by Grace Warn
From the Editor: Grace Warn lives in Missouri, and one of her passions is visiting Disney World. She believes if there is a good business model in the country, Disney is it, and that if a good proposal for providing customer service arrives on the scene, Disney will probably be the company bringing it.
This kind of loyalty translates into annual visits, and to cut down on the expenses, she rooms with folks. She thought her advice about roommates might translate well for those of us going to the 2016 national convention. Here is what she says:
Going to convention, whether national or state, is an amazing experience. But it often comes with another experience that isn't always so amazing: sharing a hotel room. Whether to save money or because you're traveling with children too young to be on their own, you're sharing a room with more than just your significant other. And, no matter how much you love your Federation friends or how well-behaved your children are in close quarters for a few days, little frustrations can build up and drain some of the joy from your time at convention. With a minimum of pre-trip planning and almost no effort while there, you can keep the positive energy and enthusiasm flowing during your time at convention.
The first step in this process is figuring out who's rooming with whom. Identify a few simple characteristics of each roommate: who snores? Who prefers to shower in the morning versus in the evening? Who are the early birds, and who are the night owls? Who wakes up if a mouse sneezes, and who can sleep through brass bands? Now take a look at the roommate list again. Do you have a light sleeper in with three who snore like chainsaw jugglers riding Harleys? Is there a lone night owl in a flock of early birds? You may want to see if there's a way to juggle people to keep those of similar tendencies together. But, if you can't, there are ways to keep friction from these differences to a minimum:
When you first get into the room, take a quick minute for one simple discussion and define territory. You will be coexisting in a smaller amount of space than you're used to, possibly with people you don't usually live with. Setting up whose stuff goes where and then abiding by what is decided can go a long way toward maintaining harmony. Decide as a group that Joe will get the bottom drawer in the dresser, Sally and Eric each get half of the next drawer up, etc. Try to base the division of territory on practical considerations such as mobility--don’t make the person with a bad back bend to use the bottom drawer. Once each of you has staked out your claim, respect the boundaries. Throwing something where you please is fine at home, but it’s not fine when it ends up being in a place allotted to one of your roommates.
Each of you will have a place for your things, and it’s a good idea to have at least one area designated for communal use, such as one place for all technology to sit safely as it recharges, etc. Remember that bathroom counter space can be a scarce commodity and a great cause of irritation before everyone has had their morning coffee. Taking along a hanging shoe organizer designed to either hang in a closet or over the back of a door can give you more places to sort your toiletries and leave a clearer path to the sinks. If you have a guide dog, make sure roommates know where the water bowl will be and decide whether it will be deployed only at feeding time or at any time the dog might wish a drink.
Tuck the suitcases in the bottom of the closet or in a corner as out of the way as possible, and make sure the main walkways remain clear. Because a tiny little frustration like tripping over someone's suitcase every time you try to go to the bathroom can become a major annoyance faster than you would expect, it can poison the rest of the experience. Depending on who you're rooming with and how long you're staying, a pop-up mesh laundry basket can be pretty handy for that. It doesn't take up much space in a suitcase, can be found in many dollar stores, and it can be endlessly useful. It can be a place to corral dirty clothes, an easy-to-carry transport for flyers or other merchandise for chapters/divisions, or can be used as the designated location for the day's haul of souvenirs.
Speaking of things to bring along from home, in this day and age one of the best items to pack on your trip is at least one power strip. These days everyone has at least a cell phone. But there's also iPads, handheld gaming consoles, notetakers, and many other electronics that require regular recharging. Hotel rooms never have very many outlets, and sometimes the outlet is in a less-than-accessible place, such as a corner behind a small table and chair. The longer cord will bring the power strip up so that everyone can reach to plug in items easily and give you that many more outlets for everyone to share.
Sit down and consider exactly what your daily routine will involve, and make sure everyone understands it. You may never have considered that you have to decide which bed you’re sleeping on based on the distance from an outlet and availability of a flat surface for a CPAP machine, but what’s routine for you may not be for your roommate. That doesn’t mean you can’t share a room, but it does mean that you need to make sure they’re aware of the requirements that are important and perhaps even critical for you. Maybe you’re a guide dog user; your roommate doesn’t mind dogs--no problem, right? Except when you were considering who snores in the room, you only considered the humans, and your dog snores louder than you do. You and your spouse are used to it; it’s white noise that actually helps you sleep better in unfamiliar places. To your roommate, that could be a week spent wishing they’d packed earplugs and praying for a decent night’s sleep. Or maybe one roommate has a mild allergy to dog dander. For a couple of hours during a chapter meeting or dinner with a friend, no problem; but sharing a room for a week or so might mean they will need an antihistamine.When you take just a few minutes to prevent the small disagreements and frustrations, you prevent the larger arguments that can happen when the little things add up with exhaustion and excitement to fuel them. While it only takes a few quick minutes of discussion before you leave home, all of these things become a lot harder to do once you’re away at convention. What you can tolerate for a day or two is a lot less tolerable on day five of a convention, when you’re tired and almost ready to head home.