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May 20, 2005

My chances of survival

Is there something in the air in this town? Seattle’s W Hotel has more features than I need and they don’t all work. A 64-page catalogue in my room lists an extraordinary array of services ”masterfully orchestrated to surround you with style, service and comfort”. A menu for pets is available 24 hours. So too are newspapers from Algeria, Croatia and Iceland. A tall vase next to my bed contains artesian water from Norway. A basket under the tv contains a teddy bear, a hat, and an “intimacy kit”. I am nonethelesss bothered, at 3am, by the sound of running water.The taps in my bathroom are turned off, but it transpires that earlier, whilst searching the room for light switches, I had inadvertently turned on the electric water sculpture fountain artwork thing on my table. The thing was probably meant to sooth me. By now I am fully awake, so I decide to make a cup of coffee. Bad move. I can't open the plasticated coffee sachet because my scissors were confiscated at JFK. Then, to set up the KitchenAid coffee machine, I have to follow pictorial instructions that are printed on its back - and the machine sits inside a gloomy unlit hole in the wall. Twenty minutes after I press “on”, the machine sounds exactly like the Tardis in Doctor Who when it’s taking off. But no coffee emerges. I return with a sinking heart to the W's services catalogue to search for “cup-of-coffee”. I am distracted by a 400-word essay, on page 34, entitled “fire”. The text, which is printed in small grey type, instructs me:“Your chances of survival increase with your level or preparedness and ability to act with a clear head. Count the number of doors to the exit and any corners or obstacles along the path so that you can find your way in thick smoke. Feel the door before opening it to see if it is hot. If it is cool, leave. But be sure to take your room key. If you stay in your room, fill the bath and wastebaskets with water. If you are in an upper floor, wait. People who jump from the third floor could be injured”. I contemplate calling the front desk to complain that I can’t jump from my window because it won’t open. But the memory of a divine Copper River salmon at dinner the evening before stays my hand.

Posted by John Thackara at May 20, 2005 05:51 PM


ROFL! Or should one pray for the person who designed this? What ever happenend to a comfortable bed, a good sized table with a light and openable windows. Poor thing!

Posted by: Insider at May 21, 2005 09:42 AM

If you can afford the Seattle Westin, and are still thinking you bought quietude and bliss in this place, then you simply found the wrong place to spend lots of money. Seattle has its unspeakably beautiful charms (and they are available at much less cost), but you really have to know how to look for them.

Richard Mann

Posted by: Richard Mann at May 21, 2005 11:38 PM

Touche, Richard. Does it make me sound less like a spoiled brat if I say I was the guest of a maJor local employer? No, probably not - just a spoilt ingrate.

Posted by: John Thackara at May 22, 2005 06:12 PM

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