Hotels


Hotels are strange places if you’re there on business. In the end it turns out to be just a place to get yourself some food and a night’s sleep. Also strange is that, as time wore on, the use of hotels shrank, until in the last ten years of my career I hardly stayed in one at all. Possibly this had something to do with austerity measures and restricting travel to a minimum, in preference of having meetings via video link.

Most of the time, hotel stays were paid in advance, either because you were part of an organised group, or because the company had an arrangement of prepaying on booking a hotel room. That happened to be the case in Allied Steel & Wire, so once I moved to British Steel it was a bit of a shock to have to foot the complete hotel bill yourself. So much so that on my first stay for a visit to Heinz I had to be rescued by a colleague who paid my hotel bill for me.

At the time I didn’t have a credit card, so I applied for one, but the application hadn’t been completed yet when I stayed in the Post House near Newcastle-under-Lyme, and was quite shocked to be treated as a potential petty thief when I said I was going to pay cash and I was asked to pay in advance, and again the next morning before having breakfast. After all, I was working for a reputable British company, did they really expect me to do a runner ?

I can see how this arrangement could be financially beneficial to the company. You spend the money from your own pocket first, and that’s all cash that remains in their coffers until you claim it back on expenses. That’s why the use of a credit card was imperative, since you were likely to have your expenses repaid before you had to settle your credit card bill.

On the one hand, staying in hotels with other people can help establish relationships beyond the workplace; on the other hand staying in a hotel all by yourself can be pretty bleak. As an example of the former, I once stayed in a hotel with Norman Leah for a visit to Impress Deventer, and I’m sure the wining and dining together gave him a better view of me as a person rather than merely bring his boss.

However, being on your own just a few days prior to Christmas for trials at CMB Braunstone was pretty lonely, and a good thing too that most of the day was taken up by witnessing trial runs by CMB. Or the time I took part in an introductory Matlab course and stayed in a Travelodge near a dual carriageway leading out of Cambridge, where there was absolutely nothing to do apart from be in your room and watch television.

Hence that in later years, when I no longer was flitting about going to customers, and when the stays in hotels first reduced to a trickle and later dried up completely, I didn’t miss hotel rooms at all. It may be nice for a change, but I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis as part of my day-to-day job.

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