A Decent Hotel for a Change

We took an overnight trip to Boston recently and booked a room at a decent city hotel for a change. Usually we cheap out and stay at a chain hotel outside the city, so this was a small splurge.

My husband drove into town, leaving me to navigate. GPS is a modern miracle, but like all miracles they come with a price. My husband did not have his glasses on while driving, so I needed to look at the phone for directions and read all of the street signs. He was struggling to hear me over both our kids, so I was essentially shouting at him towards the end at the point when all of the turns on one way streets begin piling up. This led to a bit of circling around.

When we finally mastered the route, we agreed to valet the car at the hotel so we could end the circling madness. We had become cranky and needed to end our time in the car. We trooped into the lobby, with its sleek bar, tasteful music, bits of scented air, and high ceilings. I checked us in and collected our room keys. Our kids figured out the elevator system and we took it up to the seventh floor. We read the signs and followed the multiple hallway turns to our room, keyed ourselves in, and discovered it hadn’t been cleaned. This was a first. Collectively or individually, we had never checked into a hotel and been given a dirty room before. It felt like a slap in the face. We all recoiled in horror at the unmade bed, the glass of water left on the night table, and the hand towels, piled on top of another without thought on the bathroom counter.

What to do when faced with such sights? We actually had a moment when we looked at each other the way documentaries show bonobos looking at video cameras they’ve discovered in their habitat. Perplexed, curious, amazed. What was this new information our brains were being asked to assimilate? Could someone still be residing in this white space with the neutral prints on the walls? My god, is their stuff still here? Who were they, and why didn’t someone come in and wipe all traces of their presence away? Isn’t that the point of a hotel? The anonymity and the blankness?

One does not expect to be confronted with thoughts of the previous room dweller when checking into a hotel. It’s unsettling at best in a modern hotel to feel that things are not pristine and waiting for your arrival. It’s perhaps a bit like when you are reminded that your spouse or partner was previously someone else’s partner and did partner-like things with them. We imagine ourselves to be the rightful occupant, of the hotel room or the heart, and evidence of another is disturbing on some level. In this case, after our too-long beat of confusion, we wound our way back down to the lobby where we exchanged our keys for those to another room. When we went back up, this time to the eighth floor, we found our room ready and waiting for us. Unoccupied, clean, blank, standing at attention, and waiting for us to bring it to life.

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