Hotel California, Doha : 2.5 minute read by Farriz Mashudi 14/01/2021
“I HAVE COVID.”
—Wait, what did I just hear?
Jack closes the hotel room door and confirms it. A woman down the hall has tested positive. He brings in two brown paper bags from the corridor. Our breakfast. Perfect timing. Everything has to happen at once.
We hadn’t landed until after midnight last night and hadn’t reached the hotel (in a plastic-sheet partitioned Karwa cab) till close to 3 AM, and we weren’t in bed till 4. The next morning, barely gone 9 AM we’d been woken up abruptly for Covid testing.
“Give us five minutes, please.” We waited fifteen and thought whoever it was had forgotten us. That was when Jack had peered out and overheard the woman’s announcement.
“Are there people with Covid in the hotel?” I ask the lady when she returns. (She looks like a nurse, is dressed in blue scrubs.)
“Anyone testing positive is taken to hospital immediately,” she says. Beautiful smile. Gentle with the swab. I take that for a ‘Yes’.
Means if our results don’t come in negative tomorrow then we’d be leaving for the hospital. Otherwise, it’s here for seven days. We’re in a suite though, which isn’t half bad. A lucky upgrade? Ironically, due to the hotel we were originally booked for having high numbers of arrivals infected with Covid. They had it closed for cleaning and us moved to this one, into a suite for the same price. It wasn’t the one we’d chosen, but only the one we’d been trying to avoid.
That was some days ago. And we were right to anticipate that the food would be this bad. Aside from fruits, and the mutton biriyani that Jack had arranged for them to change his hard-as-nails grilled chicken-breast to, barely anything else in today’s lunch bags was edible. Putting them out I notice the occupant’s from opposite has a note attached. The name is female; let’s call her ‘Kate’. Reading it from afar, Kate’s message says: “As usual, no need to send breakfast or dinner meals.” Smart cookie, she’s probably ordering in.
The survival kit friends recommended has proved a God-send. Real cutlery and porcelain plates do make a difference. Especially the mugs. Coffee and tea from low-grade thin paper cups just aren’t consumable after a few days. (Call me a fusspot, but no hot drinks are for me unless they’re from a Starbucks, Costa —or sans the franchise now, Kaldi 850 Coffee, Qatar.) Like Kate, we could call for Talabat delivery, or are the poorly provisioned meal-bags a strategy contrived by the hotel? To prevent contamination, their other restaurants can’t deliver upstairs, but we can order Room Service. Why would we though if it’s the same cooks?
Trying to stay positive-minded about it all, I try to think of hotel quarantine as a staycation. With the realisation, however, that this being cooped up in a room (although technically, in a suite we’re in two) is akin to forced confinement—it becomes increasingly challenging.
To keep moving or simply for distraction (I’ll consider later which it is, there’s certainly time enough, not that I’m rushing off to go some place… )—I balance on one leg, each in turn while I brush my teeth. I do some squats and walk up and down and between the rooms. It’s more than poor Tony can do. (He’s Jack’s pal from work who’s stuck here too, but in a single room.)
“Be sure to be up between midnight and 2 AM,” Tony tells us over Zoom. He means on the night of Day 6 for the repeat test. “If you miss hearing them knock, you’ll have to pay to stay an extra day.” With the results ready in four hours, if negative we could checkout at 7 AM. Otherwise, Tony’s right, it would be 7+1 extra day here. Surely, that can’t be the reason for the un-Godly hour?
As we continue the count down, I repeat the mantra: This going nowhere is healthy …
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