What a consultant feels travelling to new hotels weekly. It is not fun.
This article by Tatiana de Rosnay could easily have been my life with a few well placed changes to the words, dates, names and times.
One of the worst experiences for me personally, was arriving in Tokyo on assignment on an overnight flight, and then being taken straight to a client, without time to sleep, shower, eat or change. That meeting lasted well into the wee hours of the next morning. I only returned back to my room by around 2am. Set the alarm for 9am and dozed off.
However, curtains were set to electronically open onto a glorious morning, facing the sunrise, at 7am, while the TV also came on. The worse part is that I could not find the controls and needed to call the butler. So travelling can be annoying.
It was one of those book tours. The travel all day, sign copies all evening, talk nonstop ones where you spend every night in a different city.
When I’m traveling, my publishers book me in high-design, high-tech hotels, which I normally enjoy to the hilt. But on this tour I learned that the most sophisticated, trendiest establishments aren’t always the most comfortable, nor the most practical. In fact, their efforts to be cutting-edge can backfire on guests.
The first night of the tour I arrived, jet-lagged and drained, at a stylish boutique hotel in a foreign town. In the black and silver lobby, the receptionist told me I had been upgraded to a suite—always pleasant information for the weary traveler.
A sleek, perfumed elevator zoomed us up to a large, snow-white spread. It was perhaps not the coziest place, but it was decidedly impressive. The receptionist showed me how to work the air conditioning, the television, the blinds, the Internet, but I only had one feature on my mind: the bathroom. When he finally left, I rushed into the marble-tiled, state-of-the-art lavatory and…stopped. Where was the toilet? Not near the bathtub, not behind a closet door. I searched the entire suite in vain, hobbling about and eventually getting a little weepy.
When I at last fathomed how the complicated phone worked, reception smoothly informed me that the toilet was “hidden” behind a mirrored partition. Indeed it was. So well hidden that it had been impossible to spot.
The next evening, I checked into another chic hotel in a different city. I was to give a speech in front of 800 people and had about 30 minutes to get ready. But figuring out how the shower worked proved as daunting as finding the loo the night before. The shower itself was a photogenic magnificence, an intricate twist of chrome contraptions and knobs. I turned one tap and a blast of icy water hit me in the loins. I yelped and turned another tap, which sent a Niagara of scalding rivulets swooshing down from above. Goodbye, sleek Parisian coiffure. In the photos of the event, I look like a frizzy salt-and-pepper Afghan hound.
The following night, I was in yet another hotel, in another town. My room was a vast, powder-pink, mirror-layered boudoir. I ordered room service—soup, bread, cheese and a glass of Champagne—and was told it would arrive in 30 minutes. An hour and a half later, my tray was brought up by a disquieting clone of Mrs. Danvers, the terrifying housekeeper in “Rebecca.” When I sat down to eat, famished, I discovered that she had delivered a club sandwich, a beer and tiramisu. I was tired and hungry, and it was past midnight. I couldn’t bear calling Mrs. Danvers back up.
Instead, I installed myself in the cushy king-size bed, wishing my husband were there to share the luxury. I reached to turn the bedside lights off, but the complicated system turned all the lights on instead, in a glaring blaze that made me blink. I clicked again, but only the overhead lamps reacted. After 10 infuriating minutes of fiddling, I got up and found the master switch. Darkness at last. I tiptoed back to bed, arms stretched out in front of me, hoping not to trip. Five minutes later, I realized I’d forgotten to charge my iPhone and fumbled for the light switch. Nothing happened. I groped my way back to the master controls, which seemed to be in another country, plugged in my phone, turned the switch off and crawled back to bed. Once there, I realized that with the master switch off, my iPhone would not charge.
I fell asleep—until, in the dead of night, demoniacal cackles jolted me awake. I tried to turn on the light. The screeches came again, right next to me. Who was in my room? Panicked, I stumbled to the master switch. Every light surged on, merciless and blinding. I was confronted with dozens of reflections of my bedraggled self, flaunting an upsetting similarity to Mr. Magoo.
There was no one else in the room—the locked door by my bed connected to another suite. With increasing dread, I realized that behind the door enhanced with swirling pink motifs, a raucous hen party was in full swing. The ladies were dancing, clapping, hopping, stamping and howling with laughter.
I could not bring myself to share their mirth. It was 4 o’clock in the morning and my wake-up call was in two hours. Assuming, that is, I could work out how to answer the phone.