Keep plugging away until the penny drops

What was I thinking? Airport hotel, two stars, bubble bath ... Paige Nick checks out on a luxury stopover



Arena Holdings PTY


I’m in a hotel. Not the kind you’re probably picturing ... I don’t want to mislead you. This is a cheap airport hotel, in a big, expensive city, and everybody knows those aren’t really hotels, they’re more like train stations or purgatory. And nothing like a holiday hotel, which is a place of joy and buffets. An airport hotel is a place of waiting — and strange smells. And cigarette burns on the basin. And strange art. And brightly-coloured bedspreads you’re too scared to touch and tiny threadbare towels and snowy televisions with four channels. At a holiday hotel, everyone is waiting for Neil Diamond to start singing. At an airport hotel, everyone is waiting for their flight or their luggage or the shuttle or their prostitute. It’s late and it’s been a long suitcasepulling day so I decide to take a hot bubble bath. I don’t have a bath at home and reading in a bubble bath is living the dream. I hear you screaming “STOP!” from there. Everyone knows that an airport hotel bath will either give you scabies or make you pregnant. Don’t worry, I’ve examined this tub closely and it’s in good nick. Spotless, not a mark or a scar. It looks as though it’s been recently replaced. The grouting is fresh, the surrounding tiles are white. Maybe someone was murdered in the old bath tub and they had to replace it? This one is new. It’s the only pristine item in the suite (and by suite, I mean room). I strip, avert your eyes please, and I start to run a bath. There’s no plug, but there’s one of those switches on the tap that looks like it’s designed to close as a plug. I toggle the switch, but the water continues to go down the drain. This is not right. Everyone knows that a bath without a plug is just a shower for ants. Airport hotel rooms don’t have phones or anything else that can’t be bolted down, so I pull my clothes back on and traipse to reception. Maybe people steal the plugs (see note about things needing to be bolted down) so they have to keep them behind reception. Like the white ball at pool halls. Hi, the plug in my bath doesn’t seem to work, I say to the man behind the bulletproof glass shield at the reception desk (which is circular and clad in gold mirrored tiles circa 1972). The what? the man behind the shield asks. The plug, I say. The what? he says. The plug in the bath. In the what? We stare at each other. He picks up his phone. He calls someone to help. He says a man will come to my room and I should tell him exactly what I told him. The man arrives. I follow him into the bathroom. It’s a two-star hotel so there isn’ ta lot of space. I explain that I’d like to have a bath but the plug doesn’t work. He turns on the tap in the sink, then looks at me expectantly when it runs perfectly. No, the plug in the bath, I say. He flushes the toilet, and looks at me again, pleased at fixing my problem. No, I explain, pointing at the tub again, in the bath, the water runs out, I say. He jiggles the towel rail. It holds firm. The bath is the only thing he hasn’t looked at yet. I point even more directly at the bath tap. He turns on the shower tap above it. He now looks at me as if I am mad. Everything here is in excellent working order. I must be the thing that’s broken. I know he speaks English because when I welcomed him four paragraphs ago, we had a brief hello, how are you, where’s the problem type conversation. Now I’m wondering what the word for a plug is in his English. There a robot is a traffic light, a boot is a trunk, a garage is a garaj. But for the love of the latest Margaret Atwood, sitting on the edge of the tub, how do they say plug, and what is a bath in American? I take a deep breath and try again. This time slowly and loudly because everyone knows that when speaking to someone foreign, if you shout they instantly understand. Still crickets. So I squeeze past him and run the tap, then point dramatically at the water running down the hole, regardless of the position of the plug switch. Finally he gets which piece of bathroom equipment I’ve been talking about. He steps in, runs the tap and jiggles the switch, like I did earlier, and, surprisingly, gets the same result. He straightens up, says, Oh, the plug on the bath? No, that doesn’t work! Then he leaves. As in 99% of my relationships with men, I feel deeply misunderstood.