to stay for 3 nights instead at a relatively modest priced Hampton Inn just a few miles away.  It was a no brainer in terms of the savings.

And all the sightseeing attractions that we wanted to do were all around the hotel, so it was the perfect spring board for achieving our original game plan.

But compared to the highly picky, no room for error level that most on-line users insist on, our motel search was very simple and non-specific.

Just look at the Trivago ads on TV.  Each one is designed to show you how perfect your motel and hotel reservations can be if you would just save time using their site.  Countless cross checking is apparently done for you to meet your specifications much like the science of a dating site.

Most of us have seen those ads with the nifty man and women in their everyday, “regular person” apparel; as they impress upon us the practical advantages of using the CROSS SECTIONAL Trivago method of accommodation selection.

Which makes what I recently read all the more eye opening and amusing.  It comes from America’s most famous literary humorist, Mark Twain and dates back to the mid to late 19th century; back to a time and place when the old ways of living off the land had yet to become too modernized or softened.

And it serves as a great wake-up call to shake us out of our highly pampered lifestyle and remind us that, believe it or not, our standard of living constitutes a very short blip on the evolutionary timeline of human development.

Take these detailed sleeping arrangements abroad in 19th century Australia courtesy of Mark Twain’s travel memoirs entitled, “Following the Equator.”

In the segment I highlight, we join a conversation between the author and a grumpy minister he meets on his travels.  It starts the typical way, with a word of mouth inquiry regarding where to stay in a new town.

The stranger replies: “It’s a charming town, with a hell of a hotel.”

(Twain’s reaction was one of astonished as it seemed quite odd for him to hear a minister swear out loud.)

The stranger goes on: “It’s the worst hotel in Australia.”

“Why?” responded Twain.  “Bad beds?”

“No,” countered the stranger, “Just sand-bags.”

Twain: “The pillows too?”

“Yes, the pillows too.  Just sand.  And not a good quality of sand.  It packs too hard, and has never been screened.  There is too much gravel in it.  It is like sleeping on nuts.”

Twain: “How are the rooms?”

“Eight feet square, and a sheet of iced oil-cloth to step on in the morning when you get out of the sand-quarry.”

Twain: “As to lights?”

“Coal-oil lamp.”

Twain: “A good one?”

“No.  It’s the kind that sheds a gloom.”

Twain: “I like a lamp that burns all night.”

“This one won’t.  You must blow it out early.”

Twain: “That is bad.  One might want it again in the night.  Can’t find it in the dark.”

“There’s no trouble; you can find it by the stench.”


“Two nails on the door to hang seven suits of clothes on-if you’ve got them.”

Twain: “Bells?”

“There aren’t any.”

Twain: “What do you do when you want service?”

“Shout.  But it won’t fetch anybody.”

Twain: “Suppose you want the chambermaid to empty the slop jar?”

“There isn’t any slop jar. The hotels don’t keep them.”

Twain: “Another thing: I’ve got to get up in the dark, in the morning, to take the five-o’clock train.  Now if the boots—”

“There isn’t any.”

Twain: “Well the porter.”

“There isn’t any.”

Twain” “But who will call me?”

“Nobody.  You’ll call yourself.  And you’ll light yourself, too.  There’ll not be a light burning in the halls or anywhere.  And if you don’t carry a light, you’ll break your neck.”

Twain: “But who will help me down with my baggage?”


On and on the conversation comically flowed, with the prospects sounding bleaker with every response.

And it certainly does caste a rather harsh light on our overly spoiled sense of consternation regarding how perfectly to execute our lodging needs:

“Sauna or swimming pool?”  “Waffles for breakfast or western omelets?

Just the fact that we don’t have to deal with chamber pots, rough sand in our pillows, or a dark room that we have to lite the hallway ourselves should give us pause regarding our worries.

So thank you Mark Twain for once again, proving how valuable the past is in teaching us perspective and nuance regarding the big picture of life.



About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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