According to Newsweek, the staple of the Bible in bedside table is a tradition that is fading away. Roya Wolverson writes:
In the rooms of Manhattan's trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests can enjoy an eclectic selection of underground music, iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs and even the living company of a complimentary goldfish. But, alas, the word of God is nowhere to be found. Unlike traditional hotels, the 10-year-old boutique has never put Bibles in its guest rooms, because "society evolves," says hotel spokeswoman Lori DeBlois. Providing Bibles would mean the hotel "would have to take care of every guest's belief."
Bible-free hotel rooms appear to be the trend at least for boutique hotels because they are adding trendier amenities to woo younger customers (the Bible, it seems, is not as trendy as iPod docking stations). Wolverson notes that this is partly because business travel is decreasing, and leisure travel is increasing. She writes:
Even the staid Marriott chain, founded by a Mormon, is debating whether or not to include Bibles in its yet to be named boutique chain, which is set to launch in partnership with hipster hotelier Ian Schrager, who created the '70s disco Studio 54 and later New York City's Morgans, Royalton and Paramount hotels—which are largely credited with kicking off the boutique hotel craze. Schrager says he hasn't yet discussed the Bible amenity with Marriott, though he adds that his properties have never had in-room Bibles.
Thus, even Marriot boutique hotels might not carry the Book of Mormon. Moreover, some of these boutique hotels are replacing the Bible with pleasure kits, which include condoms among other things. While surfing channels this weekend, I happened upon Fox News and their debate about this very topic. Not surprisingly, the correspondents were agitated that condoms were now in the bedside table. One correspondent disagreed with the majority when she noted that people do not usually go to hotels to find religion.
As I read the Newsweek article and watched the Fox correspondents quarrel, I could not help but wonder if this quiet trend suggests larger changes in our culture. Are hotels removing the Bible because they don’t want to have to include other religious texts? Or are vacationers less interested in reading biblical text precisely because they are on vacation? Demographically, who is a leisure traveler or a business traveler? Was the Bible by the bedside an artifact of a bygone era anyway? (Or to ask this in a cagey manner, is it an artifact of nostalgia for a previous time and place?) The more interesting question to me is: did people use the sacred text during their travel? Were the bedside Bibles worn with use? Were the texts crisp and pristine with the aroma of newness? Again, how was this artifact used?
As a recent traveler myself, it did not occur to me to open the drawer to the bedside table to check for a Gideon. Perhaps, if I had, I could examined its presence or lack thereof.