I need to sit in all the seats

The first thing I do when I check into a hotel room is call downstairs to ask for something better. I wish I weren’t this way. I wish I were the kind of person who dumped my suitcase on the bed, gazed upon the view of a parking lot and then took off to do whatever people who aren’t overly picky and concerned with minutia do. Probably snorkel. Instead I place so much importance — too much importance, really — on making sure I’ve been given the best, biggest, nicest room available for the price.

On certain occasions, like when I’ve been given a broom closet where the doorknob gets in bed with you or a room perched above a nightclub, wanting to change rooms is warranted. Only people who are dead or on drugs can sleep through the kind of thumping bass you can feel in your body. But on most occasions it’s just some weird atavistic ritual I must engage in before feeling settled.

I’m like a dog that spins in circles before going to sleep. Only instead of circling my thing is to drive everyone nuts by spending the first couple hours of any vacation changing rooms. To be fair, I tip well when engaged in this behavior, so really the person who’s driven nuts is my husband. He’s learned not to unpack until given the sign.

One time, I asked him just how annoying he finds this part of me. “Well, it’s annoying because I want to be on vacation, but we do always end up with a better room and I like that,” he said. I think I’m converting him!

This behavior isn’t just limited to hotel rooms. It also happens at restaurants where I need to sit at the table that “feels” best. This involves possibly being seated and then taking a surreptitious saunter to another corner of the restaurant to assess the vibe while diners look on confused and a little concerned. I’m like the lady in the restaurant selling roses that you hope won’t make eye contact. Only I’m not selling roses and I don’t want to make eye contact, I just want to walk around and imagine sitting in every available seat, which, if it were at all possible, I would enjoy.

Also: Though I only swim about once every two years, I can spend half a day trying to figure out where the best chaise lounge is. It’s a complex algorithm of sun, other people, pool proximity and a certain neurotic je ne sais quoi.

I wish I could say this was a hobby of mine as opposed to a compulsion. There are times I can shut if off. If I’m traveling for work I don’t expect to enjoy the room so unless there’s a glaring problem — a hellmouth where the bed should be or audible jackhammering — I usually stay put. And if I’m meeting someone for lunch, I don’t put much thought into where I sit. But if it’s my time or on my dime, I go insane with having to make the most of every experience.

“This isn’t the last meal you’re ever going to eat,” a friend said to me once when I was poring over a phone booksize menu, clearly vexed, needing to halt conversation and go to some dark quiet place inside where I’m able to choose what to order.

Part of it, probably, is that I think by controlling my external environment I’ll be able to control how I feel. And that part is often disappointed because that isn’t really how feelings work. And then part of it is that I’m just really good at knowing whether I’ve been given a cruddy hotel room or restaurant seat or chaise lounge.

“It’s just such a trivial thing, so I figured it didn’t matter,” my husband said once after choosing two clearly inferior chaise lounges.

I looked at him like he was speaking in tongues.

“Trivial? Where we sit is the most important thing!” I declared, realizing I might be overstating it just a smidge.

I’d like to rein this behavior a bit. I think I’d be happier in general if I appreciated what I have more instead of worrying about what I’m missing out on.

And yet there’s no question: Certain spots are better than others.

So if you seem me wandering around a restaurant deep in thought, don’t worry, I’m just imagining sitting in all the seats, and it’ll be over soon. !