Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Don Quixhotelier

One sign of a city’s development is its spawning of a pantheon of colorful characters. Of late, hotel magnate Harris Rosen seems determined to move from business and philanthropic leader into the “Oh, there he goes again” head-shaking category.

The first of his quixotic quests was his petition drive and simultaneous threat of a lawsuit aimed at stopping the city from proceeding with plans for the three new downtown venues. Mr. Rosen seems to believe that the citizens of our fair city are just not quite as smart as he is. Cloaking his self interest (he had lobbied hard prior to the votes to have the venues built on I-Drive near his major hotel properties) in the guise of helping Orlando, he seemed to be saying like the Great Oz, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Fortunately, the people are a lot smarter than Mr. Rosen gives them credit for. Needing 31,000 signatures to get on the ballot and coming up with less than 10% of that number, Rosen finally threw in the towel on this venture with his usual ill grace.

Mr. Rosen and his colleagues need to stop regarding the tourist taxes as their personal slush fund. While they collect the tax, it is not even their properties that attract the tourists in the first place. Since all Orlandoans bear the brunt of playing host to the tourists, all Orlandoans should be among the beneficiaries, through public projects, of the taxes. Not to fret, boys, no one is suggesting that we cut off our nose to spite our face. There will always be a big chunk of those funds dedicated to ongoing promotion of tourism for the area. That’s not enough for Harris Rosen, though. He wants to codify his ridiculous notion that all tourist tax dollars should be reserved by law for promoting tourism. Nice work if you can get it: Having state and local tax dollars doing most of the work of driving guests to your hotel while all of the profit from those guests goes into your pocket. Hmmm. Maybe the state would pay marketing expenses to promote me as a writer…nah, they’d never go for it.

Not content to stop there, Mr. Rosen is now tilting at the big windmills, uh, I mean wind storms, or at least at those who predict them. Last month, Mr. Rosen threatened to sue Dr. William Gray regarding his seasonal hurricane forecasts, which Rosen says are hurting his business. Huh? I never saw anything in any coverage of a Colorado State team forecast that said a lot of hurricanes (or any) were going to hit Orlando—or even Florida in the last two years. Those predictions label the season active, and attempt to predict the number of storms, the intensity, and the likelihood of a certain number of them making landfall somewhere. Lucky for us and sad for them that this year it was primarily Central America that took it on the chin.

What next Mr. Rosen? Want to sue the almighty for bad weather? Perhaps sue the people who are not staying in your hotels? Give it a rest, Mr. Rosen, before the rest of us don’t listen to anything you say—or worse, laugh at everything you say. As it is, we will definitely be looking for what’s in it for you when your next pronouncement comes out.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Bluetooth Blues

My Luddite tendencies caught me out again the other day. I was having lunch with a new friend this past week. I arrived first, and as I stood up to greet her when she came in, I saw her Bluetooth earpiece. The lunch was fun—a new place and writing talk (this is a buddy I went through November’s NaNoWriMo with). The whole time, however, stray thoughts kept drifting into my head about that Bluetooth. All the while that we were talking, was she receiving signals that she was missing phone calls? Was her attention split? Did she long for things to wrap up so she could count her voice-mail messages?

She wasn’t a good enough friend that I could have just blurted, “What’s that thing on your head, and will it go off?” For all I know, she could have turned it off before getting out of the car—leaving it only a strange, inert ear ornament. Meanwhile, I was the one with split attention. Trying to focus on what she said, but all the while wondering about this new implement of connection. In my reading lifetime, we are coming sooooooooooo very close to the science fiction I read as a youngster in which people were permanently plugged into “The Net” through implants. I’m afraid that early Sci Fi has stuck with me and informs some of my opinions. I just don’t think being always available is a good thing. I also think it is hard to be “in the moment” fully while festooned with communication devices.

Is there an etiquette for this? Should sporting a Bluetooth headset while in a public place be as much a faux pas as talking on one? Or have I already been marginalized, because I find it wildly annoying that people in the grocery line ahead of me or the coffee line at Starbucks are talking way too loudly about stuff I don’t want to know all the while transacting business? Transacting their business slower and with pauses, of course, since you can’t really do two things at once—at least not well. If I’m annoyed, what about the poor service person or cashier relegated to a status lower than that of some anonymous person not even there in the eyes (but not the ears) of the talker?

Excuse me, I have to close now. The inbox on my email just dinged.