February 18th, 2014

The eeriest hotel experience I’ve had was in Seattle. I was with a large group and we were staying for a week and we found a place that offered apartment style living. Not unlike the bungalows at our very own Grand Hotel, we thought, and how nice to have the option of cooking, especially when you’ve been on the road for a while, as we had. The photos on the internet looked cozy and inviting and we expected the week’s accommodations to be a kind of oasis.

When we arrived, unfamiliar with Seattle, we found our little hotel to be right on the border of something called Pill Hill, which, turns out to be the neighborhood where all the hospitals are. And this nice establishment that offered short to long term fully furnished apartment stays at reasonable prices turned out to almost exclusively serve patients on transplant waitlists and their families. We learned this on our first day, on meeting a woman from Iowa, or maybe Idaho, who sat smoking out front as her father waited upstairs for a new lung. She was turned out to be a constant fixture, sometimes sitting, sometimes pacing, always wanting to talk. Others we met more slowly, as the week wore on, in the elevator or the parking lot. All these people biding their time, trudging the burden of illness around to the sights of Seattle.

Perhaps all of this would have felt different if the apartments hadn’t been so severely miserable. I will remember that lumpy, springy bed as the worst I’ve ever slept on in my life. The blankets were shamefully thin and even torn, which I have never seen in any other hotel in my life. The rugs were stained. The hot water was scant. The living room furniture was ravaged and, in some cases, broken outright. Thinking of being ill in one of those beds is nearly unbearable to me, and yet those apartments were full of people stuck in exactly that position.

I guess these are the weeks of praising, again and again, our delicious beds. Really, though, the most important thing a hotel can do is to give a traveler a comfortable place to sleep. It seems so simple.

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