TL:DR – We finally reach our hotel. It’s disgusting. The mother fights and loses a battle of wills with the hotel staff.
Pop quiz. What’s worse than a five am wake-up alarm, a two-hour flight to Delhi, followed by a six-hour journey road trip to Agra? A five am wake-up alarm, a two-hour flight to Delhi, a six-hour road trip to Agra, and then two more hours in traffic, staring at the ass-end of a bus farting exhaust fumes all the way.
We aren’t entirely blameless, though. This is the 31st of December, and the beginning of a weekend. We should have known. In fact, we’re lucky traffic is moving at all. Everyone is cranky and blaming someone else for the delay, but honestly, it doesn’t look like things were any different an hour, or even two hours ago.
Continuing the bad luck, the hotel we booked is an absolute shithole. While not sleazy in the”bring your favorite hooker” kind of way, that’s where the positives end. Everything else blows.
The stairwell walls are practically smothered in tobacco spit. The original whitewash of the walls peeking out in places only underscores how disgusting it is. The musty smell that greets us when we enter our rooms screams “this room hasn’t been used in a while, even though it’s peak season.” Walls are stained with what I can only hope is dirt, but in my heart of hearts know there’s shit mixed in there somewhere. The ceiling is a broken mess with wires poking out.
The room has a TV, as promised, but there’s no cable box. The floor clearly hasn’t been cleaned since the Mughal era. Nor has anything else except the pathetic little bar stools they have offered in place of chairs, and those only by seats of pants. Literal asswipes are the only reason for the spot of cleanliness in the room.
There’s no water. No soap, or shampoo either, although to be fair, I’m not sure the management even knows what those things are. The rim of the bin is covered in black plastic, giving the impression there is a trash bag within. Obviously, the truth is far more disgusting. The plastic ends a few inches below the rim on the inside. There is no bag. Instead is the deep coppery red of several generations of accumulated tobacco spit, the sight of which makes me gag.
In fact, the whole thing feels like a gag. A joke. I drop in to the parent’s room. The father is furious, calling up the travel agent and giving him hell. The mother, displeased with the state of cleanliness of the pillow covers, rips them off.
Big mistake. As bad as the covers are, the actual pillows are worse. Brown stains and streaks of unknown origin greet her.
Within seconds, the mother goes though the five stages of pissed off, going from shock, to disgust, to horror, to revulsion, to volcanic rage. The dial is flashing red, the alarm is blaring, she has hit the rage ceiling. She literally cannot get any angrier. Words have failed her, and only indignant sputters remain.
Amidst all this chaos is an ocean of tranquil. A sea of serenity. A silent pond of placidity. It’s the young man from room service who has carried our bags and is now, against all evidence, calmly waiting for the tip. The mother grabes the offending pillow and nearly rubs his face in it, demanding a replacement. With infinite patience and the tone of one explaining the concept of infinity to a child, he says that alternative pillows cannot be provided. The hotel is full. Yes, he can change the covers, but they won’t be any cleaner than they already are. He offers this news with just a shade of glee.
However, by now it’s obvious that tips won’t be forthcoming. As he leaves the room, the mother tries one last withering barb of “is this the kind of service you offer your guests?” “No one has ever complained” he says, unabashed and unshamed, before slipping back into the mist from whence he came, leaving me hoping that someday, maybe, I would be as calm, as carefree, as i-dont-give-a-fuck like he is.