How Many Towels Does One Person Need? (A Hotel Adventure)

Like most people, I haven’t been in a hotel in about two years (the photo you see is from 3+ years prior). But necessity pushed me into the unenviable position of having to book a hotel room for a few days during the height of travel season. The necessity? My air conditioner breaking.

That’s another story.

My stay in the hotel has reminded me of a lot of things. What it feels like to use facilities that aren’t your own. How nice it is to have someone else doing the cleaning for you. The awkwardness of timing yourself so that you don’t have to share an elevator with anybody else. That sort of thing.

And, of course, the cleaning wars with the housekeeping staff.

There’s always a sign you can use at hotels that says, “Please do not disturb”, and on occasion I like to take a day off and just stay in the hotel room. Sleep in, write emails, drink tea, all of that good stuff. And in theory, with that sign up, it should be a peaceful experience.

But for some reason, I am never left undisturbed.

The hotel I’m staying in currently has a policy due to Covid-19 that they only clean every other day. They’d cleaned my room the day prior, so I thought that on this particular day, I was in the clear to hang around in pjs uninterrupted.

Then, at noon, I got a knock on the door.

Approaching the door, I spotted a staff member outside, with an armful of towels and a fresh set of hotel-issued pjs. The staff member was elderly, coming up to my shoulder at most in terms of height, with a determined expression in place.

I cleared my throat. “Hello?” I ventured.

“Would you like us to clean your room?” came the cheerful answer.

“Um.” I hesitated. “No, no thank you. I’m all right.”

The cheerful expression turned into a concerned one. “What about your garbage?”

“It’s okay for today.”

“Are you sure?” The staff member’s concern deepened. “What about your towels? Can’t we at least give you new ones?”

The worry in the staff member’s voice compelled me to open the door (with a mask on). “I’ll take the towels! Thank you so much, sorry about that,” I felt compelled to blurt out.

The concern lessened, but only slightly. “And take some amenities, too,” the staff member entreated me, pushing fresh packets of toothpaste, new razors, and disposable hairbrushes into my hands.

“I… are you sure?”


“O. Okay.” I accepted those. The staff member bowed. I bobbed back awkwardly.

Then I closed the door.

“Is that girl all right in there?” I heard another housekeeping staff member pipe up.

“She seemed okay,” hummed the one that had spoken to me. “I’m going to leave more towels here, just in case.”

“Leave her some extra tea, too.”

“Oh, good idea.”

I shook my head, suppressing a laugh, as these two people bustled about preparing me a hotel care package to hang on my doorknob.

They didn’t address me again, but I knew several things moving forward:

1) I now had at least eight towels for one person

2) Do Not Disturb signs continue to be useless in the face of a determined cleaner, and

3) no matter what, I would clear out of my hotel room the next day so that they could happily clean my room in peace.

Have you ever had staff insist on cleaning your room for you? Or do they actually pay attention when you put up a “do not disturb” sign?

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