Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Heard Through Hotel Room Walls!




HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: How fabulous is sleeping? That moment, you know, when you slide between the sheets, and the thread count is lovely, and the pillow are puffy, and you cuddle down and sink in and..then—ah. Oh. No.

Whatever. Interrupts you. Someone left the light on. A fly is buzzing. There’s a TV on someplace. Your phone is glowing blue, or pinging about something that you don’t know what is. Everything is magnified into infinity.

Our darling brilliant Agatha nominee (yay!) Annette Dashofy has had her coziness interrupted by—well, let her tell it. But, because she is brilliant and thoughtful and always thinking about her next book—she put the sleep invasion to good use.



Hotel Rooms And Overheard Plots

I travel enough that I can usually sleep well in hotel rooms, but not enough to have contingencies for when I can’t. There are times when I’d give my kingdom for some noise-cancelling headphones. On the other hand, if I owned a set of those, the opening chapter of Fair Game would be very different.

A couple of years ago, I was attending a mystery or writing convention (I can’t remember which one or where it was…or which hotel). As is always the case, I retreated to my room that night, exhausted beyond words. All I wanted was a solid eight hours to recharge.

Okay, who am I kidding. I’d be happy with six hours. Seven would be heaven.

I fell into my lush, comfortable bed, closed my eyes, began to drift into oblivion…

Which was when the party started next door.

Lots of shouting and laughter. A man. And it sounded like perhaps more than one woman. Hmm.

To be fair, even when they weren’t being loud, I could still hear them. I didn’t want to hear them. I wanted to sleep. But I’m a writer and consider overheard conversations a gift from the idea gods. I was wide awake and mining (eavesdropping) for tidbits. Alas, there were none.

At least nothing I could use in my genre.

I considered pounding on the wall and yelling, “I can hear every word you’re saying!” But then another thought struck me.

If I could hear everything they were saying, they could hear everything my fellow mystery author roommate and I had been saying.

Now, I really couldn’t sleep. As writers of crime fiction, we tend to have some…odd discussions. “Well, it might be better if we killed him off by (fill in the blank).” “Or I could dump the body (again, fill in the blank).”

Were those footsteps in the hall the police coming to arrest us?

Thankfully not. But I had more than a mere tidbit of conversation to use in a book. I had a premise for an entire story thread. What if a traveler stays in a motel with paper-thin walls and overhears his neighbor planning to commit murder? Does he report it? The homicidal neighbor might be drunk and blowing off steam. Or he might be a mystery writer discussing his next story.

Or he could be a killer, and reporting him might just save a life.

In the opening chapter of Fair Game, a conflicted traveler has this exact conundrum. The problem is when he got up in the morning, the guy in the room next door had already checked out. Our traveler debates whether to say anything or not…until he passes the Vance Township Police Station and takes it as a sign. He stops and tells Chief Pete Adams, who then must decide how much weight to give such a report. No murder has occurred. No one in his jurisdiction has gone missing. It’s probably nothing.

Until, on a whim, he stops at the motel to get the murderous guest’s name and license number. Both of which turn out to be fake…

So Reds and readers, have you ever overheard any “interesting” conversations through a hotel room wall? And what would you do if you overheard your neighbor say, “I’m going to kill him!”

HANK: That would be a very difficult decision! Whoa. And I’m not sure what I would do. Yeah, I might call. Certainly I would call if I heard “I’m going to kill you!” Definitely.

 The last hotel disaster I had was when every time I took a shower, it set off the smoke alarm.  Truly. It went through my mind, the first time—well, I’m in the shower, I’ll be wet and so, fine. Brilliant. 

I’ve heard loud partiers, that’s for sure. But nothing sinister. 
So how about you reads and readers? Any hotel “insights”? 

 *************************

-->
Paramedic Zoe Chambers hoped a week at the Monongahela County Fair, showing her horse and manning the ambulance, would provide a much-needed diversion from recent events that continue to haunt her. An old friend, a bossy nemesis, and a teenage crush from her 4-H days fail to offer the distraction she had in mind. But ever the caregiver, she soon bonds with a troubled teen and a grieving father.

