top of page

A Freebie

by Jonathan van Bilsen

Like many of us, I was raised in an analogue world. There were no computers, no microwaves, and phones were plugged in. People, not themselves, drove cars. I do, however, distinctly remember when technology first got the better of me.

I was in New Orleans, staying at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. The one where ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ took place. Upon checking in, I went to my room. I remember it as being extremely nice, with great décor, a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street, a minibar and a large, at least 21-inch, television.

I crashed on the bed, turned on the T.V. and flipped the wireless remote. Yes, that was actually a word, implying most remotes were wired, and they were. I came across a movie channel which showed previews for $2.99. You could call down to the front desk, order the film and they would turn it on.

Quite impressive. However, I had experienced the service in several hotels before, so it was not new to me. I looked at the previews and saw a new release, ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’. I clicked on it to see what would happen, and presto, the movie started playing.

I was excited and realized the hotel had forgotten to switch off the system, after the previous guest had left. I became engaged in the movie, and although, it did cross my mind it could be turned off at any second, I settled in and enjoyed the free entertainment.

Still not tired, after my flight and the day of travelling, I decided to see if a second film would be available. Indeed it was. This time, I dug into my backpack for some munchies, as I relaxed in the comfortable room, to watch my second new release, Conan the Barbarian.

The movie ended and I began to feel somewhat guilty. I decided not to watch any more features at the cost of the hotel and settled in for the night. The next morning I awoke, went down for breakfast but decided to stop in at the front desk and tell them of their mistake.

I explained what had happened to the lady behind the counter, and she smiled and clarified how the hotel had recently installed a new system, whereby you did not need to call down to order a movie. You watch the film of your choice, and after five minutes, you will automatically be charged. She did add, they still needed to change the signage in the room.

All I could say was simply, “Oh.” She printed a list of charges, and the two films were listed. I walked away, somewhat embarrassed.

Ever since that embarrassing experience, I have never assumed to outwit technology again.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

18 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page