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You Can Take It With You

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Hundreds of tiny bottles line my bathroom cupboard shelves. It looks like I have a heavy chemical dependency combined with OCD because the small bottles are organized by type, size and brand. This cabinet appears to support a very organized addict, with each individual dose measured out.   

I might have an addiction to free, hotel-provided amenities.

Most of the bottles are dusty because while I might bring home countless bottles of free grooming products I will never use or discard, I am not about to dust them -- I'm not crazy. A closer look at the bottles finds that the various categories are disproportionately represented. The number of shampoos to conditioners is way off -- and the body lotion to body gel ratio is a joke. 

When I shower in a hotel, I only use the shampoo and the tiny soap that is so frustratingly difficult to unwrap with wet hands. Like an old joke, the tiny bar slips and I use extra care in bending over to retrieve it. I don't want to bonk my head and be found drowned in in this strange hotel by some strange housekeeper in this strange city. I slide the other, unused toiletries into my Dopp kit with a nonchalant need I do not understand.

I take the conditioner, body lotion, shampoo and the sewing kit. Why the sewing kit? I have no idea, perhaps it is a cry for help. I never touch the shower cap -- using a shower cap is totally not committing to getting clean. Get your hair wet, you're not a spurned Janet Leigh protecting her swirly coiffure while seeking solace from a hot, steamy shower, you're a goddamn man with short hair.

The next day, the hotel housekeeper replaces all of the amenities. I curse and bless her, and slide the new babies into my bag. 

I have stayed in hotels for a month at a time and amassed a collection of complementary toiletries so large that by the end of my trip I have pondered leaving a bulky sweater behind in order to make space in my luggage.

No matter what the products, I always conjure up in my head a justification plan for dragging them home -- like making adorable and courteous guest baskets of amenities for visiting house guests, or contacting that charity in NYC that takes hardly used hotel soaps and squishes them into larger bars, shipping them overseas to cleanse the unwashed masses.

When I begin to pack at the end of a trip, I remove all of the tiny bottles from my Dopp kit where they have been hidden. What have I done? I only want to maybe keep two special memento bottles, little cute tokens of my trip and place the rest of the booty back on the counter for the maid. But if I do, she will know I have been hoarding them, which of course she already knows because she has been supplying them. I really should turn her in for raising the cost of lodging with her willy-nilly and lavish replenishing unnecessarily of amenities.
For the record, I have never grabbed/stolen amenities from an unattended housekeeper's cart that I pass in the hall, but I have totally paused and looked in the cart, so I guess that's premeditation.

My relationship with the hotel maid as a concept has not been honest. I tell them that I will leave in five minutes when in actuality I have no concept of time. I also clean up the room every day before they come. And I rumple up the other side of the bed and squish all the pillows so they don't think I slept alone. 

I can score two amenity highs per day at ritzy hotels and cruise ships because they replace the used or missing bottles at turndown service.

One trip to Las Vegas, a Bellagio housekeeper pulled items off her cart that I had never seen or even heard of in a hotel. She was a freak. The first night she placed the cutest bottle of shaving gel innocently next to the shampoo. It was a message to me privately that said, I get you, and can help you.

The next night I found a little bottle of mouthwash cuddled up to the shampoo all innocent. I gasped a little and lost my balance, barely catching myself on the counter. The next evening she brought a little water to the well when left me a rare and never before seen tiny pump bottle of hair spray. With this level of entertainment in Vegas, I didn't miss Siegfried and Roy so much.

On a recent cruise I was presented several lines of toiletries from which to choose. The toiletries are high-end Rodeo Drive brands, like Bulgari and Ferragamo and in non-Lilliputian bottles. Lord have mercy, they put the "Amen" in amenities. Oh, here's the kicker: They are presented on a silver tray by a butler.

I may look tough, but even I can't resist fancy. As he leaves I size up the silver tray they were carried in on and wonder if it will fit in my carry on.

Before you think I radiate crazy like a microwave with a cracked door, please know that I do use the stuff I gather. Sometimes, when packing for a trip, I grab one expendable bottle of shampoo and toss it in my toiletry bag just in case I end up staying in a yurt that doesn't provide amenities.

If I did find myself in a yurt, before I can slam the curtain door I bet I'll discover that the Tibetan housekeeping team has placed a few toiletries in a hand woven basket. Of course I'll stuff the basket in my carry on and avert all eyes as I check out.