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Living like a sheikh

It must be as confusing to the average reader as it is to us - the story of Saudi Arabian Mohamed al-Fassi, who got arrested for running up a $1.5 million hotel bill in Hollywood, Fla.

Who can digest this sort of news while gulping the orange juice and one egg special on his way to work? At this rate, isn't it cheaper to buy your own hotel?

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The last time we stayed at a motel the bill was $33.86. We had to pay in advance. Not only that but we had to put down the license number of our car. There was no way we could have run up a bill larger than the cost of a newspaper.

In addition to all this, we understand that Mr. al-Fassi is suing the hotel for $1 billion. Allegedly he claims that he was overcharged about $11,000 a day. That's at the rate of over $458 an hour, day and night, if you want to nit-pick.

We were overcharged recently. A hotel restaurant put four soups on our bill when we had only three - an overcharge of $1.75. We didn't go to court over it. Fortunately the waiter remembered his mistake when he was shown that only three of us had spots on our shirts.

One of the most bizarre items in all this was an unpaid cab bill of $157,000. The trip from our last hotel to the airport in a cab cost $8.55. I remember it clearly, the driver wanted his money! We wonder how anyone could ride $157,000 worth before he had to pull out his wallet.

Certain other aspects are remarkable. When we call a hotel for a reservation they don't always have a room. At least they seldom have a room at the rate they advertised. Other times, the room is out in back somewhere next to the soft drink and ice machines which seem to work all night. But in this case Mr. al-Fassi rents three entire floors of a hotel. If hotels have whole floors that are empty, how is it we have such a hard time getting a decent room?

Reportedly, the sheikh has spent about $90 million in Florida over the last couple of years. We are not sure this is true, since we have not seen any of it around our neighborhood. But we live in hope because the taxes are coming due.

With this glimpse of the good life we may try to live our own a little fuller. Maybe at our next hotel stop we will let it be known, discreetly, that we are heir to a $6 billion oil fortune and see how far we can go. The only trouble is, we may not have the nerve to go for the $90 room.

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