Ulysses S. Grant won the Civil War and two terms of the presidency, then wrote a still-acclaimed autobiography explaining it all while swilling liberal draughts of whisky from vessels that saw nary an ice cube. For a while after checking into the luxurious downtown San Diego hotel his son built, I thought he was expecting his guests to follow suit. Americans love their ice, especially in hotels and motels. A check in into a new room isn’t completed until a filled ice bucket sits on the counter. Finding the ice machine and filling that bucket is a foraging ritual for the man who booked that room. Waiting for room service to fill that bucket is a privation, akin to buying meat wrapped in styrofoam and plastic rather than blasting it in the wild. So when my trip through the halls of US Grant with my bucket came up empty, I felt the usual male shame and disappointment having to call and ask for help. Ice was indeed supplied, she said, in boxes by the elevators on each floor. Out on the prowl again, I saw a box that looked like it would call for an ice pick to chip away at a large block that had been delivered there earlier by a horse drawn carriage.
Finding the lid, I looked inside to see a pile of blue plastic wrapped items looking much like segmented versions of Kool Pops of my youth, less the color.
These would be fine if I were to sustain an ankle sprain, but getting them into a bucket, let alone a glass, would take some work.
I snagged some back to my room for the struggle, attacking with teeth, pocket knife, and any other sharp object I could find. A few cubes dribbled out, half to the floor, before I recognized there were perforations in the plastic
Tearing appropriately along these lines yielded cubes quite adequately, though nothing to match the ready avalanche of a trusty old hall ice machine. I see the reasoning here: not paying for refrigeration energy on each floor, less space, and better accounting (hard to enter all those gushing cubes on the spreadsheet). Still there’s all that plastic and of course the frustrated guests. Big time refrigeration was still in its infancy when US Grant Jr built this hotel, which maybe was slow to take on the advances the modern American traveler has come to expect. But he should have developed a keen appreciation for the importance of ice when his dad died and because his cancer riddled body could not be adequately embalmed was paraded around in a specialized iced casket for the hot summer fortnight preceding burial in his namesake tomb. So US Grant needed his ice at the end. We need it now, always, and in large amounts. Thanks for the blue bags, but I still prefer the machines.