Ice, Ice Baby

Clearly, there is some bizarre behavior that I'm not privvy to which requires travelers to make use of vast quantities of ice.

I don't have a particularly pronounced need for frozen water in my life. But I've been staying in hotels a lot of late, and apparently the most important accommodation a hotel or motel can afford you is ice. In nice hotels, the bellhop puts your suitcase on the little suitcase stand and offers to get you ice. In regular hotels, the person who checks you in at the front desk (do hotels have a back desk?) tells you where the ice machine is on your floor. In motels, a sign tells you.

What the hell are people doing with all this ice? We had a party for almost thirty people a few weeks ago and though I bought a bag of ice for all the drinks, we didn't even end up using all the ice cubes that are normally in my freezer. That entire bag of ice is still sitting unused in the freezer, forlorn and frigid.

But I stayed alone in a hotel for one night and the person who checked me in explained to me where I could fill my ice bucket. That's almost a gallon of ice, and I'd only have had about 12 hours in which to make use of it. And the stuff starts melting instantly, so I'd actually have to burn through the entire bucket of cubes in about 4 hours, by my calculations. I'd get stressed out just figuring out the logistics of utilizing all that coldness.

I'm somewhat convinced that other people are doing nefarious things with ice while on the road. They're away from home, in an unfamiliar environment, and they're behaving out of character. They're participating in dark and sordid criminal acts they'd never indulge in at home, like consorting with prostitutes or paying $3.50 for a can of Coke from the minibar or, presumably, doing unspeakable things that require vast quantities of frozen water.

The most unnervingly creepy part of the lodging industry's obsession with ice is the sheer intensity of it all. There's a total focus on the Ice Experience. If I'm away from home, there are obviously accoutrements of home which I miss. My non-travel-sized toothpaste. Bagels from the place on my block. The rice cooker. But I don't even have an ice bucket at home, unlike you drunkards, and if I did, it'd certainly be a lot further down on my list of "hope the hotel's got one!" items than, say, a GameCube.

And really, it's so arbitrary. Why not other ice-related accessories? Clearly, they can't give you an ice pick because the rules of Clue clearly state that the presence of an ice pick in a hotel with a ballroom would unfortunately require you to commit a murder, just to keep things moving along in the game. But there are devices designed to crush ice, why not that? How about a nice cooler for a six-pack, in case the urge to tailgate strikes you. (Editor's Note: "Urge to Tailgate" might actually be a Steven Seagal film.)

As long as we're throwing arbitrary home accessories in with our hotel stays, how 'bout something even more esoteric? Let's have an eggbeater in every room. "The eggbeater's next to the bed, and you'll find the egg-dispensing machine by the elevators. Enjoy your stay." Upscale places could have a live chicken in a dumbwaiter, its ass hanging out for the convenience of those guests who prefer the freshest eggs possible.

I shouldn't complain, I suppose. There's clearly some inexplicable but well-intentioned motivation inspiring all of this ritualistic ice advocacy. And we certainly have some dumber traditions surrounding the hospitality industry, many of which are probably based on needs that arose back when travel was difficult, dangerous, and slow. But given that the whole purpose of these places is to put a roof over your head to keep you warm and dry, they sure do spend an awful lot of time and effort trying to get you to accept something that's cold and wet.

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