Sunday, 21 October 2012

I’m a control freak, not an arsonist!

The ear plugs are in, the double whiskey has been digested and I’m finally dropping off to sleep in the Premier Inn.


Bloody Hell! What’s that?

Wrenching out my earplugs and blinding myself by hitting the full row of light switches beside the bed, I leap up and … well, stand there.

I don’t know what to do. It sure as hell sounds like a fire alarm. At least, it would do if it was a constant noise, or even a dopplery crescendo siren, but it’s arhythmic.


Whatever it is, it’s happening and I want to stay alive. From my top floor eyrie window I can see the whole hotel, and there’s no sign of smoke, fire or any apparent danger.

A small crowd of people are milling around outside the hotel entrance, smoking fags.


But really, am I going to get back into bed and try and sleep? I’ve got to get outside. How much of a plonker will I look if I’m rescued by firemen in 20 minutes?

Dammit dammit dammit. I so needed a good night’s sleep before my flight from Luton to Knock. I know what I’m like. I can make this journey home feel like an Antarctic expedition if I put my mind to it, so I’d already wrestled with my conflicting instincts.

When I was a youth worker I heard my boss point out to a sixteen year-old that self-knowledge, on its own, is worthless. We’d been trying to make the lads start to think about what they did, become aware of the consequences of their behaviours. But as my boss explained to the confused teenager

“You can understand all your behaviours but that means nothing unless you do something about it.”

‘Cor, that’s good!’ I thought to myself, slightly embarrassed to have only just learned what I evidently needed to know as a spotty yoof.

So now I’ve not only become more aware of my unhelpful and destructive behaviour patterns, but I also try to do something about them. Not all are matters of life and death. Indeed, many just help eradicate pointless self-made stress. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve made this journey, from Edgware up the M1 to Luton; refuel the rental car; return the rental car and take the shuttle to the terminal; check in.

Hardly Shackleton, but invariably I massively overestimate how long it’s all going to take, because there might be a 24 truck pile-up on the M1 or my car might blow up and I’ll have to hitch to the airport and you can see where this is going, can’t you? I end up leaving the hotel ridiculously early to avoid the stress of having to worry about being late for my plane, always arriving at the terminal an hour before the check-in desk is even open.

Thankfully I have the ability to stare into space for hours, so being early is great, save for the fact that I could have had another hour in bed.

That might have been nice.

On this trip my flight home leaves Luton a few hours later than normal, so there’s a chance I could be there crazily early, and that would be plain stupid, so I spend most of the day mentally reminding myself not to pack before I go to bed.

Just relax, sleep on, chill out, and then pack after a shower in the morning.
Shoofty shoofty. Easy does it.

Right, but there’s this other part of me: the control freak anal retentive be ready for anything alpha male leader ug ug chest hairs sprouting that does not allow slack behaviour.

So with this erratic alarm going off in my ears, I’m immediately able to slip into my ready-laid out clothes (and when I say laid out, I mean in a pile of order dressed; sad but true), slide into my available boots and zip up my already-packed bag.

Throwing on my overcoat, I enter a corridor lined by people with bleary eyes wearing jim-jams, hanging out of their bedroom doors, asking each other what the hell’s going on.

Just like me, they can’t understand keeps sounding on and off intermittently, and there's no staff to be seen.

Suddenly they all stop talking. They’re all looking at me, standing there fully-clothed to airport-smart standards, as if I’d somehow expected all this to happen.

“Bloody ‘ell mate! You’re ready a bit bloody sharpish, encha?”

Smiling as I walk past them, I successfully resist the temptation to scream

“Yes I’m ready, but that’s because I’m a neurotic freak and not because I’m a bloody arsonist, okay! I didn’t start the fire, all right?!”

because that might possibly sound a tad suspicious.

Down in the lobby the night porter is pressing buttons on an electrical board, but it’s all pretty chaotic.

Eventually we’re sent back to our rooms, assured that all is safe. Doesn’t feel very safe, but I need sleep.

In the morning I ask a member of staff if they are trained to come up to the corridors when a fire alarm goes off. He doesn’t understand my question. I ask two others, who point out the letter of apology we all had shoved under our bedroom doors, but it’s not until I speak to a third person behind the reception desk that I’m assured that there should have been staff up in the corridors, guiding us to a fire escape.

However, my favourite comment of the night came from the 30something wide boy salesman in the room next to mine. While we were standing in the corridor, unsure whether we were in danger of being burnt to a crisp in a raging inferno, he’d referenced Premier Inn’s guarantee of a good night’s sleep or your money back.

“Free night for us mate. That’s what this is! Guaranteed!”

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