It all started so well, until my friend rang me up while I was on the train going down and told me that I could no longer sleep on his sofa. He would still meet me for drinks, but his girlfriend had put her foot down. Apparently, the last person who had spent the night on his sofa was still there two weeks later.
The internet on a phone is a marvellous invention, and by the time I reached Euston I had booked a three star hotel in Paddington, about a hundred yards from where I was meeting my friend. Fantastic, I thought and set about getting as far above the legal drink drive limit that my breath could intoxicate a driver from ten paces. Halfway through the process, I got a phone call from the hotel. They were very apologetic, they told me that there had been a glitch in their system, and the room I booked was, in fact, occupied.
So apologetic were they, that they offered to furnish me with a taxi to a sister hotel in Kensington. Not just any hotel, but one with four stars. I would get a complimentary breakfast and a taxi back to Paddington the following day. Lucky me, I thought. All I had to do was get to my original hotel for nine o'clock. Easy.
With the help of my friend, I found the hotel in plenty of time, and we bid our farewells. A short ten minutes later (with a complimentary coffee), and my taxi arrived. Myself and three reasonably attractive females (who were mystery shoppers for an occupation, I gathered through eavesdropping) were whisked across town with alarming speed to a new hotel.
I discovered that stars are largely meaningless (thumbs on the other hand are much appreciated, see below).
The three singled rooms that the women had been reserved magically became a single and a twin. The twin was vacant because the person who should have been in it had spent less than five minutes in it, before deciding to sleep rough under a bench somewhere in preference. After the three women were accommodated (I am nothing, if not a gentleman), I was allocated my room. According to the internet, a single room in this hotel was twice what I'd paid originally, so I was still optimistic, despite hearing of the rapid vacating of the room.
I arrived in my room. I say room, as that's the legal definition. It would have been more accurate to describe it as the end of a corridor that had been closed in by use of a door. There was a bed in there that was a mere five feet long, made of the hardest substance ever manufactured by mankind. This bed still occupied nearly the full length of one wall. At the end of the bed, there was a wardrobe so shallow the hangers were hung sideways, and still only just fit. This was difficult to discover as the door would not open all the way, because the bed was in the way. Beside the bed was a shelf on which a thoughtfully placed kettle took up the entire shelf. Above this was a flat-screen television. The invention of the flat screen TV was the only way they would have got a television in that room.
Somehow, they had managed to get an en-suite bathroom in the annexed corridor. The door into the bathroom failed to open all the way, as the bed was in the way. Had I eaten since breakfast I would have failed to fit through the gap formed with the door as far open as it would go. Inside the bathroom there was a toilet, sink and shower. Sat on the toilet, my feet were in the shower and my elbow was in the sink. I also had a gash in my hip from the toilet roll holder, thoughtfully positioned such that it would gash the hip of anybody who sat on the toilet. To that end, it was successful.
My previous hotel had WiFi. No such luxury here. There was a Ethernet cable, approximately two nanometres long, securely fastened to the wall, requiring me to precariously balance my laptop on the shelf and bed. Being slightly more than technically incompetent, I was able to alert my laptop to this unorthodox arrangement, and I used the one centimetre long instruction leaflet to connect to the internet. That was my evening sorted, I thought.
It lasted five minutes until the internet turned off.
Fifteen minutes of diagnostics later, I discovered it wasn't me, it was the hotel. The router had crashed.
Off I trotted to reception, taking advantage of being out of the room by fully inflating my lungs.
"Can you reboot the router?" I asked. "The internet's gone off."
"What's a router?" asked the Ukrainian receptionist.
"The box that connects to the internet," I replied. I described it.
"Ah, I can't do that. I'll have to call an engineer."
"Let me do it," I told her. "Show me where it is, and I'll fix it."
"I can't do that. I'll have to call an engineer."
"When will they be here?" I asked.
"Probably tomorrow afternoon," was the reply.
"Do they let you turn light switches off and on?" I asked.
"Yes," she said.
"Rebooting the router is the same as that," I told her. "You turn it off, and then back on again."
"I can't do that. I'll have to call an engineer."
I gave up and returned to my room. I would watch television, even if that meant getting a crick in my neck from sitting sideways onto it, and looking up at an eighty degree angle. Several moments passed with me trying all the usual combinations of buttons on the remote. Nothing worked, so I checked the batteries.
There weren't any.
Off I trotted back to reception, shaking the kinks out of my shoulders.
"There are no batteries in the remote," I told the woman.
"Ah. We don't keep spare batteries," she told me. "I'll tell the engineer to bring some with him."
"Would this be the same engineer who will not be here until eight hours after I've left?"
I decided instead to get an early night.
I undressed by standing on the bed and putting my clothes in the gap between the shower and the toilet. This was when I discovered that my room was right over the busiest tube tunnel in London. Every five seconds I heard one pass and the sound proofing was sufficient only to stop me from making out what people were saying on the tube. I also discovered that some kind of industrial adhesive had been used to attach the sheets to the bed, making it impossible to lift them high enough to get underneath them.
The Tube stops running at midnight. At which point I kind of slept, although I woke up every time I moved in my sleep due to the variety of lumps carefully built into the diamond mattress and, at one point, discovering the problem with putting dimmer switches for the lights next to the pillow. I made the mistake of going to the toilet in the dark, deepening the gash on my hip and splashing water on my clothes. I got about three hours sleep before the Tube started up again at five in the morning. There was no point trying to get back to sleep, so I had a shower, remembering to put my clothes on the bed before I did so. It was not possible to turn around in the shower, nor was it possible to raise an arm more than half an inch. After a shower, I used a towel to remove the soap from my armpits and dressed.
I was the first person in the breakfast room as they opened at seven. This, despite the fact that the breakfast room was a five minute walk out of the hotel and down the road; and required a guide. Breakfast was good, in another sister hotel that put mine to shame. It must have been eight stars, at least, if mine was four. Replete, with four cups of coffee inside me, I returned to my bunk and packed, glad to leave. Before leaving, I drank all three sachets of the complimentary coffee. This had the effect of filling the room with steam from the kettle.
Bleary eyed, I stumbled from the hotel vowing that I would be cremated, having experienced the alternative. My chiropractor has told me that my spine will eventually return to being straight on its own.