I had decided to stay at a hotel at the last minute but the actual details of it were a jumble in my mind. I booked a room at some hotel recommended by a younger work colleague and never gave it another thought. I was busy and a hotel was a hotel or so I thought.
The lobby was stuffed with smelly taxidermy and dusty rugs hanging from the walls over crumbling plaster. The whole place seemed to have an odd Bohemian communal feel to it somehow. A tired, seedy-looking attendant muttered my room number, handed over a thick heavy key, and pointed vaguely toward a rickety-tickety elevator. Though the elevator was ascending, it felt more like it was traveling backward in time. The metal cage doors of the elevator creaked opened and a musty smell crept into my nostrils. Everything seemed dark and narrow and yellowed. I stepped out of the elevator and down a dank and thin hallway lined with narrow doors. Sounds of sex, music and laughter floated out into the corridor. When I finally found my room and clicked open the door, I was greeted by a tiny cabin with one squat bed and a skinny bit of legroom. Better yet, the toilets and showers were shared – and unisex – and far away down the long and twisty hallway. I couldn’t help but smile at the scene.
I slept that night in a too-small bed in a too-small room not really meant for overnight occupancy. My tiny frame dangled over the ends of the mattress and the walls pressed down on both sides. I could hear every other occupant of the entire hall, it seemed – all night long, grunting and panting, fighting softly, giggling. Life being lived through the thin walls around me while I tossed and turned and tried to sleep. My neighbors came and went through the night, some of them just returning from the night when I stepped out for my early morning shower. Sleepy men and women grunted morning greetings to me and to each other as we all stepped in and out of the shower stalls and brushed teeth and flushed toilets.
I decided not to return to the hotel for another night, but it was an interesting experience; very different. I was a little delighted to have stepped accidentally into another world within the city, even for just a little bit – because sometimes I get so tired of the sameness of my own existence.