Holiday Inn Express, Shoreditch
275 Old Street
London EC1V 9LN
020 7300 4300
by Joyce Carol Oats
As Joyce Carol Oats awoke one morning from uneasy dreams she found herself ensconced in her bed in the Holiday Inn Express. She was lying on her back, as it were, and when she lifted her head a little with some difficulty she could see that she was not just hungover, but that the duvet could hardly keep in position because the hotel bed was tipped towards the wall, so as to have the effect of elevating her legs above her head. Joyce felt a little helpless, but then realized that with only slightly more effort than usual she could sit erect there.
‘What happened to me,’ she thought. It was no dream. Joyce’s room, a proper room for a human being, only in the Holiday Inn Express, lay quietly between four walls, one of which had a television bolted to it. On another wall, on which there was a faint grey stain, hung a picture of blue and black swoops of paint of the kind that is only produced for chain hotel rooms.
Joyce’s glance then turned to the window. The dreary weather (the rain drops were falling audibly on the puddles of hipster puke on the sidewalk) made her quite melancholy. ‘Why don’t I keep sleeping for a little while longer and forget all this foolishness,’ Joyce thought. But this was entirely impractical, for Joyce was used to eating breakfast.
Joyce went downstairs. Here, a sea of human bodies queued for a lukewarm buffet. Joyce regarded the humans. Next to the queue stood a sign. ‘Peak breakfast times’ the sign read, and then accorded a traffic light colour to each of three times. ‘Please try to avoid this peak time’ the sign said, in reference to the peakest time. ‘O God,’ Joyce thought, ‘what kind of a hotel actually tells its guests to actively avoid the breakfast service? To hell with it all!’
Ignoring the man who was giving direction to the people in the line waiting to enter the buffet, Joyce skipped ahead and investigated what was on offer. Some vats of eggs and bacon. Grapefruit in syrup. Orange and apples. Cold cereals, milk. Yoghurts with artificial sweetener and yogurts without. All looked unappetizing.
Joyce decided to make some toast. She stood next to the toaster. Above it hung a large sign. ‘Please DO NOT put croissants in the toaster!’ the sign read. Joyce put some bread in the toaster. ‘I wonder,’ thought Joyce, ‘what happened in the toaster that created this imperative for this sign.’ While Joyce thought about the sign, her bread finished toasting. A small Swedish child helped himself to Joyce’s toast. Joyce felt an urge to cry. She made herself another piece of toast instead, and topped it with jam and cheese. Joyce sat at the hotel bar and ate her toast. Joyce regretted her encounter with the breakfast. Joyce wished she had never left her earlier position to come to the breakfast. ‘This getting up early,’ she thought, ‘Makes a woman quite idiotic.’