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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.

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