I have been intimately associated with hotels. I have endured and enjoyed them for 26 years. Here are my memories of the aforesaid association, a bit tongue-in-cheek but, only to keep the interest alive.
Other people have nightmares about ghosts or traffic jams. My worst fears are being on a trip and having to spend the evening alone in a hotel bedroom. I have been known to wake up screaming, convinced that I am in bed in a strange hotel. I only calm down when I find the light switch, and the bathroom where they are supposed to be and I know that I am safe and sound at home.
After a day’s tour of the city, I return to my hotel room with a sense of despair. I know that after I have played with the buttons by the bed to control the lights, the television remote control and worked out how to get to get to the fire escape from the map on the back of the door, I have exhausted the diversions a hotel room has to offer.
Rock stars who go berserk in hotel rooms have my total sympathy
Hotel bedrooms are units that carry their own special in-built ennui. I have been driven to sewing a button on one of my shirts just to have something to do in that long lull before bedtime. Browsing through the local phone directory for a few minutes’ distraction. After that, there is the hotel’s own magazine to glance through, the city’s guide to what is on. On desperate days I even go through the laundry prices and the mini-bar list moaning complaints about their high prices. I go through all that and then find it has only used up 10 minutes. And have you ever tried following the escape map out of your room in case of a fire. It orientates you with “YOU ARE HERE.” I always get lost and always offer an earnest prayer for the safety of the hotel prior to sleeping each night.
Why not get out of the bedroom, an innocent traveler might wonder: go for dinner, perhaps, in the hotel’s outrageously priced restaurant or head for the night into town. If there is anything more humiliating than being alone in all-expenses-paid hotel room, it is being alone in public in the hotel’s classy restaurant. What do you do whilst you are waiting for the waiter? Read the menu again, eavesdrop on fellow diners, make notes, look at your watch, giving the impression as if someone is about to join you. Better to have room service where no one will notice you eat French fries with your fingers. And you don’t go out because you imagine that a city that you don’t know could be coupled with kamikaze cab drivers, muggers lurking at every corner and night-spots that harbor even more bored and boring people than you are.
Once, just before taking a shower, I drew back the drapes of my 12th floor room to peep out at the city at night, even though I dared not venture down into it. This resulted in a call from the lobby manager pointing out that my scantily dressed form could be seen from the hotel’s garden restaurant, depriving diners of their appetite hence, would I please draw the curtains.
Rock stars who go berserk in hotel rooms have my total sympathy. It must be worst for them than for me to come back after a rousing show, all psyched up and raring to party, to find the only entertainment in the room is a chocolate from the chamber maid, saying, “Sweet Dreams.”
In the end, of course, the only defense against boredom is the telephone. I am beginning to suspect that hotel rooms are deliberately designed to induce boredom to the depths where the helpless guest will seize the telephone and call friends around the world for relief. The colossal mark-up on the phone bill would almost cover the host country’s trade deficit. But there is always the television isn’t there? If you are fond of news in a local dialect, a government propaganda film or a sit-com older than you are in a strange language, there is some satisfaction to be derived from it. You will, have of course seen all the videos in other hotel rooms during other boring evenings.
Recently, I approached the inevitable boredom scientifically. I ordered a splendid meal from room service then settled down with a 1,000-page bestseller everyone assured me was absolutely gripping. I tried to imagine I was spending a quiet evening at home. Everything was fine until the room service waiter came to clear away my dinner tray. The chamber maid turned up to turn down the bed. Next, came the bellboy with a message for another guest, by mistake. He was followed, before I had read another page, by the house keeper, to check that the room maid had done the room properly. Another knock on the door and a maintenance man strolled in to change a light bulb, and the guest relations lady phoned in to check if everything was all right. A few minutes, and half a page later, there was another knock. I threw open the door in a rage…a waiter bearing a plate of chocolates; compliments of the manager.
Why, I wondered, as I gave up trying to read, wouldn’t the hotel let me enjoy my boredom in peace?