to get a decent room at a very good price in a place called Orpington, close to where my evening meeting was.
I went to bed at 11pm and did not fall asleep immediately, because there was a hall light right outside my hotel door that shone right in my face. I covered my head and eventually fell asleep. However, I woke up several times because of the light.
I knew that the light was required for the inhabitants of the room above mine, because they had to use the stairs from the hallway that we shared.
At some point I woke up again and decided that since it was very late, nobody would need the light to use the stairs any more. I got up and opened the bedroom door, and there was the light switch, two steps away. Bliss!
As I reached the light switch, the electronic lock of the bedroom door softly closed behind me. And there I was standing in the hallway, dressed in a pair of knickers. My phone, my watch and my clothes were all behind that locked door.
Of course I was wide awake immediately. I could see the humour in the situation, but I also felt quite exposed (excuse the pun).
I decided to go upstairs (not that I had many options) and see whether there were people in the room above mine. The bathroom of the upstairs room was separate, and I managed to find a face towel that covered the essentials – for once I was happy about being flat-chested.
I knocked on the door and eventually a very scared female voice answered. I explained that I had this mishap, and asked them for a towel to put around me. After long deliberations in the room with another female, the lady told me that they would throw a towel down for me if I went down the stairs.
I ran down the spiral stairs, and waited for the towel – and waited. Eventually I went up again, and as politely as I could I asked them again for a towel. She told me that they had thrown a towel down – not down the spiral stairs to the hallway, but through the window to the outside. I again asked them to just pass me a towel, and they said they would throw another one out. Again there was no towel in the hallway.
I asked the two ladies to please call the police, because I had no phone and the ladies did not manage to wake the hotel management on the emergency number. They were obviously very scared and told me to go away.
Since it was still pitch dark outside, I decided to venture into the corridor. I found one towel outside on the first floor and the other one outside on the ground floor. I only realised the next morning that there was CCTV covering the hotel grounds and buildings.
Now I was covered in two larger towels and feeling a bit braver.
I saw a light burning in another room and decided to try my luck. I had no idea what time it was, and no way to find out except by asking other people.
I found the room and there were two gentlemen in. I asked them to call the police because the hotel management was unreachable. One gentleman offered to try and get the door open, but realised quickly that an electronic lock cannot be opened by normal means.
The lovely man then offered me his single room, explaining that his friend had a double room next door that they would share for the remainder of the night. Since he was so sincere and offered me the key card to the room, I gratefully accepted.
A few minutes later the man knocked on the door to get his watch. Then he left. Another few minutes later he was back again, this time with a duvet under his arm, because his friend did not want to share the room. I told him that under no circumstances would I inconvenience him any further, and I would let him have his room back.
The man decided to negotiate with his friend again and left the room. Then another man joined the two with a loud Tarzan cry. This was just after the nearby church bell chimed four times. The three men had a very loud discussion about beds and sleeping, and I decided that the stairs outside the two scared ladies' room look more attractive.
I sneaked back and made myself comfortable on the stairs.
Some time later someone came into the hallway and knocked loudly on my bedroom door. It was obviously my new 'friend' who discovered that I had left his room.
I quietly ran into the bathroom and locked myself inside until he had left.
Then I sat on the stairs again and decided to meditate. What else can a girl do at 4.30 in the morning when you are dressed in two towels and a pair of knickers?
When it was broad daylight, I decided to try my luck at reception. This meant leaving the building and running barefoot around the side of the building to the reception area, being fully aware of early morning traffic on the busy road that was about ten steps away on the other side of a wire fence. What did those drivers think?
Of course, having no watch meant I had to guess what the time was. Daybreak was at about 4:15, and it was impossible to guess what the time was from then on.
I was successful with my second venture to reception, where an astonished cook opened the door for me and gave me a second key card to get back into my room. This was around 6:15.
I found it interesting that I did not at any time feel threatened. I could understand the fear of the two ladies, but at the same time I could not understand it. I had realised long ago that fear is something you build up in your own mind, and therefore you are the only one that can break it down again. I left them clean towels and a business card the next morning, and I hope that they will eventually read this article and start breaking down their fears. (They did read the article and apologized).
I also realised that when you are dressed only in towels, you don't have the kind of bargaining power you need in an emergency. Two of the three gentlemen were clearly inebriated, but even with that I did not feel threatened. All the time I was fully aware of the presence of my angels – they had a good laugh with me but I also knew that they would protect me at all times, and that was so comforting.
And next time I stay in a hotel, I will wear pyjamas – even if that means having a little extra luggage!