An Irishman’s Diary on hotel rooms and their little ways
Rooms for improvement
“My usual solution to overheating in a hotel bed is to remove the cover from the duvet and sleep under it instead. Typically, this provides a temporary solution until the wee hours, when the heat inexplicably switches off and I wake up frozen.”
I like hotels. Something about the independence and anonymity combined with the unaccustomed freedom to linger in bed while watching daytime TV rarely fails to seduce. Invariably then, it is with sweet anticipation that I check into a hotel. Now, time was when an enormous key guaranteed room admission but this pleasant security no longer applies. Now it is all about plastic keycards, which hotels argue provide greater security, while neglecting to mention, that they have also proven an irritatingly unreliable piece of modern gadgetry. My debit card fails, I guess, about 1 attempt in 500, but my unfortunate experience with hotel cards is a failure rate of about 1 in 10. So as I amble from reception towards the room, trying to keep my phone distant enough not to decode the card, my stress levels rise a little as I wonder will the technology work on this occasion.
When it doesn’t, I must forlornly abandon my luggage and retrace my steps a long way, since I invariably seem to be assigned the bedroom furthest from reception. Card recoded, I re-retrace my route and hopefully will gain admission without having to tip the concierge for telling me that you need to jiggle the card up and down for it to work.
Now, my experience of hotel rooms across many countries is that, give or take a mini-bar or some differing co-ordinated throws , they are all pretty much alike. So, on entering the room, my attention will invariably be drawn to the array of cushions and supernumerary pillows adorning the bed. I have no idea what purpose these are supposed to serve, but it’s none for me in any case. So my first task is to clear the lot under the desk or behind the settee.
Next, I turn to the television. Once upon a time, hotel TVs were easy to operate – switch on, select channel and hey presto! These days, such soothing certainties have vanished. I press the remote and nothing happens. I wonder if it’s flat batteries – an inexplicably common problem with hotels – but find the red light is flickering. Then, just as I am about to ring reception, I realise there are actually two remotes and this is for the DVD, even though it isn’t labelled. So I join battle with the other remote. Ten minutes later – if luck is on my side – I will have bypassed the “welcome John” and “spa offers” screens and have successfully hacked into a Hungarian game show, but still be unable to access the news channel I want.
Then it’s coffee time, which commonly means boiling the kettle on the carpet because the flex is so ungenerously short. A cuppa always tastes good though, because I take the precaution of bringing in fresh milk to avoid sampling the tasteless UHT capsules.
Before turning in for the night, I first play a game of hide-and-seek with cunningly concealed switches and inevitably leap into bed only to jump out again on discovering one final light remains aglow. Next I read, unless the bedside lamp is too dim, in which case I return my attention to hacking the TV. Persistence is rewarded when I locate the unmarked button that gives access to the news channels and can finally relax with Fiona Bruce.
Now, in my experience, hotel rooms are mostly too hot for comfortable sleeping and bedroom thermostats are notoriously unreliable as temperature regulators. In any case, hospitality professionals argue they are dual purpose spaces where people potter about and so can’t be uncomfortably cool. Fair point, but why are those suffocating winter duvets expected to suffice in summer? My usual solution to overheating in a hotel bed is to remove the cover from the duvet and sleep under it instead. Typically, this provides a temporary solution until the wee hours, when the heat inexplicably switches off and I wake up frozen. This is my cue to ransack the room. I search wardrobes, drawers and other likely and unlikely spaces in the hope of finding a thoughtfully provided spare blanket. On the almost inevitable failure of this endeavour, my night concludes beneath an assortment of throws, towels and “his” and “her” dressing gowns. Finally it’s an unscheduled wake-up call as sunlight streams through the blackout curtains that never seem quite large enough.
Come check-out time, the receptionist will customarily gaze soulfully into my eyes and express the hope that everything went okay and that I enjoyed my stay. I can’t bring myself to disappoint such bright-eyed earnestness, so I smile cheerfully and say that indeed things have been absolutely wonderful. And since hope invariably triumphs over experience for me, I am already eagerly anticipating my next hotel stay before I even reach home.