Back in Vance Township, a missing woman turns up dead, leading Police Chief Pete Adams into a journey through her mysterious final hours. With each new clue, the tragic circumstances of her death grow increasingly muddied.

A cryptic phone call leads Pete to join Zoe for an evening at the fairgrounds where the annual school bus demolition derby concludes with a gruesome discovery and a new case that may or may not be connected to the first. Pete’s quest for the motive behind two homicides—and Zoe’s stubborn determination to reunite a family—thrust them both onto a collision course with a violent and desperate felon.


Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. A lifelong resident of Washington County (PA), Annette has garnered four Agatha Award nominations including Best Contemporary Novel of 2018 for CRY WOLF. She’s a member of International Thriller Writers, the Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and is on the board of directors of Pennwriters. FAIR GAME (May 2019) is the eighth in her series.

85 comments:

  1. I think maybe we've all had that party or loud gathering next door in a hotel, but I can't think of anything sinister or even quirky. I got a good laugh out of your realization, Annette, that your neighbors could hear you as well as you could hear them, and they might have thought talking about where to bury the body a bit odd or even worrisome. You might have been able to use that to your advantage though, if you'd knocked on the wall and warned something like, "Hey, you wanna be the next body?" At least you got some writing ideas from your wakefulness. Fair Game sounds like a great read. I am trying so hard to fit this series into my reading. I might have to do something drastic like not start it at the beginning.

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    1. Kathy, my mysteries are all self-contained so you shouldn't get lost IF you start somewhere other than the beginning. My goal is to have you then WANT to go back to the beginning!

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  2. With as often as people use a phrase like "I'm going to kill you," I probably wouldn't report it unless I heard sounds of a fight or a gunshot (at which point it would be too late).

    Interesting premise in your book, however. I need to catch up so I can find out where it leads.

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  3. I've never heard anything odd in hotel rooms, but I got a good laugh thinking about your neighbors eavesdropping on you. I did stay at a hotel once where every time I took a shower the floor ended up soaking wet. The shower curtain barely grazed the top of the tub, so when the water was on the pressure was enough to push the curtain away. It made no sense. But I only had to put up with it for a couple days so I didn't see the value of complaining.

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    1. I often wonder what the room designers were thinking (or what drugs they were on) when they do something like that, Marla.

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    2. Yes! In one hotel, there was a glass shelf over the sink. Every time I finished rinsing my face, I'd stand up--and WHAM.

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  4. With no interesting hotel stories to share, I guess I’ll just say congratulations to Annette on her newest book and look forward to reading an intriguing story . . . .

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  5. I am halfway through this fabulous book now, Annette. I didn't realize the first scene was inspired by real life!

    Not a hotel room, but I did once have the disturbing experience of hearing the couple in the next apartment violently fighting, and the wife crying and asking him to stop. Next time I saw her alone I asked if she needed help (someone very close to me was beaten by her husband for a year until she finally got up her courage to leave, so I had to offer). She glared at me and turned away. Sigh.

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    1. That's so sad, Edith. I wish I could say I was surprised.

      However, I do hope you enjoy the book! And tell Ramona and Kim I said hello!

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    2. I will! Ramona just got up, and Kim seems to be still asleep. Me, I've been up and working for a while now (you know how it is).

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  6. Annette, that really was an intervention from the idea gods! With your own, evil twist. Love it.

    In the early 90's my friend Karen and I started traveling to consumer sewing shows together, eventually as vendors and teachers. Our very first show where we had a (shared) booth was one for the record books, because 1) we had no idea what we were doing, 2) I ended up with what was probably pneumonia, 3) it was Halloween weekend in Detroit, back when that was a scary time, and 4) two guys had rooms across the hall from us, and they were sharing a prostitute back and forth down the hall. This happened in Novi, which is not Detroit proper, but a pretty nice suburb, and we certainly didn't expect such a thing at a Doubletree.

    The woman went from room to room, and the guys did, too, knocking loudly, and hollering through the door every time. That was bad enough, and lasted for nearly two hours, but then they decided not to pay her. Hooboy. We had called the front desk three times already, with no success, but this time they finally sent a cop. In the meantime, I was miserable, trying to sleep through some cold medicine Karen had gotten me, and having no luck at all.

