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This is an unfortunate story from one of my many solo-stays in a hotel room in a rural British town. I often travel-solo for work and 99.9% of the time I never have any trouble, except for this one occasion. I was harassed by a creepy stranger when staying alone in a small hotel.
This incident could happen anywhere, therefore the name of the hotel and the name of the town is not essential to the story so I have left them out.
When I first arrive at a hotel and I’m staying alone, I have a routine which I almost always stick to. I get into my room, check the bed for its level of comfort (and bed bugs – gross), check out the features of the room, connect to the WiFi and generally laze about for a while.
Once I’m settled, I usually go out for a walk, not far – probably about 10-20 minutes or until I find somewhere to eat. Even if I’m just staying for one night – I like to have a wander and see what’s nearby, find out where the shops and restaurants are, maybe take some photos, etc.
On this particular night, in early February it was already dark when I arrived. It wasn’t especially cold despite it being winter, in typical British style it was damp, drizzly and a decent walk from the train station to my accommodation.
I wasn’t in the mood to go out again so decided to have dinner in the place I was staying.
This was a quintessential British pub which served food and drink all-day until 11pm, with maybe 6 small hotel bedrooms upstairs. It was in the centre of a small and very sleepy town of a few hundred houses, some shops and was surrounded by farmland and rolling hills.
I was only staying for one night, I had a meeting the following morning and was heading home on the train at lunchtime.
I arrived and collected my key from the bar where they were serving drinks and taking orders for food. It was busy for a Tuesday evening in such a small town; the bar was noisy – there were a lot of families eating meals and people were having an argument over the jukebox (standard).
The bar lady handed me my key, payment receipt and said in a loud voice:
“Through those doors, go past the toilets, the staircase is on the right and it’s right at the end of the hallway on the first floor.”
I thanked her and made my way upstairs to my room, let my boyfriend know I had arrived, got changed and pulled a few things out of my bag ready for the next morning. After enough procrastinating, I went downstairs to the bar to have some food.
I hate eating alone, especially as this place was so busy I was definitely out of place. In small towns such as this one, everyone knows each other in some way and it was probably so clear to them that I was an outsider.
“Whatever,” I thought and just kept my head down. I was watching YouTube on my Nexus 7 with headphones whilst eating my food. Just as I’d finished eating – someone tapped me on the shoulder.
I took one headphone out and turned around – there was a man, about 5’11”, 45-50 years old – his shoulders and neck were hunched forward a bit. He was wearing a hi-vis jacket and had wispy dark grey and brown hair.
“Excuse me?” he said, in a polite, but unnerving tone.
I looked at him, probably with a puzzled expression.
“I saw you from over there,” he went onto say “and you’ve got a lovely arse!”
I stay silent, giving a blank stare – he opened his mouth to speak again.
“Could we have a proper look?”
The look on his face was serious. I glanced around to see if anyone else was hearing this, the tables nearby were all occupied with people talking, laughing and eating.
His serious look turned into a pathetic attempt at a cheeky/charming grin.
“I’m only joking!” he blurted out “No need to look so worried!” He then turned around and walked away, maintaining his weird hunched-forward stance.
My eyes followed him as he walked right over to the other side of the room, as he joined his other hi-vis wearing friends. Once he was out of my line-of-sight. I moved my chair so I had my back to the wall and I could see almost everything, except for a few small tables which were tucked away in nooks or corners. This way, I won’t be taken by surprise if he comes back.
I could no longer see the man, but I was determined to stay where I was until I saw him leave. 20 minutes later, him and a group of others traipsed outside in single-file through the narrow doorway. I could see them through the window in the corner of my eye, all gathered about 20 feet away, smoking cigarettes.
I went straight up to my room and locked the door. I wasn’t shaken up, or upset, or anything like that – I just didn’t want the man to see me go up the stairs towards the hotel bedrooms (any of the customers from the pub could technically get up there – there was nothing to stop them).
I waited for about half an hour before going in to the bathroom to wash before bed.
As I left the bathroom, I stopped in my tracks. Someone was outside my door – I was pretty sure of it.
