Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Hotel World

I hate hotels.

By which, I mean that I have a deep sated loathing for every aspect of their prim, artificial suggestion of comfort and service – bile that threatens to boil up into an explosion of a television set through the window.

Although, on this occasion, the glass is probably too thick to be shattered under the weight of something a meagre as a thirty-six inch TV. If it can render an airport mute, it is hardy stuff indeed.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh.

I have, after all, stayed in some lovely places – low down, beaten-up, nestled away hotels of character. The hotel in Berlin was the former home of a silent movies star, replete with Weimar Republic decadence; the hotel I stayed in for my cousin’s wedding in Positano had a lavish sea view off flower draped balconies; the nineteenth century breath that filtered through the place in San Francisco or the colonial hauntings in New Orleans; the romantic desolation of the place in Paris, nestled underneath the shadows of Notre Dame where it was necessary in the dead of winter to skip across the metal fire escape to find the bathrooms and where the air was enthused with bohemian dampness.

I even have a lingering affection for the motels that hug the side of the USA’s highways. Even though they are, in the main, prefabricated boxes they are unique to their time and place and they serve an affordable purpose – unlike their vile British equivalent, the Travel Lodge.

No, my ire is predominately focused on the soulless behemoths of the Jury’s Inns, the Hiltons, the De Veres. The places where the higher the star rating, the lower the sense of place. Hotels like where I spent much of last week.

First Night:

The room felt devoid of life: consistent uniformity had killed it. The oversoft bed, the feathered pillows, the brown leathered room service menu, the pay-a-fortune-as-you-go broadband connection all suggested existence as a dull fiction. A sort of mid-afternoon ITV soap opera life rather than anything approaching reality. Subdued greys and chocolate browns, inoffensive whites and the occasional stripe of 1940s German military green. No keys just a card to fight with. A single card for the door, to operate the lifts (the stairs sealed off), a card to bring light. Twenty-second century security tinged by the nineteen-eighties without the novelty of firing a card completely through the slit in the door and hoping it obligingly opened, remembering to then pick the damn thing up from under the bed.

Everyone else had turned in early, but I couldn’t sleep. The room was too hot, the air too artificial. I had the air conditioning cranked up and it noisily brrred to itself and still, slowly, inexplicably, overrode its setting, as though I couldn’t possibly want it that cool. Perhaps I didn’t. Perhaps I just wanted to see how cold it would go.

Grumpily, I sat in the single plastic-leather aggressively green upright chair trying to read in insufficient light, only designed for TV watching or illicit screwing with people married to someone else. I sipped cheap Irish bought along in a hip flask and distilled into a glass from the bathroom, mixed with a drizzle of shower water.

I tried to read, but my attention was continually snagged by activity behind the sound proofed glass. Four floors up, opposite the multi-storied concrete grilled car park, I watched the silver head lights and sun-red brake lights whiz through the dark passages like cyborg bees searching for synthetic pollen. The cars danced as the owners fruitlessly searched for a space or the exit; equally desperate to both arrive and leave simultaneously. And in the background was the occasional eerily silent roar of the jumbos sneaking out into the early morning clouds bound for another life.

Suddenly, I remembered watching on the news an investigation into hotel cleaning staff pressurised to clean too many rooms in too short a time using the same cloth to clean the toilet as the little bathroom glasses.

I grimaced and swallowed the dregs of my drink.

“Great, complimentary dysentery with every room.”

Second Morning:

I awoke to the rapid-fire clatter of too many stilettos down the corridor and the pitiful warbling of my phone’s peppermint themed alarm tone. The curtains were still wide open, I was naked, the clammy duvet had been roughly discarded and all around was chaos.

“Whlul-a-blurm-a-bub,” I just about managed.

I forced myself off the bed, if only to find my damn phone and shut its pathetic bland tones up. As I moved I noticed my limbs leaving blurred previous lives, impressions of themselves in their wake.

My phone was on the floor, underneath the turned inside out suit trousers apparently dropped with unnecessary rapidity, plugged into the charger which was plugged into the wall with the switch turned off. At the moment I found it, it blooped its last and the screen went black. The air was forcibly silent except for a vague scratching of bone on mangy fur. Close to the bed lay my jacket in a similar inverted state to my trousers suggesting a rather ungraceful undressing sequence and in the far corner, screwed into sweat damp ball, was my blue shirt. I was unclear as to where my underwear had gone. Presumably, it was in amongst all my other clothes which I seemed to have emptied across the floor.

What had I been looking for?

Up in the top corner of the room the wine monkey stopped plucking lice from itself and laughed its evil cackle at another successful mugging.


I gave it the finger and headed into the bathroom.

Standing under the shower the rapid fire bursts of scalding hot, then freezing cold and then round again did their job and I at least felt upright. I drip dried whilst pissing long and hard into the toilet trying not to look at what I may have left floating there the night before.

I was relieved to find that my rummagings of the previous night had not extended to the open wardrobe where my suits and shirts hung. The monkey threatened to throw its shit at me until I snarled and it scurried for safety inside the inactive mini-bar. Slowly, I started to take on the shape of what I am not.

Back into the bathroom, conscious of time disappearing, I shaved, waxed my fair and cleaned my teeth all the while studying my face in the magnified mirror. Black eyes, pallid flushed skin, a fifteen yard gaze. Still, I had to cope. There was no other option.

I stood up straight, slipped my jacket on, spat into the sink and gave a final sneer to the mirror, when, over my shoulder, I noticed: “Why is there a telephone built into the wall next to the toilet?” I scratched my head in bemusement. “Who orders room service whilst taking a dump?”

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