For those of you in the Corporate world, using hotels from a predefined list is often a requirement. Mostly the rooms are average, nothing to excite anyone from the most timid traveler to the most adventurous. Bland and interchangeable, if IBM could figure out a way to house us in gray walled cubicles all the time they would. There have been many times I have had problems after changing cities and hotels, going back to the room I was in the week before, because I cannot tell them apart.
So when I made my travel arrangements for Brazil, the JW Marriot in Rio was sold out for 2 days of my trip. So I had to move. I had to pick from a very limited selection in Rio, in fact there was only one left on the IBM approved list at the IBM rate. Another Mercure, but I figured it would be much like those in Brasilia.
I was wrong.
I should have realized why it was the only one left. The hotel smelled of smoke and mold. An older place, but the young woman on the front desk was friendly and helpful and what choice did I have after all? Only two days was my mantra. Only two days.
I got to the room, and it was relatively clean. The mildew smell was worse, but there were no signs. Internet connectivity worked. So, only two days. I locked the door, and settled in.
I started hearing things. In many hotels you learn a lot more about your neighbors habits than is necessary thru thin walls. At times it can become uncomfortable – especially when you see them in the hall. But this was listening to someone else shower, it was like I was in the bathroom with them. I cautiously checked my bathroom, relieved to see no one there. But there was a window – odd as it was not on an exterior wall. The window was open leading to a large maintenance shaft that was shared by everyone’s bath and ‘kitchen’ area. The window would not close, and I am not certain it would have given any noise abatement had it done so. Flimsy indeed!
I checked the ‘kitchen’ window. It would not shut, in fact was off it’s track completely. A good push and it would have tumbled away. Another panel that did not have a covering. There were pry marks, or what appeared to be pry marks around the window, which may have been why it was off the tracks never to return. About that time my “locked” door was rattled hard, and tried to come open. Deadbolt might not be accurate, as the hole for the bolt had not been completely ‘gouged’ out. The door actually had ventilation slats near the bottom. Open and apparently made of that famous hardwood known as balsa. A shout of ‘this room is occupied’ and whoever it was left. Some other corporate citizen confused by a room change? Maybe. But the door was tried again later. Only two days, I repeated.
Fortunately it was still afternoon. I checked the sliding door to the balcony and found that it could not be firmly latched, warped beyond connection. Only two days, I may have been saying it aloud by this time.
As evening approached, the noises increased. People moving about, coming in, using their showers and toilets. Some noises innocuous, and low. Others started. Someone had a loud TV show on I could hear as if I was trying to listen to Homeland over Lilburn’s oxygen machine. An argument started next. No idea where. And it was growing louder. I may not know the language but the tone is universal. A shouting match followed just a little later; different voices and more intense. Closer as well. The next ‘suite’? The hall? By this time there were sounds of real violence. A wail.
I’ve never piled furniture against doors before. Never even considered it. Up for a new experience – I piled chairs up against the door, while it would not keep anyone out, there would be LOTS of noise. The table was bolted to the wall or it would have been pushed over as well. The sliding door…not much I could do there, but hope for non-energetic invaders. Only two days, no I don’t think so.
I called AMEX, the mantra had changed to ‘get me out of here’. They found that there was a room for the next night at the Sheraton, slightly above the IBM rate, but I did not care.
After piling all my stuff in the bedroom and closing the door (and yes I put what I could against that door too), I did doze off about 12:30. At 2:12 the screaming started. A man was screaming as if in agony – not a movie, just that sound. Night terrors? Then at 3:05 a woman started, but hers had the sound of acting. At 4:07 …. and on.
The miracle is that I did not kill myself tripping over the pile of stuff.
I have heard arguments before, some one sided wonders shouted into a phone. I have heard crying children, learned about neighbors bathroom habits thru hotel walls, but never to this degree. And never with the feeling that violence would erupt and spill over. I was afraid. Really afraid.
I did get to spend one night in the Sheraton, which was lovely. Life is nothing if not contrasts!