As a kid I adored the film ‘Working Girl’. Who couldn’t cheer on Melanie Griffith as she aimed high to get the job of her dreams? And of course, how great was it to see the awful boss, played by Sigourney Weaver, get her comeuppance. To this day, I still tear useful articles out of magazines and newspapers and keep a notebook of ideas just in case.
My generation was told to dream big, follow our hearts, go into further education and get the skills we needed to follow the career path we wanted. Being a mum and a wife was fine too, but we had a choice. Uni was always just out of my grasp – parents couldn’t support me, the grant wasn’t enough – I had to let it go, but like Melanie’s character, Tess McGill, I worked hard. I went to college, then got a full-time job, and continued to study part time, often taking second jobs at the same time.
I often worked with colleagues who got to travel as part of their roles. Nothing too glamourous – this was the early 90s and globalisation was still a buzzword. But UK and European business travel was within my grasp.
I wanted the company car, the laptop computer. And then mobile phones became a thing and part of the essential kit for life on the road. Then it happened – the chance to borrow a pool car and visit an office in another part of the country. It would involve a stay in a hotel. Would I mind? Would I?!?! My best jacket with the business-like shoulder pads was desperate for the opportunity.
It was amazing. No mobile phone and no laptop though – no budget for that. It wasn’t deemed necessary. But I was allowed to take the battered old Audi pool car that stank of fags. And I was staying in a hotel. Not any hotel. A Hilton hotel! Yes! I was living the dream.
Armed with my overnight bag and a map book, I set off. No such thing as satnav in those days, but I was prepared. Route memorised. The drive was a dream – on those days the M1 and M6 were not long hard slogs of perpetual roadworks like they are today.
I arrived at the hotel excited, happy to make full use of the pool, a bubble bath, steak dinner and a cheeky glass of wine. My first taste of life on the road, and it was brilliant. Even the long drive home after a full day’s work was another adventure to look forward to.
Fast forward 25 or so years and I’ll tell you a very different story. Most people think like I did and that life on the road is a perk. But the novelty soon wears off. Here are just some of the reasons why it feels like you are working on the road to hell. These are 10 of my pet hates:
Hotel Room Sex
Not my hotel room sex. Other people’s hotel room sex. I’m convinced that most people who partake in this activity are either meeting their fancy-piece or have paid for the company. Grubby pimps will quite happily try and sell their girls in hotel bars. I’ve even heard one trying to get a customer for his ‘girl who shagged Rooney’. Regardless of partner, hotel room sex is noisy. Usually in the room next to mine. Usually quite close to a time where I need to get up and back on the road again.
The worst culprit was next door to me at 1am at a hotel near an airport. The hotel is used by a lot of flight crew, so at first, I thought it was a late arrival taking a shower. However, they made rather a lot of noise. Well, she did. He was silent, but his name was Steve. The whole floor would know his name was Steve by morning. After about 3 hours sleep (me, not Steve), I left my room to check out and hit the road. But not before I slipped a note under their door. I wrote … “She was faking it Steve x”.
Parents dumping their kids at the gym/pool
A big pet hate of mine. Not much is worse than other people’s children. Unless they are feral, playing barefoot on gym equipment, flicking water from the cooler everywhere, or daring each other to piss in the pool. Mum and dad? They couldn’t give a shit and are in the bar enjoying the peace. Me? I’m wishing I exercised with Joe Wicks in my hotel room. And while I’m on the subject of hotel pools, why do pensioners just bob about in them chatting away like grey croutons. They get in the way while I feel like I am trying to swim lengths in a pool of pensioner soup.
Room service menus
Great if you want a rubber steak, a burger, warmed up lasagne, or a pizza. All apparently served with hand cut chips, wedges or fries, but which always resemble nasty catering frozen chips. The 24h selection is all stuff that can be reheated by a person who is not a chef. The curry is always a debateable chicken tikka.
Room service menus are dreadful. When you are away from home from days on end you crave something fresh and hearty, or sometimes something as simple as beans on toast – what you eventually receive is always a let-down. I’ve started to ask for a copy of the restaurant menu instead and most will oblige happily, thank goodness.
Dirty hotel rooms
I’m not talking about the build up of unimaginables on the TV remote here. It can be far worse. Dirty underwear left on the floor from the previous occupants was one highlight. Another was bloodstained sheets and vile messages left hidden around the room in drawers and cupboards. Bathrooms are normally grim, mouldy and hairy delights if you are lucky, grotty shower curtains and stained towels if you are not. And if you have to venture behind furniture to locate a plug socket for your phone charger, you will see just how often that room is hoovered thoroughly!
In general, about as much use as a chocolate tea pot. Some chains have a half decent offering, though. But the problems lie elsewhere. Housekeeping wind the power cable around hairdryers tightly, so eventually the plastic casing cracks and wires are exposed, or they break. Some are permanently attached to a desk or drawer with a cable only long enough to dry the front of your head unless you are a contortionist.
My favourites are the ‘refurbished rooms’ that hotels are so proud of. They make a big deal about giving you one of these rooms. You arrive and indeed find a lovely room and a fabulous mirror. Then in the morning you realise that there is no plug socket anywhere near the mirror and hair styling becomes an interesting activity.
My top tip though, is to test the hairdryer when you arrive. A wet hair crisis in the morning when you are short of time will not be enhanced by a stressed-out receptionist and a replacement dryer that will never appear.
Kids running up and down corridors. Doors banging. Shouting. Loud music and TVs. Oh, the joys of being next to a family room, and a feral one at that.
Christmas party season
A dreadful time. Just as you have nodded off to sleep a group of pissed men and women will stop just outside your bedroom door. They will all shout ‘night-night’ to each other. One will wobble off and trip on the way to their room, normally after they have tried to get in yours. This means they all start laughing, then loudly shhh-ing each other. Generally making an utter nuisance of themselves. And you also need to avoid the bar and lobby – they will just as be irritating there, too.
They don’t’ work. They ‘time out’. Your mobile phone ‘wipes them clean’. Whatever. But you guarantee that yours won’t work on the day that you have just hauled 3 bags to the opposite end of the 4th floor of the hotel. And the lift isn’t working. And you are tired. And you need a wee.
Airport baggage reclaim
What is it with our fellow human beings? Why do people who appear to be perfectly reasonable suddenly become absolute savages at baggage reclaim? Is there something in that yellow line? Does it emit a pheromone, ensuring the behaviour of the receiving individual changes and they become an utter git?
Standing closer will not make your bag appear any faster. Back off! Stand back! Let us all see the bags as they appear so we can step forward nicely and retrieve our luggage. Smile. Find your manners. Then I won’t need to swing my suitcase like a canvas-clad wrecking ball to force a path through the crowd and head off to the taxi rank.
Motorway service stations
I don’t need a credit card. I need a wee. But sales reps will stand in your way in the entrance, not caring a jot that you have been crossing your legs for 30 miles and are busting for the loo. And don’t get me on the loos. You will always be busting at the same time as a coach load of pensioners arrive. As they shuffle along, men accidently going into ladies loos and vice versa, you are now doing the ‘wee dance’, hoping that the jiggle will keep it in your bladder for just a bit longer while you join the queue. Then you eventually find a free cubicle, that isn’t out of order – the relief is immense. That’s the point where you know the cubicle was designed by a man. A man that forgot the cubicle was going to have a door and there is literally an inch between the door and the toilet bowl as you try and close the door, and have to stand legs akimbo over the toilet bowl to get it shut. Then, just as you pee you notice that there is no loo roll …