Tim Key: Why does this hotel want to make quenching my thirst so very difficult to achieve?


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I awoke last night at 3am, in dire need of water. I was in an Ibis Hotel – a fairly mild example of a hotel – and I was dehydrated because I'd earlier drunk five pints of continental lager with a Scottish dancer. My eyelids were sagging down over my cheeks with tiredness as I waddled, mole-like, in search of taps and cups. After about 15 minutes of fairly broad slapstick I found what I was looking for. Only it wasn't what I was looking for. Because Ibis do something very weird with their cups. And so, even though I'd found them, the challenge of quenching my thirst had really only just begun.

To put it bluntly, Ibis's idea of a glass in your room, is this: two plastic cups – anemic, disposable ones – both wrapped and sealed in individual, figure-hugging cellophane bags. And at 3am, these are the last things you want to be groping.

I have never run a hotel, I'll say that off the bat. I've had people stay in my flat, of course – my parents, Breeno, a Swedish girl who needed to stay because she had to get a flight from Heathrow in the morning – but I wouldn't say I've ever had to sit down and put a whole hotel infrastructure in place. I've never had to make a call on sink-side cups, that's for sure. I've never had to think about small bottles of shampoo or key cards. I've never had to make a decision on whether I'll offer a brightly-coloured breakfast, or install a gym. It's just never come up.

It must be tough to establish a great hotel, and in many respects Ibis are completely beyond reproach. My bed was wide enough, I had another bed in the room in case the one I started off in wasn't working out or I had an accident or a visitor. The room was quiet, almost too quiet, in fact. Eerie. But I don't think that's something I would complain about. Storming up to the front desk and demanding they pipe in some ambient noise of distant traffic would almost definitely be met with blank looks from the gentle, grey-haired man behind it – and rightly so. No, when I put my head down, I was struggling to think of any complaints I could level at this Ibis. I had to wait until the middle of the night for that.

Naked and blind, I fumbled with the first cup, trying to unsheathe it. Wishing they had entrusted me with a glass. But my hands were too tired and they broke the cup even within its bag. I continued and pulled it out, but no, it was split right up the side and unusable.

Why had Ibis put a cup in a bag? I guess they might claim hygiene, but in my lifetime I've drunk out of over a thousand cups, and not once have I ever had to pull them from a sheath, and not once have I fallen ill. So why now? Why this bag, Ibis? I was pointing at the cups and hissing now. "What's the thinking, here, Ibis?"

The second cup split quicker than the first. I was crying with frustration and thirst now, so I was even blinder than for my first attempt. It was never a fair contest.

Desperate, I tried lodging my head under the taps and scooping water into my mouth, but it was all too cramped. I attempted to flick water up with the shards of the plastic glass and catch it in my mouth. I wept with frustration and drank that. And, ultimately, I yelled some regrettable things about Ibis and slept.

And now here I am. Lying on my Ibis bed, face down, leaning on my pillow and typing morosely, like a 15-year-old girl writing her diary. Except, unlike her, I have a deadline to hit, and, also unlike her, my throat is arid. In a minute I will file this using Ibis's excellent free in-room Wi-Fi. Then a 20-minute conversation with the gentle, grey-haired man on the front desk about the cups, and then away, into the centre of Leeds. In pursuit of water.