Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Business Traveler Chronicles – Hotel Room Vertigo

I am sitting at my hotel room desk past my bedtime and I have a raging headache. I think it is because I drank a stale beer from the mini bar.

In addition to my headache, my psyche is just getting slapped in the face with harsh realities after I made the bad choice of ordering a $15.99 in-room romantic comedy. Here's a tip: If your life is going well, romantic comedies add a bounce to your step and reaffirm your happiness, but if your life is in the gutter, romantic comedies make you feel like shit.

Other things going on in my hotel room at the moment... I have a toilet that takes a long time to quiet down. Like the first time I flushed it, I was poised to call someone up here to look at my running toilet, but I really did not want to have to go to those lengths. I walked over to the bed to see if the noise would keep me up tonight. Just when I realized that the running toilet was indeed loud enough to awaken my insomnia, the toilet stopped, and I was glad that no hotel maintenance person would have to destroy my detached sense of isolation in room 1512.

Hotel room living is just plain weird. You have weird thoughts and weirder insights that you just cannot achieve in the comfort of your messy apartment.

Hotel rooms have full length mirrors all over the place. This causes you to analyze yourself at odd moments, like when you are brushing your teeth naked and you are late to go meet with your client. You stand there, dripping cold shower drops onto the industrial carpet, and you sadly consider the fact that yes, you do indeed look even fatter than you did the last time you stayed here.

Hotels rooms give you a false sense of power. When you are in a hotel for business, you get to order room service without guilting over the astronomical added charges. 22% gratuity? That's table stakes for working with the Fortune 500's, baby. Yes, ma'am. I am here on b-u-s-i-n-e-s-s.

At least, that's how I used to feel.

Now? Oh, I get teary eyed with homesickness for a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Before dragging myself to bed, I endlessly toil with my toothbrush, trying in vain to scrape out the ever-present taste of overly seasoned food and garlic. It is the taste, the essence that all business travel food exhibits.

It is the taste of eating out, it is the taste of airplane and airport food, it is the taste that lingers in your raw tired mouth like a cheap perfume.

You cannot get that taste out. In fact, it won't part with the insides of your mouth until you have flown home, passed out in your bed, and woken up late on a Saturday to eat cereal and drink coffee in your pjs by the TV. A friend or a family member suggests dining out, and your stomach churns just remembering that tongue paste that makes the roof of your mouth raw. No, you say, I am so sick of going out to eat.

When you stay in a hotel room, you have a 3' x 2' box you call home. Your suitcase. Early on you decide if it is going to be one of those trips where you impress even yourself with your Forrest Gump-like neat and tidiness, or if you are going to be a hell raiser and chuck dirty underwear around the room while responding to emails. You might say something like, "Fuck folding!" or, you might be feeling anal retentive and make your bed before house cleaning arrives. Both behaviors are valid. It may just depend on what city you are in and whether or not you are feeling solid with your travel working-out routine (if you even have a travel workout routine).

Probably the strangest element of hotel living is the Temporary Post-Slumber Amnesia Effect. This is that special, terrifying moment that most business travelers know about. I remember my dad used to talk about it when he was a business consultant. It is that rare occasion when you have been caught in the throes of a deep slumber, and you wake only to find that you have no idea where you are. You also have no idea who you are. You are simply blank, claustrophobic, and increasingly terrified. You experience a few seconds of Hotel Room Vertigo, then your alarm starts blaring, and you roll your eyes with lonely recognition.

Whoever invented the mini bar was a sympathetic person who understood the ins and outs of Hotel Room Vertigo. Sometimes you need the opportunity to crack open a stale beer and let your brain swell into a nice thick headache while you just contemplate...your life...in...hotel rooms.

1 comment:

  1. You are so right. And every texture in a hotel room seems exaggerated, every scent too strong...

    And yet when I'm home for too long I miss traveling. When I'm on the road for work I get more reading done. I get caught up on my email. I write more.

    Thank you Susan.

    -Heather Riddle

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