“Open Up – This is the Police”

Posted by in Travel Nightmare

Mostly my stays in hotels are OK.  I occasionally have to go back down to the lobby when my keycard doesn’t work, or (like this week in Munich) I get less sleep than I’d like because thousands of Oktoberfesters sing in the street until the early hours.  Like I said – not a big problem.

Sometimes though shit happens that not only ruins the trip, but also makes you wonder if we aren’t living in a simulation…

A couple of weeks ago I visited Chicago – a splendid city that I frequently find myself in.  Due to a confluence of fairs, all the hotels were booked up and I ended up in an apartment my colleague found on booking.com.

I was surprised to read in the welcome mail that I would find the door unlocked and the keys on the coffee table, but sure enough, when I ‘checked-in’ after dinner that evening I just pushed the door open and locked it once inside.

The first signs that something was wrong came at about midnight; footsteps and murmuring in the corridor, scratching at the door, a tentative try on the handle.

Great, I thought.  Murdered in my bed.  Were they thieves checking for visitors?  Were they drunk students looking for somewhere to crash?  Should I shout or stay…really…quiet..?

I opted for silence, gently began piling all the furniture I could move up against the door and returned to bed in less than good spirits.

All was still until 2.30am when renewed scratching was followed by tapping at the windows and then more vigorous attempts to open the door.  This time I shouted something in a shaky voice and wondered if I should give up my Leica without a fight.

Next it was lights in the street, torches shining through the blinds, and then at three in the morning came  the request for me to “OPEN UP – THIS IS THE POLICE”.

OK… out of bed… underwear on… rapid dismantling of furniture barrier…

I looked through the peephole to see 4 armed police, a defiant young woman, and a sheepish looking man of the same age.

“Sir, we found these British people trying to enter this property.  We have verified that they are the rightful tenants, which means that you are trespassing… and you are naked”

“But I booked this place too!  And I’m not completely naked…”

“Sir, do you have documentation to corroborate your statement regarding the legitimacy of your residency?”

“Er… that was a remarkable sentence.  My colleague made the reservation…”

Fortunately a quick search on my phone revealed a forwarded mail from booking.com.  Handshakes all round and a final “Welcome to beautiful Chicago sir, you get some clothes on now” from the cops.

I invited the couple to sleep on the couch, but they opted for the car.  I was out of the house by six, found them staring out their windshield at the dawn – no doubt as jet lagged and exhausted as I was, and left the keys with them.  I would find somewhere with a reception desk and an elevator to stay for the remainder of the trip.