    Needless to say, the next day was not pretty.

    Then there was the very nice Marriott in Indianapolis, where we shared a room once again, and the walls were absolutely paper thin. I would not have been surprised to know there was nothing but drywall between. The couple in the next room may or may not have been on their honeymoon, the sex was that frequent all night long. Luckily, they were only there one night (or too worn out to have sex again).

    People go to hotels sometimes just to have sex. I've been unlucky enough to hear about it many times. I can only hope I have not also overshared my own happy times when I've traveled with my husband!! LOL

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    1. Oh my gosh, that is so bleak! And you just get more and more and more and more tired… And that is so… Sad. Awwwwww. It’s a great story now, but not so much at the time.

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    2. I agree with Hank. Great story...AFTER you've caught up on your sleep!

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    3. I keep trying to think of a way to use it!

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    4. Aw, Karen, how miserable. There is nothing worse than getting sick on the road when you have professional obligations. But the guys sharing the prostitute up and down the hall is great story material!

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  7. Annette, FAIR GAME sounds like a winner! Time for me to get caught up with Zoe--maybe by fair season!

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  8. What a great premise for a plot. It takes a true mystery writer to take something annoying like unwanted noise in the next hotel room, and turn it into an idea for a book.

    I've just started reading your books and am on the second one in the series. Can't wait to get to this one!

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  9. Welcome Annette! And congrats on the Agatha nom. I'm a very light sleeper so I dread having bad neighbors in hotels...so glad you were able to make the best out of your bad night.

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  10. Washington, DC: we were in room 666 and our neighbors put their screaming baby in a crib next to the connecting door. Screaming all night long.

    Arlington, VA: The man and woman in the next room were either trying to reconcile or the woman was undergoing an intervention. The shouting and sobbing started at 4pm and lasted until 2am, when I went down to the lobby and asked for a security guard. We were moved to a different room so I never learned whether things worked out or not.

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    1. Wow, Margaret. Just...WOW.

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    2. Margaret, I'm thinking the room number of the first hotel was a tip=off that things weren't going to go well... :-)

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    3. I shared a wall with a screaming baby once in Oklahoma City. I'd been out late at a concert by a friend, and the baby woke up with a plague of demons or something about 3 am. I felt sorry for the parents until about 3:30, after which I started thinking of smothering whomever I could reach with a pillow.

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    4. Gigi, THAT is the kind of thing that helps me understand my killers' motivation.

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  11. Hi, Annette! OMG do I relate to this. Yes, I've heard a lot of stuff I wish I hadn't. Vigorous intercourse (not the verbal kind). A man beating a woman (I called for security and the police came.) TV shows with laugh tracks. It's unavoidable. Often Thursday night is quiet and peaceful (business travelers) and then all hell breaks loose Fri/Sat. *NEVER* accept Room 212 on the 21st floor of a NYC hotel. Because your phone will ring all night, people dialing the local area code (212) without dialing 9 first. Speaking from experience. Though when I complained at the desk they comped me for a night.

    I love that your new book is set at a fairgrounds with a school bus demolition derby... Is that, as they say, for reals???

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    1. Hallie, amazing!who’d have thought that about 212?

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    2. YES, Hallie, school bus demo derby is very for real! And fun!

      Thanks for the tip about 212. I bet that applies for other area codes/hotels as well.

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  12. I can't even remember the last time I stayed in a hotel but my son, who travels for his work, often does, so I'll have to ask him what he has heard.
    Hank's hotel shower experience reminded me of the time my son was in the shower and the power went out, which he didn't know. Suddenly everything was pitch black and he thought he had gone blind!
    My sister had an experience while camping - the couple in the next tent were loud and probably drunk,and amorous besides. All night long, or so it seemed, the woman moaned "you're breaking my back."

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    1. Oh, I have a gazillion camping stories. People really do NOT realize that tents don't have REAL walls!

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    2. Judi, your poor son! How scary that must have been!