The light in my room was on and there was a frosted glass panel directly above the door. If someone was outside, they definitely know I was in here.
I stood for a moment and stayed silent. I heard footsteps – as if someone was walking away from the room, it could be… another guest?
I grabbed the chair from the corner of the room and peered through the glass panel above the door. Despite the patterned glass giving me a distorted view, the person walking away was wearing a bright yellow/green hi-vis jacket, just like the man was earlier.
It couldn’t be him, I saw him leave and he definitely wasn’t watching or following!
Fast-forward five minutes, he was back again – lurking outside the door. He wasn’t saying anything, he was just standing there and leaning against the door from what I can tell. I had the light off at this point, I was so close to calling 999.
Then out of nowhere, the sound of about 8 people clambering their way up the stairs like a herd of elephants – other guests returning to their rooms.
As they all clambered up the stairs I heard a confused exchange of words:
“Alright?” said a man’s muffled voice…
“Uh, yeah. Sorry mate, went for a p*** and somehow ended up here.” This was a different man’s voice, less muffled, as if it was coming from the other side of my door.
“Heh, alright mate…. They’re closing up downstairs now mate. You don’t want to be locked in, do you?” followed by a muffled laugh, more clambering footsteps, the sound of keys jingling and doors banging which was closely followed by silence.
I peered through the glass panel above the door but there was no one there, so waited for about 10 minutes before resigning myself to bed.
I closed the curtains in the room. As I did so, I noticed the man in his distinctive bright clothing, with an added beanie hat walking away, down the long road and into the darkness. Just for added measure, I moved the chair to under the door handle so that no one would be able to open it from the other side. Sure – it’s probably against the fire safety regulations but the window in my room lead to a fire escape. So, all good!
The following day, I explained exactly what happened to the hotel manager before I checked out. I had two clear questions for the manager:
- How did the man know which room I was staying in?
- Why are customers from the bar allowed upstairs to the area where the bedrooms are?
As this is a small guesthouse/pub with bedrooms, I don’t expect them to have round-the-clock security and I understand that small towns, such as this one are generally very safe and quiet places.
However, I still feel as if establishments like these need a policy whereby staff don’t shout out your room number or directions to your room when there are other people around. This is (what I suspect) happened in this case – the man overheard the lady giving me directions to my room with my room key and number.
Most established hotel chains have a policy to keep guest’s room numbers private. Small hotels should definitely implement the same thing, especially for solo-travellers.
The hotel manager was surprised, sympathetic and I was given an apology. They explained how they saw the hi-vis people in the bar the night before, but did not know who they were, as they’d never been there before.
The other guests, who returned to their rooms last night came down from their rooms to check-out as well, I asked if they were the ones who saw the man in the corridor last night…
“Him? Yeah – he was acting a right d***head in the bar. Was he staying with you?” asked one of the men, in a Birmingham accent.
“No!” I sort-of laughed, “I think you guys interrupted him, he was acting creepy last night when I was eating down here then was loitering outside my room – I’d never seen him before! Do you know him?”
“Know him? Na, we don’t know him but he was outside last night making a prick of ‘imself,” the guy’s face turned a bit more serious “Glad he f***ed off. Blokes like him are bad news.”
Yes, indeed. I smiled at them and left for my meeting. I’m grateful to those other guests for encouraging the hi-vis man to leave, even if they didn’t realise what he was doing at the time.
It could have been a lot worse. It was certainly eye-opening and made me realise it’s not good to be oblivious to your surroundings when you’re staying or eating alone like I was with my headphones and tablet. On the other hand, I was clearly not wanting to be disturbed if I had my head down and was eating my food alone. Solo-travellers often face little challenges like this.
It’s sensible to be aware of people around you and not put yourself in any unnecessary danger. Looking back, I think I did the right thing by ignoring him and hiding, but I wish I’d have spoken to the bar staff on the night after his first-time loitering outside the room (I didn’t really want to go back downstairs).
Have you ever been in a situation like this? If you’re comfortable with sharing your story, please do so by leaving a comment below.