On Hotels

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski
On Hotels

Hotels are a great place to crash if you have the cash. They are designed so that when you arrive, it’s almost as if you have a brand new room, or at least an exceptionally clean one. It’s amazing how many other people could have passed through the room before you, how many could have slept between the same sheets, but have left no visible trace of themselves.

Besides basic amenities like running water, a bed, a bathroom and a roof, hotels contain a certain level of anonymity. In a hotel, especially one far from home, a person can transmogrify into anything they want and others are none the wiser. Every stranger is another character, and since the number of days stayed in a hotel varies from guest to guest, there is always a rotating cast on hand.

Cruise ships are an interesting variation on hotels. Whereas a hotel room is usually a home base for a visited area, a room on a cruise ship is a floating, moving castle. The only catch is that for many days of the trip it is a closed system, kind of like a Bio-dome, until ports of call.

Everyone on a cruise ship determines their own level of involvement in the ship’s social hierarchy; one can be a recluse or a cruise ship celebrity. In my experience, cruise ship friends are like friends met abroad: once the trip is over, so is the fair-weather, and the connection that was made disappears as soon as the shared circumstance does.

Hotels and the like are often depicted as seedy places. The sketchiest corners of human imagination seem to play themselves out with the bedbugs and cockroaches, semen-stains and noises. Hotel rooms are the “private away from the private”; they are places that can be taken advantage of because of their neutrality, because they are no one’s home.

Obviously, there are some hotel proprietors who live at their hotels; they have their homes and businesses all in one location. But the swanky hotels, like the ones in any big city, don’t really belong to anyone in the home sense. They are places built by real estate moguls and stock owners to boost profit margins. They are homes owned and taken care of by a crew of mercenary housekeepers who keep house for phantoms and faceless guests.

I’m a big fan of hotels. They give license to relax and be and do whatever it is I want and also provide a comfortable place to rest. Whenever my family arrived at a hotel when I was younger, I always felt like it was our destination. I didn’t care about the place. Hotels provided a needed escapism. They’re not about who you can become, they’re about who you’re trying to leave behind.

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