Written by Jo Caulfield


Woman on the Road

Jo Caulfield shares her tales of being a travelling comedian. In this episode, she may or may not have staged a dirty protest at the state of a hotel.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

As a comedian I stay in hotels three or four nights a week. Staying in hotels so much has made me institutionalised, like a long-term prisoner: I know how things should be, and if there’s a change to the norm I may overreact; I may go on a dirty protest. Bad design can lead to a chibbing… well, loud tutting and some minor vandalism at least.

Let me start by saying I love hotels: someone cleans up after you and there’s alcohol in your room. What’s not to like? I’m not one of those people who say, “I can only sleep in my own bed.” I’m a little slutty where beds are concerned; I like most of them.

There is a wonderful privacy in closing a hotel door. Something in me is excited every time I get in a new hotel room and close the door. I put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign out and whack on whatever locks and chains are fitted. It’s as if I’m about to do something illegal, like clicking open my attache case to check the quality of my smuggled diamonds. Or spooning out heroin into baggies.

I don’t do anything like that. Just a bit of illicit daytime telly: Millionaire Matchmaker or Real Housewives of New Jersey (hey, don’t judge me! It’s basically the plot of every Jane Austen novel: women trying to marry rich men who then provide for them. Fewer fake boobs in Austen, obviously; they had to make do with a bit old muslin stuffed down the front).

Sometimes I will work in a hotel room, do a bit of writing, but then there’s the voice in my head whispering, “The door’s locked. No one knows what you’re doing. Poirot’s on ITV3. It’s sponsored by those chairs for old people. You’d quite like one of those chairs…” A hotel room is a secret place where the devil on your shoulder usually wins.

When I’m on tour, I’m paying for the hotel myself, so can be staying anywhere from a Travelodge to a fancy pants hotel that I got reduced to £65 online. If someone else is paying, I can be very spoilt indeed.

I realised I was becoming ridiculously spoilt when I was annoyed to be woken from my nap by a member of the hotel staff knocking on my door to give me a bottle of complimentary champagne and a box of chocolates. I actually tutted. What the fuck kind of person is put out to be given free champagne and chocolates?! I was annoyed because I had the Do Not Disturb light on (that’s the sign of a posh hotel: a Do Not Disturb light).

This week I had the one thing I really hate in hotels: where the room looks good but is actually completely impractical and badly designed. Design has nothing to do with price. Cheap chain hotels like Travelodge and Days Inn have very well designed rooms (although Ibis has those weird moulded bathrooms that, though perfectly functional, always make me feel like I’m on a cruise ship, albeit a cruise that’s way off course going through Doncaster).

Good design, in anything from a kettle to a car, says, “We’ve thought about you and we care about how this works for you.” Bad design is the guy selling knock-off perfume on Oxford St; it’s designed just well enough for him to get your money.

I’ve come across these hotels before and they have a few tell-tale signs. They’ve usually made them look ultra modern with minimalist decor and an orange chair and something weird in the reception, like a furry owl. I was in one at an airport. It was all sleek and fancy but was actually best described as: shit.

“What I want is a sink. A classic old fashioned sink. Not a thing that looks like a Japanese water fountain or a glass bowl or something that is called a vanity basin, which is just about big enough to wash my fingertips in.”

The room was tiny but they had low lighting and lots of mirrors so you couldn’t see how small it was. In fact you couldn’t work out where the walls were. It was like being in a house of mirrors at a fun fair: completely disorientating. I walked straight into a mirror that was reflecting the ‘other half’ of the room.

The lighting was on a lighting pad, some sort of stupid touchscreen shite that was so much more complicated than a light switch.

The bathroom was described as a “wet room”. Well, after I’d used it, it was certainly wet. As were the towels, all my clothes, the toilet paper and the contents of the bin. I was also covered in bruises from ricocheting from wall to sink to toilet.

A lot of these rooms are designed by people who think you can wash your hair in the shower. Contrary to all the shampoo ads where women are busy washing their hair and having orgasms, it’s actually quite difficult to properly wash and rinse long hair like mine in a shower. I certainly couldn’t masturbate as well.

What I want is a sink. A classic old fashioned sink. Not a thing that looks like a Japanese water fountain or a glass bowl or something that is called a vanity basin, which is just about big enough to wash my fingertips in. The number of times I’ve nearly broken my neck or inserted a tap in my ear because I’m trying to squash my head into what appears to be a Barbie Doll sink. Stop fucking with the design: the traditional sink is perfect.

The wet room had one of those hairdryers that are attached to the wall; the ones that look more like a prototype of an early dust buster. It emitted a thin, lukewarm breeze. I hit my funny bone on the wall, which I couldn’t quite see because of the dim lighting, and then fell back onto the bin with a hairdryer in my hand — and now unattached to the wall.

Leaving a room like that in the morning is like sneaking out after an unsatisfactory one night stand. You feel tired, grubby and, somewhere inside, a little bit sad. But in the bright morning light the room looked hilarious; a tiny, wet cupboard that I had completely wrecked.

Also, the fake tan stains I’d left smeared on the towels did make it look a little like I’d staged a dirty protest.

Find out when Jo is next in your area by visiting www.jocaulfield.com


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Written by Jo Caulfield

Standup comedian. Comedy writer. Crime fighter. Happy drunk.