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    3. And Annette, EXACTLY why I don't go camping...xoxoo

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  13. When we stayed in London, we heard a man and woman fighting in the next room. When he started hitting her we heard a young crying and trying to stop him. We called downstairs as soon as the hitting started. The hotel stopped the beating and asked the family to leave in the morning. While we were in the lobby, the woman begged to let them stay. She said it would be worse for her to be kicked out. They were visiting from another country. Such a sad story.

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  14. Annette, welcome to Jungle Reds! And happy book birthday!

    Regarding hotels, it sounds like you stayed in a hotel with very thin walls? I often hear stories about people living in apartments being able to hear conversations in other apartments.

    There was a bizarre story on the news some years ago about someone staying in a hotel and someone in the next room was unloading a gun when the bullet went through the wall and hit the person!

    At my first mystery convention, I got really sick staying at a hotel and I think it was the new paint/new carpet/new furniture smells that made me sick.

    Do you encounter problems when you stay at an airbnb place or only at hotels?

    Diana

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    1. Airbnbs present their own set of issues. I'll have to save those for another blog (and another book perhaps!)

      But yes, I became horribly ill after staying at a very new hotel once and am pretty sure it was the chemicals in the building materials.

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    2. That happened to me once staying at a lovely inn on Vinylhaven (an island here in Maine.) I kept smelling this absolutely piercing odor that was making me feel nauseous and light-headed. Ross and the kids were in the same room - it didn't bother them. I would up going out to the porch and spending the wee hours of the night curled up on a loveseat in the fresh air. I never did figure out what it was, and why I was the only person affected.

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    3. I was a guest at a conference once and had to ask to be moved to a different hotel. It was so embarrassing, but there was something in the cleaning chemicals the hotel used that made me horribly sick.

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    4. Yes, when we were in Paris I had to leave the hotel. It was a gorgeous hotel, but the entire room smelled like bleach. Jonathan said he couldn't smell it, and I tried to be a good sport, but it was awful. (The hotel we moved to was fantastic, so all good.)

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  15. I've often wondered what people think when they overhear my conversations. :)

    ROOT OF ALL EVIL started with an overheard cell phone conversation - because people talk loudly on phones and don't consider what others might think, just like hotel rooms.

    Would I call? Depends on the tone of voice and other factors. Sometimes you can tell a person's not serious, you know?

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    1. And you and I need to be careful when we room together. We'd be the ones being investigated for planning murders and hiding bodies!

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    2. Exactly--mystery authors sharing a room? Yikes!

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  16. I caused the weirdness when I called the Phoenix police regarding the disposal of a 1960s era grenade that was in our hotel room.

    Mom and I had to clean out my brother's room while he was on hospice and found one of the empty grenades that our uncle brought back from Vietnam. Even though I knew it was empty and there was no pull pin, I couldn't just leave it in the hotel dumpster for someone to find so I called the police who came and stayed with me until the bomb squad could arrive with a vehicle to safely transport the grenade. They were going to take to disposal area and use it for firing practice. I kinda wish I could have gone with them and taken some shots myself as a re!ease after being in Phoenix hotel room for more than a week.

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  17. Hi Annette! What a cool concept. I can hardly wait to read this one.

    Eavesdropping doesn’t work for me because of my hearing loss, but some ladies at Magna Cum Murder have great stories to share about this. I always look forward to hearing their latest hilarious stories.

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    1. Thanks, Cathy. Do you lip read? I'm thinking you could probably pick up on interesting conversations that way too.

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    2. Annette, yes, I lip read. It’s not 100% reliable because many sounds look alike but I can sometimes pick up on parts of other people’s conversations that way, at least the ones that are facing me. What I can’t see, I can make up. LOL. Yes, I am easily amused.

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  18. Congratulations, Annette. The book sounds irresistible and is going right on my list. I don't have a hotel "overheard" story but I do have a couple of others. 1. Years ago, at a modest but definitely not sleazy motel (I was at a suburban conference) - I went for a walk, came back and didn't remember my room number. Desk attendant told me without any identification. And I had never seen that staff member before. If I'd seen it in a movie -someone looking for someone who does to want to be found - I'd have said, "No way. Hotels don't hand out Room numbers just like that." Someday I will use this! 2.Big deal work retreat - whole large office plus partners! Very posh resort! Middle of night phone call from security asking if everything ok, a loud fight had been reported from our area and not sure which room. Hmm. Among this very, very Type A, careerist crowd, someone had completely lost it? What was really going on?

