The Weather

Honest and Unbiased: Yotel New York

Yotel New York
New York, NY
3 Stars

Nine pm on a Wednesday night, and me and my drinking buddy were suddenly, embarrassingly, exhausted, as if we weren’t in our mid-thirties but all the way into our mid-fifties instead. It must have been the fog—it was the kind that cuts off buildings at the knees; virility at the you-know-whatsits; shuts off enthusiasm and anticipation just as you get to the top of that first really big hill of the roller-coaster, and leaves you teetering there, bored, for hours.

Over a decade-long drinking career, we’d trolled the East Village, the Upper West Side, DUMBO and the West Village too, but now, weirdly, midtown Manhattan drew our attention. And so it was that after we’d had several beers at Valhalla in Hell’s Kitchen and then several more at Eatery, we decided maybe we should try and have a quiet night at a hotel bar.

Desperate? Perhaps. More precisely, desperate to be among people who were in even stranger territory than we were. Perhaps we were hoping to catch some Minnesota folks, glassy-eyed and perplexed at Times Square’s perpetual light. Schadenfreude, maybe. Or is there some more descriptive German compound noun for wanting to be among those who are even more lost than you?

We expected the comfort of people who looked more lost than us. Instead, we found something totally different.

The Yotel’s lobby is dominated by a two-story robot that lifts and sorts your luggage for safe-keeping while you haul your Minnesota ass all over Manhattan. And, if New York proves to be baffling, the robot will guide you home too. You can’t ever be too lost from the Yotel, so long as you know where Times Square is, and you have a keycard in your wallet that translates the robot’s radio signals.

Midtown is so damn weird, we thought to ourselves, feeling more lost than ever. We expected an overly lit bar with a piano. Instead we got a huge ass robot.

That night, my friend and I had hotel-priced beers, two each. Something hip, of a Pabst-like quality, but, owing to their Asian origins, more exotic. Lucky Buddha? Singha? Kingfisher? It didn’t matter. We people-watched the tourists and felt okay, and closed out the night peacefully, having long forgotten how to stumble to our trains in a haze of booze fumes and giggly half-memories. On the way out of the lobby, the robot shook our hands, that we know for sure. But it did go for that weird kind of tickle-on-the-palm thing that’s so in vogue amongst handshaking fetishists these days? Who the hell knows. We couldn’t remember. Quiet night, indeed.

We proclaimed the Yotel “okay,” and that we’d “go again,” for the good “people” watching, and felt a little bit smug in that old New York way that we did not have to store our luggage with the robot.


Me and my drinking buddy thought it would be fun to drag a whole group of friends to Yotel “for the people watching.” Or maybe because the night was already feeling like a repeat: Beers at Valhalla, then drinks and dinner at Eatery again and now, we were stuck. Yotel it was. “Come on,” we said, and “It’ll be fun,” and “Don’t you love hotel bars?” like it was some kind of new thing to do, like visiting the Highline.

“The robot is awesome,” we said, weakly, when it looked like enthusiasm was waning, and that ended up being the deciding factor; our friends could not believe there was such a thing, a robot just for sorting luggage.

So we went, and looked at the robot, and took the elevator up, nervously watching our friends for signs of disapproval, and when the doors opened, there they were, tourists everywhere, ripe for people watching and commentary—except there was something off about these tourists.

They were all wearing lanyards. And carrying around goody bags, which we all suddenly coveted.

It was ComicCon weekend, and we had walked into a party for a comic book launch.

We retreated to the outside of the roped area, as we were lacking the proper credentials to get goody bags or even a piece of the ComicCon-watching action, but the people watching was not as good.

We drank enough so that the long train rides home to Westchester County, New York, and Bergen County, New Jersey, weren’t terribly painful.

But for me, the trip was longer than it had ever felt before.

Three stars, for the ComicCon tourists. Would have been four, except the Patron girls didn’t offer free shots, and the beer wasn’t as cold as it had been previously. Would have been two, except we’re reasonably sure the robot keeps tabs on these things via its kennel of rescued lanyard-wearing tourists.


Honest and Unbiased appears on Fridays in The Weather.

Yi Shun Lai loves hotel bars. She's just finished writing her first novel, and can be found on the web at and on Twitter @gooddirt.