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Chapter 5: culture: Travel

The Pleasure of Room Service

It’s not a very respectable pleasure, but it’s a powerful one all the same. You pick up the phone, balancing the in-room dining menu on your knee, you nip into the shower and flick on the news and half an hour later someone comes to your room with a tray or wheels a trolley to the foot of the bed. The meal itself might not be anything terribly special – chicken schnitzel or macaroni with cheese – but it’s surrounded by signs of care. They’ve kept it warm in a special heated recess under the table or covered it under a small metallic dome; someone has wondered if we might like flowers, and has inserted a tulip into a narrow glass vase to cheer us as we eat; they’ve worried that we might be fussy about bread and provided a small selection; they’d like to know if we prefer still or sparking water.

© tracybenjamin/Fllickr

They don’t always get it right. But their thoughtfulness is touchingly evident. It’s such a poignant contrast to how things often go at home: your child doesn’t even look up when you say good morning, your partner grunts when you mention that you had a tricky day at work; at parties you catch them speaking in a rather dismissive, offhand way about what an idiot you generally are.

It’s not surprising if – as we sit on the bed half-naked in our dressing gown and bite into an apple strudel – we are genuinely moved. It’s all artifice of course – engineered by payment. But thanks to an item on the credit card bill, we can get something truly lovely: a portion of the kindness we crave, but hardly ever receive.

© Kevin O’Mara/Flickr

Money won’t buy what we most want: the warm regard of those we live with – but we can get at least a symbol of considerateness – and sometimes that might be the best we can hope for in our broken, radically imperfect lives.