Hotels really are proof that parallel universes exist.
I was working in Germany in 2002 and I spent Midsummer’s Eve that year in Stockholm. It was a busy and social weekend but on Sunday night I was back in Munich ready for another week’s work.
It’s good to be home…
… I thought to myself as I unpacked my case. And immediately afterwards:
The Holiday Inn on Leopoldstrasse is not my home!
That was the day that I stopped contracting, though I still earned my living that way for another couple of years because it took me a while to find the permanent job that ticked all the boxes.
I’d forgotten just how much hotels exist in an alternative reality. It’s not the food, though where else are danish pastries 3cm wide by 6cm long? It’s not the light, or the airconditioning, or the bizzare variety of things the TV will do even though only 12 channels are actual television. It’s not the white towels, or bathroom fittings.
I think in part it’s the way that they are all so designed. Actually, that deserves a capital D. They have Decor. Staying in a business hotel is like stepping in to an interior design magazine. But hotel chains use design without understanding it. This is probably the only industry that can use the word “modern” to describe design-values without inserting “post-” under its breath.
The problem is that the design feels sprayed on, a “Designer Look” added on at the end. Design by numbers. And the numbers are dehumanising: the reason that the Holiday Inn felt like home was that every single one of their 362 rooms is the same – the only difference being that half have the bathroom on the left of the door and half have the bathroom on the right. The Sheraton Heathrow sticks in my memory. It’s built around four grim courtyards, and your window looks bleakly out on a row of identical windows staring bleakly back at you. You feel like Rene Magritte, stuck in a world designed by M.C. Escher painted by L.S. Lowry.
Even so, I like staying in hotels. In Tombstone, Kurt Russell asks Dana Delany what she wants out of life and she says:
Yep. I recognise that.
Now if ony I could organise my home life to include room-service but without the add-on design-in-a-box…