Recap of my first 18 hours in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress tradeshow.
3:30pm – After 16 near sleepless hours, arrive in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress tradeshow as sole representative of the company I work for.
4:15pm – Arrival in cab just outside hotel. 15 years of world travel does not hide my “essence of gringo” and almost immediately I’m propositioned to buy souvenirs, weed and a wounded cougar Spanish lady friend.
4:16pm – 13 years at Adobe has by nature instilled blind faith that an organization that sends its employee on a business trip will ensure that proper accommodations are secured during the stay. Silly silly Scott. As I walk toward the entrance to the hotel I read this note
“During the week of the MWC tradeshow only full night room reservations will be available”
A moment lapses before I realize my company has booked me into a 1-star cash only hotel that by policy allows rooms to be rented by the hour. I turn my gaze back outside seeking an escape route but all I see is the cougar lady friend across the street who gives me a knowing wink as if to say “I’ll be here when you’re ready big boy”.
I haul out the smart phone. Surely this must be a mistake. Hopes dashed when travel itinerary confirms the destination. A quick scan of hotel review on Yelp. The words “dump”….”avoid”….”shady” and “nightmare” leap out at me first. Defeated, tired and anger brewing I succumb for the moment to my predicament and walk into the lobby.
The manager looks like he’s on the tail end of an 18 hour shift. Cables behind him lead to a dilapidated modem that likely is the sole source of Wifi that likely has a limit range of about 10 feet around the lobby. Other guests huddled around laptops scattered about the lobby confirm my assumptions. No one is over 25 except me. 75 euros nightly rate! Cash only sir. MWC pricing. Keys are handed over. Complimentary gruel and water service begins at 7am each morning. I’m pointed to the 19th century elevator to take me to the 4th floor room. I choose the stairs instead.
4:45pm – I check into my room. I believe the original decorator was inspired by 3rd world interrogation rooms for criminals when deciding on an “essence” for the room. 2 cots, a dangling light bulb and an armoire with 3 hangers. I can’t bring myself to unpack
4:46pm – The first hint of the sewer like smell wafting from the bathroom hits me. I check to see if the last guest left a deuce as a present but no such luck flushing that problem away
5:15pm I return to the lobby to inquire about getting an iron to prepare my work clothes for the week. The manager informs me there is just one iron and it’s being used at the moment. There are atleast 40 rooms in the hotel. I calculate that my turn to get the iron will come about 3 days after I’m already back home in the U.S. Then again I might be the only guest in the last few years that ever set foot on the premise wearing a suit and sporting a full time job.
6:00pm – After a good cry I decide to head out to a restaurant where healthy doses of Sangria will blunt the sting of my predicament.
8:00pm – I finish dinner and check around a few other local hotels to see if they have any remaining vacancies. After a few hearty laughs as I pose that question to front lobby managers and one prolonged grimace when I note my current accommodations I accept the predicament I find myself in and make the long slow walk back to the hotel. Around the same time I get a text message from an old Adobe colleague also at the show. “Hanging out at the Mandarin Oriental tomorrow night for drinks….join us!” That one hurt.
9:00pm – As night falls the quality of the characters lingering around the bar next to the hotel follows suit. The hotel manager buzzes me in through the since secured double re-inforced lobby door. I catch a momentary glimpse of the sacred single iron as it disappears into yet another room. I start my death march upstairs
9:15pm – I reach the top of the stairs and approach my room. The hall lights have since shut off. Lock down for the night. In the room realizing I’m still in the same clothes from a day ago I plug my nose, head into the bathroom and start up the shower. I scan my surroundings. No fancy soap or shampoo. Correction..make that no soap or shampoo. Contemplating if the liquor store across the alley from the hotel carries Irish Spring. Odds quite low. I jump in and decide to just spread the dirt around.
9:45pm – I gingerly pull of the bed spread pull back the covers, praying that all the money the hotel saved not stocking shower soap for its guests has been invested alternatively in healthy amounts of strong germ killing laundry detergent instead.
10:15pm – Either total sleep deprivation over the last day or the lingering effects of the sewer stench wafting straight through the bathroom door lulls me to sleep/unconsciousness.
3:00am – Bar next to the hotel closes. Remaining fellow quality guests return to their rooms. From the paper thin walls I hear every conversation simultaneously and crisply as if it’s being screamed directly into my ear. I contemplate offering my unprompted advice in return to one particular conversation that indeed you might want to have that rash checked out. Over the next 20 minutes the collective guests around me decide to have an impromptu door slamming contest.
3:20am – Rythmic bed squeaking sounds from my neighbor to the left begins.
3:22am – Squeaking ends. Rookie.
4:15am – I’m awoken again by shouting voices coming for the alleyway outside of my hotel. I don’t speak much Spanish but the loose translation I am able to derive from the conversation is something along the lines of “Yo WTF? I’ll crack your skull in half if you don’t give me my money” I recognize the voice of that of the wounded cougar. Mental note – Never stiff a wounded cougar.
7:15am – Sunshine breaks through my window. I survived the night. I take another soapless shower get dressed, brace open my door and slam it shut as hard as I can to provide a complimentary wake up call to my hungover neighbors.
After a hearty gruel breakfast I fire up the laptop and craft an email to my boss.
“Hi! Made it to Barcelona and the hotel your assistant booked for me. An interesting selection. Here’s a link so you can check it out for your next visit here. Just wanted to let you know I’ll be heading off shortly to the show, I’m a bit tired from the noise emitting from the bar below till 4am, sporting a wrinkled suit and a bit smelly at the moment given the lack of my hotel amenities and won’t be able to do any work from the room with no WiFi but I’ll manage somehow. BTW if you don’t hear from me in the next 24 hours inform the CFO to prepare the random money to secure my return. Glad I could be here in person as the sole rep for our company. Later!”
10:45am – Our travel coordinator calls. Miraculously a room opened up at a 3 star hotel down the road and I can check in anytime.