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Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Hotel room from hell

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Do not disturb

Welcome to my night from hell. At the ripe old age of 47 with 30 years of performing under my belt you’d think that when travelling for comedy gigs this middle-aged woman would be experiencing, at the very least, low levels of comfort. As it turns out, I still haven’t cracked a consistent three stars.

The other night took the cake. Or should I say, dry three-week-old date roll. I had my first single-star experience. Consequently I am now experiencing some sort of PTSD. Dearest Emerald, I don’t mean to be rude; the show was great and for a moment what we had showed promise, but sleeping with you was, how can I put this: Disturbing? Uncomfortable? Unsafe? Traumatising?

I won’t lie. I like nice hotels. Not just nice hotels. I like very very nice hotels. I like my towels fluffy and white, my bed king size, my bathroom large and airy with a three-person spa. I like room service, a view of the harbour and a delicious hotel-style sanctuary of tiny soaps and little shampoos and tiny body lotions and mending kits.

I like a bar fridge. I like a kettle, a cup of tea and two complimentary biscuits. Sometimes I like champagne on arrival. I do not like polyester bedspreads, hard towels and inferior linen.

I have never stayed in a room above a pub. Frankly they always scared me, and I have always seen them as the chosen location for travelling salesmen, violent wife-abusing alcoholics kicked out of home and hard-working serial killers carving up their latest victim.

As it turns out I don’t think I was far off the mark. A childhood featuring holidays in caravan parks introduced me to the notion of a ‘shared bathroom’. It was something that required thongs and an evening pilgrimage made in a group for personal safety.

At least caravan parks have gender-specific facilities. Here I was, an adult woman with soft tastes and a cleaning disorder being shown a room next to what was referred to as ‘the shared facilities’. Oh my god. ‘Shared.’ That means with everyone up the hall.

I counted 16 rooms. Two toilets. Two showers. I didn’t bring thongs.

And what about my midnight wee? All three of them? I would have to creep from my room in my pyjamas. Hang on, I sleep in the nude. I will have to wake up, get dressed, go to the toilet. And I will have to take the key. Otherwise I can’t get back in. Then take off clothes and go back to bed. An hour later I will have to do it again.

Jesus. Even in prison you get a toilet in your room. I dragged my suitcase down the long hallway of locked doors until my number came up. I guess I should have felt lucky that my room didn’t have foil covering the windows like some of the others. Weekend meth labs? Serial killer at work?

I shuddered, and ducked inside my airless cavern housing a single bed, a sink and a telly only a tad larger than my iPhone. Oh god, I could die here. But on the upside, at least I had a nice view, albeit rooftop air-conditioning with a desolate Jeffrey Smart feel.

The room scared me. I really could die in there. As it turns out I nearly did. You see my room was immediately above the the function room downstairs that housed Emerald’s only disco. After retiring just before midnight I was thrilled to realise that the bass was coming right through my bed along with the shrieks of whooooaah that seemed to happen every 30 seconds. So much so that the bed started travelling across the floor. (Like my suitcase, it was on wheels, for moving bodies I guess.) I had to use my toiletries bag to chock one of the wheels so as to wedge my bed into the corner.

I think: they’ll probably stop at 12. No, they didn’t. Loud unwanted pop music has a way of bringing a person’s mind undone. I was in bed with Nicky Minaj crooning about her anaconda butt, bargaining with God to burn the place down. I must have fallen asleep because at 1.15am precisely I woke up to a fire alarm.

I must be careful what I wish for. I am clearly more powerful than I thought. Christ, maybe the meth lab caught fire.

I am only half-dressed when I assemble in the hall with only one other bloke. Nobody else came out. I and the bloke in the hall sniffed for smoke; I went and had an extra wee and went back to bed. With a wet foot. Smelling of urine. Stinky man-pee.

I had stepped in a puddle that I had thought was water from the shared shower. Turns out it was shared wee. I got up and washed my foot in the sink, almost scrubbing the skin off with my tiny soap.

The music is still going. I think it must stop by 2am. At 1.40am my phone rings. It’s my ex-husband. My 16-year-old daughter hasn’t returned from Splendour. I am 1,100 kilometres away in a crack den, and my baby could be in trouble. I start ringing her friends. None of them pick up. I’ll ring their mothers next. But wait, this could put me on the ‘Crazy Mothers I Hate Most’ list. I try to calm myself, but the pounding party music brings on a full-scale panic attack. I turn on the telly and watch an informercial about a steam mop with a detachable device for cleaning toilets and barbecues. I order it on the spot. Shopping calms me. I wish they would deliver it now.

It’s 2.05am and the disco is still pumping. That means it goes until 3am. I ring my husband asleep in my king-size bed with 1,000-thread sheets in Mullumbimby. I know he can’t help but I want to wake him up. Out of spite. It’s 2.15am. I have played out every horrific road crash-cum-abduction-cum-drug-spiking story and ring my ex-husband in terror just as she walks in. It’s 2.20am. I am so relieved that I yell at her on the phone.

My foot still smells like wee so I spray it with what’s left of my Chanel. The disco pumps its way to 3am. For a moment I consider going downstairs in the nude, crazy with anxiety and discomfort, stinking of an unpleasant mix of urine and perfume, and hitting the dance floor. But then, I’d be indistinguishable from any one of the remaining despots left on the dance floor.

I stand in the hall, a kind of strange peace descends. The music has finally stopped. From the edge of the verandah I can see a couple copulating in the carpark. It’s 3.15am. I hope they are using condoms. I wander back to my room strangely smug about being middle-aged and sober. The door has closed shut. Fuck. The Key!

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  1. I have sent this story around the world via email. Here is what I said:

    Mandy Nolan is a Comedienne who writes in our local paper every week. I don’t normally read her column but this is worth a read. It gave me a good laugh as I have stayed in places like this when I was travelling around Tasmania for the Fire Service. Maybe I will take a peek at her next column. 🙂


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