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You've Got to be Kidding...

A Freebie


Jonathan van Bilsen

February 22, 2024

A Freebie

Like many of us, I was raised in an analogue world. There were no computers, no microwaves, phones were plugged in and cars were driven by people, not themselves. 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) and upon checking in, I went to my room. I remember it being extremely nice, with great décor, a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street, a mini bar and a large (at least 21 inch) television.

I crashed on the bed, turned on the TV 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 and 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 that it would 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 happed 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 simply watch the film of your choice, and after five minutes, you will automatically be charged. She did add they had not changed the signage in the room yet.

All I could say was simply, “Oh.” She printed a list of charges and the two films were listed. I walked away, somewhat embarrassed, but extremely glad I had not discovered the baby blue channel. 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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