The Layover, Petty gripes: illustration of a mouse with an iPad being served cheese on a platter

The Layover:
Petty gripes from villa 5


Content with being discontent, Zack Cahill outlines some of the many things he doesn’t enjoy about luxury hotels in the latest edition of The Layover. Prepare for some seriously petty gripes, from iPad-controlled rooms to ‘deconstructed’ teas (the audacity!).

Did you know that air rage incidents go up when coach passengers have to walk through Business Class? And that’s not just among the coach passengers: it also accounts for a near-12-fold increase amongst the privileged. The poverty parade to the cattle class enrages everyone, like it or not. It’s easy to see why for Economy flyers, there’d be some sort of resentment at being packed in next to a screaming child and a fart-snorer while Ralph Fiennes is up in First chugging champers and screwing stewardesses.

But why do the people in the front of the plane get aggressive, too? Is it embarrassment? Or perhaps they’re angry at the invasion of their sacred space? I mean if you’ve stumped up ten grand to turn left on boarding only to be presented with a Bataan death march of sweaty normals, maybe it’s ok to feel let down (just don’t take it out on the staff). Or maybe it’s guilt. They feel guilty and, as a result, drink more.

I don’t have that problem. I’m quite content with a fair bit of luxury. In fact, I’m in danger of taking it for granted. Because I’m a victim of the hedonic treadmill. The theory is this: you want the luxury thing. You work for it or save for it or shag someone for it. You get the thing. You like the thing. But very soon the thing becomes just another part of your life. So next time you see it, you won’t get the same thrill. So now you want more. You need a bigger hit. That’s the hedonic treadmill.

I’m the Paula Radcliffe, no, I’m the Pheidippides of Marathon of the hedonic treadmill. After 12 years of writing for OutThere, I’ve got luxury blindness, which puts me in danger of seeing only the bad. So I’m going to vent my spleen. Here, sponsored by the world’s smallest violin, are my top petty gripes about luxury hotels/travel.

The Layover, petty gripes
Paste problem: missing toothpaste is one of Zack Cahill’s top petty gripes about hotel stays

First and foremost, I should not need a Masters in particle physics to turn the lights off. What I need is a big red kill switch in slamming distance of my pillow.

Secondly, too tight sheets. What is wrong with you? I’m not into bondage! These things are meant to keep me warm against the freezing air con I can’t figure out how to turn off, not cut off my circulation.

Then there are toilets with paper-thin walls. Posh hotels are meant to be sexy. They should make you want to have sex. Do you know what kills sex? Hearing your partner’s bowel movements in Dolby Digital surround sound. A friend recently stayed in an (admittedly lower tier) hotel chain for a romantic rendezvous. The next morning he found himself awkwardly turning on every tap and electrical appliance in the place so that he could relieve himself while maintaining both parties’ dignity. This isn’t a hard fix. A simple case of reinforcing the bathroom walls with whatever they make bank vaults out of should do the trick.

Also, what about iPads that control everything in the room? See point one. I came here to be assured that I’m special and not a psychopath for wanting a seaweed wrap, not to poke vainly at a screen like a rat bashing the feed button.

And don’t get me started on toothpaste and toothbrushes. Give them to us. You give us shower gel. You give us soap. You give us shaving kits. What’s so bloody unique about toothpaste? And any of you amateur Greta Thunbergs ready to jump down my throat about sustainability and plastic wastage: put it in a refillable container like the shampoo! We walked on the moon! We can 3D-print a prosthetic leg! We can do this.

One thing we can’t do, in contrast, is make tea. Here’s an odd natural law. The posher the hotel, the higher the likelihood your tea is going to be a shit show. The worst offenders will deliver it ‘deconstructed’. That is, they will present you with a tea bag on a small plate, next to a vessel of rapidly cooling water. It’s an infusion, you scoundrels.

I could go on but I’m probably already on a post-revolution kill list. This is petty stuff, but, in writing this article, I went fishing for more worthy complaints from friends. Far from my infinitesimal gripes, I was surprised by how much of it revolved around the shame and guilt I spoke about earlier. The anxieties could be summarised thus: ‘You’re an imposter, cosplaying at being rich, in a place where your money goes further because your country has systematically exploited it. The person carrying your bag has a law degree. When they call you ma’am they mean “imbecile”. In short: You are the problem’.

So it all goes back to status. We pine for it from the outside but feel like interlopers when we get it. But when you think about it, the people who don’t feel like interlopers are probably complete bastards, so maybe you’re doing ok, even with all the petty gripes. Wait, that makes me one of the bastards, doesn’t it?

Illustration by Martin Perry, photography via Unsplash

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