27 January 2005

Faith and the Art of Hotel Maintenance

The Plaza Hotel in Nogales, Sonora, and the Americana Hotel in Nogales, Arizona, both charged $50 for a single room. But while the Mexican hotel was only two years old, it was already falling apart: the doors did not close properly, the paint was cracking, the walls were beginning to stain. The Americana Hotel in Nogales, Arizona, was a quarter century old and in excellent condition, from the fresh paint to the latest fixtures. The air-conditioning in the Americana Hotel was quiet, unlike the loud clanking across the border. There was no mold or peeling paint in the swimming pool outside my window. Here there was potable tap water. Was the developed world, I wondered, defined not by its riches or a lighter skin color but by maintenance? Maintenance indicates settlement rather than nomadism; faith in--and thus planning for--the future, rather than the expectation that what is here today might be gone tomorrow. Maintenance indicates organization, frugality, and responsibility: you don't build what you lack the money, the time, and the determination to maintain. Maintenance manifests a community and a system of obligation, without which substantial development is unlikely. Maintenance reflects the prudent use of capital.
SOURCE: An Empire Wilderness: Travels into America's Future, by Robert D. Kaplan (Vintage, 1998), pp. 139-140

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