After a long business flight, there's nothing like a good night's sleep to help you prepare for the next day's activities. Unfortunately, that's what you'll get: nothing like a good night's sleep. With today's travel budgets, you'll probably end up in a place that's about as peaceful as a median strip on the interstate. Say goodbye to those sumptuous Egyptian cotton sheets, overstuffed mattresses, and sparkling marble bathrooms.

So what can you expect now that you're forced to stay at this brand new (for you, anyway) tier of hotels? Let's find out.

Welcome to the “Dazed Inn”

When you check into the Dazed Inn, you'll almost be able to count on accommodations located next to the machine room, which is full of contraptions that are programmed to bang, whir, and wheeze at around 2:00 a.m. It seems that's always the only room they have left — or, of course, there's always the one next to the elevator.

When you drag yourself to your room, you'll notice that it smells like the surgeon general has just concluded a series of experiments to determine the effects of smoking on rhesus monkeys. What's more, the sliding glass door to the patio has been welded shut for your protection. You try the air conditioner, where you find rows of buttons that give the illusion of control over the room's environment. Actually, the controls all do exactly the same thing, and if properly labeled would say, “Loud noise and bad smell.”

The only refuge at this point is sleep, so you pry your way into a bed that's been tucked in by Conan the Chambermaid and try to doze off. That's when you notice — the pillow. Somewhere along the line, the concept of hotel pillow morphed from being a soft object that would support your head to an unyielding lump of foam that makes you sit bolt upright no matter what you do. You can tuck, squish, and reposition all you want, the pillow is going to push your head into a comfy right angle position. Best just to heave the thing on the floor and bunch up the comforter instead.

Finally, you manage to doze off.

The Torture's Not Over

Around 2:00 a.m. just as you're slipping into REM sleep, it's time for the “door slamming and loud laughing” competition to begin down the hall. This unnerving racket is coming from people who clearly got in a lot earlier than you did — and have been in the lobby bar ever since. Once they close that baby for the night, everyone wants to continue swapping yarns and guffawing in the hall. And don't even bother calling the night clerk. He's busy leading the conga line out by the pool.

Your best bet is to take a $12 beer from the in-room bar, turn on the TV (which at this hour is showing “Leave It to Beaver” reruns), and wait for everyone to laugh themselves to sleep. Sweet dreams.

When he's not writing humor columns, Mike Donlin writes technical and marketing articles, presentations, and press releases for the electronics industry. He is based in Hudson, N.H., and can be reached at