The hotel I had in mind has existed since February 2003 (hotels in general have obviously been around for much longer than that). I have only been there four times in all (over the past four years) and, since it costs over a hundred dollars to get in, I am not going to be returning to it for the purposes of this post. This draws attention to the wider issue of access to and exclusion from this space based on class-based factors.
I may not consider myself rich by any means, but I cannot avoid being aware of the fact that, for an entire segment of the population, access to this space is closed off in a way which is even more restrictive than that. Being near a metro station, it can be reached easily enough by people who cannot afford to drive and who must rely on public transit to get there. The entrance has an access ramp so the hotel can accommodate the entry of people in wheelchairs, and there are supposed to be facilities in it that are specifically designed to be usable by people with physical disabilities.
Thinking of the ‘Fumeur’ misguide reminds me that the fact that the entire hotel insists on remaining a non-smoking environment makes it somewhat less accessible to smokers, who can theoretically enter but who must go outside to smoke, even in the winter cold, which must be taken into account. Having known someone who worked in hotel service a few years ago but quit after having had a hard time with it, I wonder about the quality of the working conditions of the cleaning staff who work there, and how they get treated as part of their own particular chain of command. It is often assumed that more among hotel cleaning staff are likelier to be non-white, possibly immigrants trying to make ends meet with hotel service, and that more hotel customers are going to be white, although in practice of course non-white clients and white cleaning staff are still present in most hotels.
Hotel rooms exist in a strange place in relation to the public/private dyad: on one hand they are theoretically accessible to all, which makes them public, yet while they are rented they ostensibly become private space for the people who are renting them, on the other. One may wonder about the previous and next occupants of the room one is renting, with no way to find out anything about them, but Sophie Calle’s stint as hotel cleaning staff making inferences about room renters by going through their trash raises the question of just how private a space they are. I ask myself, if I could not afford to rent the hotel room I have to clean, how kindly would I judge those who rent it?
Whereas American hotel rooms all have Bibles, Canadian hotel rooms have no such thing and, asking myself what I would want in a room if I could choose, it occurs to me how ‘modular’ this space must be, ‘reset’ from client to client. It would be intriguing to be able to leave a message to the next renter, encouraging them to leave a message to the following one, and to return later to see how far the exchange continued, yet that the space must be ‘wiped’ each time makes this impossible. Gender performance may be relaxed in private although, if two men rent one room, staff will assume they want two beds. Free Wifi invites virtual space in to superimpose itself on real space, with curtains closing off the outside glare.