When it is over I will regret that I didn’t make better use of my time. For the past seven weeks, I have been living in a hotel. For a writer this should be a dream come true, no responsibilities, someone to clean every day, and all my meals paid for. It could be seen as an urban writer’s retreat.
But what I am finding is that we are creatures of habit with certain routines and rituals some so ingrained that we don’t realize how deep they run until they’re gone. Without preparation, I have to learn new ones that work for me.
The first couple of weeks were hard. I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t know how long I would be here and while grateful for a place to stay, I just wanted to go home. Each visit to my apartment reminded me that it would be a while. I busied myself with shopping. I bought a new printer and added the hotel to my Staples and Amazon “ship to” addresses. I put New York Magazine and Time Warner Cable on vacation holds. I bought new books, shoes, and a pair of sneakers despite the fact that it was no longer sneaker weather. I even bought a pair of Uggs. One day I went on a mission to buy a new bag. There was an urgency attached to it that made it seem as if finding the right one would restore a sense of normalcy to my life. Buying a new bag is a big decision and usually the bag finds me. I browse around until one practically shouts, “I’m your next bag.” Not this time, though I did find one that I liked reasonably enough to buy.
In my room, I kept misplacing things; I would put something down and promptly forget where it was: my favorite pen, my morning notebook, and the pad where I kept ambitious lists of things to do. Frantically I would search the suite to see where they were. I hadn’t been here long enough to find a proper place for anything.
At home my notebook and pens living on the end table next to a leather recliner where I sit for my morning coffee. The commute to my desk sometimes feels long, but I make it, and when the words don’t come, I stare out of the windows at the trees in the gardens below.
The first round of my clothes came back from the various cleaners and I had to decide where to put them. The only easy decision was socks and underwear. I designated the smaller of the two bedroom closets for coats.
The living room portion of the suite is about a quarter of the size of mine and has a desk in one corner, a loveseat, coffee table, end table, and straight-backed armchair. By the wall outside the small kitchen is a round table with two chairs.
By the end of the third week with no work having been done in my apartment I had to, in the words of a friend, “adapt or die.”
My routine had to change. Mornings are hard. I wake up in a bed that is not my bed. When I sit in the living room I am not looking at my pictures on the walls or at my books filling bookshelves, and even though I grab some music CDs during each apartment visit when I pick up the mail and check the progress, they are never the ones I want to listen to. Don’t get me wrong, the room is not without charm and does come with a fabulous view but it is not mine.
Little by little, a new rhythm developed. I have found places for the new books I bought, the binders that hold my work, and the new printer is sits on top of its packing box. There is no DSL here only painfully slow Wi-Fi that I have adjusted to.
I have adapted to the daily maid service and try to be considerate by letting them makeup my room before noon. Once I hear the rustling of the plastic bag that holds the clean towels, I take down the Do Not Disturb sign. At home I don’t see anyone during the day, and I seldom leave my apartment until four in the afternoon when I take the day’s work out for edits and sit at a local bar with good light where they make a fresh pot of coffee for me and keep my cup refilled without additional charge knowing I will tip well.
Here when words don’t come there is the temptation to go out. The desk is considerably smaller than my own. If I sit on the loveseat, I see the kitchenette where the four-cup coffee maker beckons, but I am getting tired of the single flavor, pre-filled filters. Since I can’t find coffee filters that fit the machine, I drink pot after pot of French Roast.
Even though the refrigerator is small, dorm size, I like to keep it full, the supply of Diet Coke, cheese and fruit is comforting.
I miss my things. When I order food in and sit at the round table, I use paper towels as a placemat. The hotel-provided silverware is thin and has a tinny taste. I miss my dishes, my glasses, and the silverware I chose more with more care than my potential mate.
Each evening I wash the dishes before going to bed and prep the coffee for the morning, but unlike home, it will not start until I flip the switch.
Both rooms have large flat-screen televisions mounted to the wall. A size I would never buy as its very presence demands turning on. There is basic cable and HBO, but not BBCA or the guide channel, the handy grid to see what’s on. Consequently, I miss most of the starting times for anything I might want to watch.
Some days I feel on the verge of tears but the enormous emotional release I know will come will not happen here. It will wait until I am safely back at home, and then I will cry. For like my laptop and my Blackberry my emotions are not always in sync with my intellect.
What I can’t seem to shake is my feeling that I am living in limbo. There is no check-out date, and each visit back to the apartment reminds me of the work still to be done.
I have picked out new carpeting for my bedroom, colors for the walls, and bought a new bed.
Like my apartment, the bedroom is colder than the living room. But here in the hotel what I have discovered, as I start my eighth week, is I still don’t have a side of the bed.