TRAVEL: The Lonely Death Of The Long Distance Travelling Salesman

This picture, taken last week, shows you the oh-so-luxurious segregated check-in area allocated to members of a famous hotel chain’s loyalty scheme. A lovely rope separates members from the proles, and they get the privilege of standing on a small mat as they check in. To be honest, I’d feel kind of guilty lording it up so much over the lower orders if it was me, but I’ve always been quite sympathetic to the finer feelings of my servants.

Anyway, I had to stay overnight in a hotel last week, for a meeting the next morning. And within a couple of hours of arriving there – despite it being a reputable chain (though one of its heirs seems determined to sully that legacy if possible) – I could understand why Willy Loman and Alan Partridge alike loathed being away from home so much.

The setting and reception were pleasant enough, but when I checked into my room and dumped my bag on the bed and looked around, I felt a sinking feeling; there was a TV, an ironing board and iron, a selection of menus and other bits of information for guests, and (oh yes) a Corby trouser press. I had, I suddenly realised, become that cliché, the chap who stays away from home overnight for work. I was thankful I’d travelled there by train and taxi, rather than driven there in a car with a suit hanging in the back and ‘Top Gear Driving Anthems 2’ on the stereo, that would have made the picture unsettlingly complete.

Deciding to eschew the bar or restaurant, I instead ordered some room service food, and settled down to see what was on the TV, by way of a mental sorbet. The standard terrestrial channels were there, along with a number of on-screen adverts for the fact I could pay £8.50 to watch Beowulf in glorious normal-sized-TV-o-vision. I decided that I’d rather either see it at the cinema for that cost, or even buy a copy of it for slightly more, and instead opted to watch a Batman cartoon which was on (for reasons which elude me, they had the Cartoon Network in addition to the usual channels).

The food, for the record, was fine, and a bit later on I chatted to my beloved on the phone, which made things feel a bit less grim, but there was something strange about the overnight experience; I was reminded of the narrator in Fight Club talking about his apartment building being a filing cabinet, and the food on planes being single-serving. The hotel felt the same – the room was functional but not luxurious or welcoming, and the miniature toiletries were like a plastic soap-filled summation of the transient nature of it all.

I slept all right, but when I went to breakfast the next morning, there were a couple of chaps in shirts and ties sitting at a table already, eating breakfast and talking about their sales targets. Just overhearing them, I swear I could actually feel my soul shrivelling like a slug in a saltstorm.

I took my tray, and its single-serving breakfast, and sat in the furthest possible corner of the restaurant.

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1 Comment

  1. Quite agreed. It´s positively gruesome staying away from home for business. I once had to stay in a hotel for 3 months, and at the end of my stay I had to physically ask for my soul back as luckily it had been kept in a special safe where mediocrity could not get at it. If not I would have surely started to wear a tie clip and use phrases like ´we´re rolling it out in the second quarter´. Yikes !

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