"It was then I heard another much more desperate sound: a guttural moan beyond screaming ... The scruffy junkie who had been in my room the night before was being carried out of a nearby room, the flesh eaten off his feet ... He had stepped into something tasty on his way home from the opium den. As he had slept the numb, opium sleep, rats had come and eaten their fill." - From HOTELS, chapter "A Night at the Rainbow"
As one who rates recreational travel higher than even recreational reading on the list of life's pleasures, I was less entertained than expected with I SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME: HOTELS. Since it's a compendium of travelers' stories about hotel stays that range from the inconvenient to positively horrific and which fulfills the title's promise, I'm a little puzzled why my reaction to it is so muted. Perhaps it's because of the claim on the back cover that the volume is a "hilarious book." It isn't particularly. I can't help thinking what a travel writer with the tongue-in-cheek talent of, say, Bill Bryson, could have done with some of these tales. Where's Bill when you need him? Most of the chapters are narrated in the same neutral tone as one might hear in a confessional, and some with endings so abrupt that I suspect they were taken out of a larger context.
Not all the contributions left me yawning. "A Romantik Mistake" by Nadine Payn, "Night of the Army Ants" Mary Mackey, and "Pool Wars" by Gail Mejeur piqued my interest. On the other hand, "Hotel Play" by Findell and Antalek verged on the incoherent. One chapter leaving me particularly annoyed was "A Sloth Named Alf" by Anne Schellman, whose overwrought reaction to an orphaned and otherwise inoffensive sloth residing in her dorm on an Ecuadorian farm is hard to fathom; our cats provide more just cause for annoyance. Jeez, just chill, Anne.
As many times as I've stayed in lodgings around the world, perhaps I'm just lucky that my worst experiences wouldn't even rate a short paragraph. Or maybe it's because a bad room is, 99 percent of the time, just no big deal when compared with the worst that life can throw at you. Drop the key at the front desk and move on.