I am not one of these people whose job regularly requires them to spend nights away in hotels. Occasionally, I set my alarm clocks for 4am and 4.10am and while away a fun day in London, a trip made all the more enjoyable by the prospect of changing trains at Wolverhampton. For my trips to Leeds, I have a long-established routine of falling off the train at Manchester Piccadilly, breezing through Sainsbury’s for breakfast, wafting through Starbucks for a Venti Latte and the opportunity to test whether iPhones bounce on tiled floors (they do, but it’s not good for the screens), and then gliding over to Platform 1 to catch the train to Leeds, offering my seat to another passenger, and then ceremonially tipping the coffee all over my trousers.
It’s true that I occasionally get to travel to places like Cleveland, Ohio – a city that reminds me of Wolverhampton except with better beer and opportunities for water sports. But generally, my working life sees me back at home at the end of each day.
Tonight is different, and I’m sat in a hotel in Leeds having just completed a “staying away from home on business” ritual, with disappointing results. Back before a time of hotel Internet, decent hotel TVs, and laptops with enough CPU strength to play a DVD without stuttering, I got into the habit of sweeping hotel rooms for things that previous occupiers had left behind and a succession of cleaners had missed.
The Crowne Plaza in Leeds is normally good for at least one sock and a TV remote control under the bed. In fact, I was finding remote controls under beds with such regularity there that I began to suspect they kept a stock of them on the cleaners’ trolleys, alongside fresh towels and those pointless little bottles of mutli-functional liquid –interchangeably bad as shampoo, conditioner, shower gel or shoe polish. The found socks were invariably black but covered in enough dust to make them look uniformly grey.
It was in the Leeds Crowne Plaza that I discovered three condoms on top of a wardrobe. Being of abnormal height, I didn’t even have to hunt for them – they were at eye level and caught my attention every time I went in or out of the room. Fortunately, they were unused and still in their foil wrappers, otherwise this would probably have brought a rapid halt both to my hobby and to my stays at the hotel.
Last week’s visit to the Leeds Radisson Blu yielded a plastic fork (clean-ish), a tissue or two (left in situ just in case), and the elusive room service menu that I’d been unable to find when I checked in, starving and in dire need of a disappointing burger delivered to my door. The menu was somewhat soiled, hopefully because of a tipped beverage but I took no chances and nudged it out from under the bed and into full view using two Radisson-branded pens as makeshift chopsticks.
Those fine people at the Radisson Blu enjoy setting up their bedrooms as obstacle courses, much fun when you flop into your room at midnight plus or minus an hour having once again made the mistake of thinking that you could match your colleagues drink for drink on an empty stomach. Much fun when you stumble from the bed to the bathroom at oh-five-stupid o’clock in the morning via wherever the hell it was you left your mobile phone dangling a foot off the ground from the only normal three-pin socket in the whole place, its alarm shrieking at you at what seemed like a quiet setting last night but which now hits you like a defibrillator. Amusing as their room designs are, they make it almost impossible to remove the all-important bottom drawers from furniture. This was a trick I learned after early success in a hotel in Liverpool turned out two porn mags carefully hidden (and left in place for future guests, a gift presumably courtesy of a rebel arm of the Gideons).
So the New Ellington hotel in Leeds is something of a disappointment. Using my iPhone as a torch, I’ve scoured the room. Nothing behind the desk except two sticks of Nescafe and a network cable. Nothing under the cushions of the sofa bed or its matching pair of chairs. Nothing – not even dust – under the bed. Not a sock in sight.
I shall have to complain.