Opinion

I'm on holiday, my hotel is cursed and I have a crush on a Spanish game show host

When faced with a creepy hotel, there's nothing else for it but to hole up in your room with sacks of snacks and unintelligible foreign quiz shows

A hand pointing a tv remote at a screen

Image: Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash

I have been on holiday to a cursed hotel. There was nothing particularly wrong with it – it was clean, stylish, spacious and well-appointed, and the food was good. I know I was lucky to be there at all, in fact, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was terribly wrong. I scoured the place for ominous signs. There was a chilly, dark cloud lurking above it most of the time, even when the town on the coastline below remained sunny. 

The address of the hotel was number 13. At breakfast one day, a plum on the table moved on its own. A black cat with half a tail, who we christened Alan, slinked around the front door, as did a random cockerel that came into the lobby on the day we left, looking like it was about to avail itself of the all-inclusive buffet. Was that good luck or bad?

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Then I realised what the problem was. It was the people. Something seems to have gone terribly wrong with people. They used to be fully rounded and at ease with the world, just doing their thing, looking forward to the future. Now everyone seems tense and shifty and extremely protective of their own space, and with the exception of the odd diverting weirdo, they have all morphed into one homogeneous blob. The kids call them NPCs – non-playable characters, after the faceless figures that wander in the background of video games – and this was the NPC hotel. 

The soulless corridors and bar areas were haunted by mute, repressed ghosts wearing the same aqua colours as the hotel lobby, and the staff were the same. They didn’t smile, and lurked behind counters ignoring people. When they did serve you, they were barely able to suppress their deep, existential, End of Days sighs.

I did what anyone would do in this situation. I spent several hours a day in my room eating large sacks of Spanish crisps (best crisps in the world), drinking the local beer and watching HOLIDAY TELLY. Holiday telly is the best because, unless you’re multilingual or in a relationship with the Duolingo owl you can’t understand what anyone is saying.

I find this hugely comforting, especially in these anxious times. I don’t want to hear any new information in my own language, because it’ll probably be hideous. Instead, I want to watch a ropey American detective show dubbed into 250-mile-an-hour Spanish, or a German programme about whelks. I also love the jolly adverts, mostly for yoghurt, Kinder Bueno and local car dealerships.  

But this time, perhaps because there was an absence of personality outside the door, I found myself falling in love with the presenter of a Spanish game show called Pasapalabra. The show involved various unintelligible challenges, including an arduous memory quiz that was like that party game where you hide a bunch of objects under a tea towel and have to remember them all. Except this one required you to remember different kinds of gases that were hidden under the numbers 1-10. Thrilling or what?

As I lay there on my holiday with crisps tumbling down my front, occasionally yelling ‘ARGON! NUMERO OCHO!’ I imagined me and Señor Pasapalabra wandering down to the non-haunted Old Town, where the sun actually shone. Instead of having to squeak the words “dos cervezas” to an unimpressed bartender, he would take over, charming all with his twinkling personality, salt-and-pepper beard and zany gas-related word games! 

But now I’m home and probably the only person on the internet to be looking up ‘Presenter of Pasapalabra’ on Google, I fear this was a moment of madness brought on by the malevolent forces of the cursed hotel. He has two children, I don’t understand anything he says and I have a crisp hangover. Maybe I should have made friends with the cockerel instead.    

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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