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    1. Triss, BOTH of those sound like great story-starters! (Not as nice to actually experience, though.)

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    2. Lesson I learned from Rhys: use your phone to take a photo of your room number!

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    3. Hank, I keep forgetting to do that! Brilliant!

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  19. A couple of years ago, my daughter gave me a night at a cool local hotel as a birthday gift. This was one of the first 1940s "motor lodges", designed by a famous architect. It had been renovated and for a few years was a really cool place to stay for a writing retreat--but the walls were paper thin. Gigi Norwood had come to meet me for dinner that night, and while I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, the couple in the room next door came in and had (according to Gigi) very loud and very very quick sex. With my head in the sink and the water running, I never heard a thing. Lucky me.

    Annette, I love the premise for your book! I'm going to have to start your series from the beginning! Happy pub week!

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    1. This story is completely true. It happened that time we heard Guy Forsyth out by the pool. The sex couldn't have lasted more than two minutes, but everybody seemed to be happy by the end.

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    2. Thank you, Deborah! And your story gives whole new meaning to the term "quickie."

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  20. Yes, I am writing a short story now abut an overheard conversation. I was SO annoyed, listening to it--and . then I thought--wait. This is fabulous. I am going to write it all down. Which I did. :-) People are sometimes so self-involved, they have no idea what can be heard. Luckily for us.

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    1. I LOVE overheard conversations, Hank! I get the best ideas from them!

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  21. Hotels are the best for eavesdropping! My bestie and I were once hanging in Hollywood in a hotel on Sunset Blvd. After a night of carousing, we passed out only to be awakened at three in the morning by the couple next door having a ripper of a fight. So of course my groggy roommate started singing Captain and Tenielle at top volume, "Love, love will keep us together..." I'm pretty sure I expired from laughter at that moment and this is actually my corpse posting ;-)

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  22. I was staying at a hotel in Kansas City once, with Chess, the dog I think of as my Warrior Dog. He's very protective, although super-sweet if you meet him properly. He had been Mr. Perfect through the whole stay, not barking in the room or causing any fuss. But on the final night of our stay the folks down the hall decided to bring the party back to the hotel with them, and two ladies ended up in the hall, right outside my door, loudly discussing who had done what to whom at what must have been a class or family reunion. That was more than Chess could handle. We gave them ten minutes to move on down the hall, and then Chess went up to the door and let out one loud, snarling flurry of barks. There was dead silence in the hall for a moment, and then the women muttered something about probably calling it a night, and moved on. I don't imagine they expected to be barked at.

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  23. Back in the 70s while we lived in El Paso we stopped at a motel in some small town in southeastern New Mexico. I don't think we slept much. Most of the night men were out in the parking lot yelling and throwing punches. Frank had his gun on the bedside table, just in case. I think he was still with the Border Patrol at the time. Ooh. That reminds me of just this past January. We stayed at a motel in Anderson, SC. Came back from dinner and there was yelling and shouting coming from next door. A woman and child and a man and woman flinging abuse at each other. The police showed up and everyone left, not to return. Hooray! The best conversation I never got to hear the end of happened at an airport in NYC. I was waiting for an overseas flight and this lady was talking on her phone to her son in Ireland. He was getting married and she was angry about everything. She wasn't allowed to invite very many people; the new inlaws were. She felt "disrespected" and was not shy about letting her son know about it. This harangue went on for a good ten minutes until she got up and walked across the way to stand by the windows. I wish I could have followed to hear more. It was better than a soap opera! Annette, I've had your books in my sights for quite a while. One of these days. . .

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    1. Soon, I hope, Pat! :-) People act like they have some sort of privacy shield around them when they talk on their phones. Sorry, folks. We really CAN hear every word you're saying!

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    2. And how about the people who use their speaker phones?? AMazing.

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  24. In A very nice Vegas hotel, I was awakened at 5 am by two drunk guys who had been up all night drinking and gambling, and they came back to their room to grab their luggage to go to the airport. But the one guy passed out. His buddy yelled at him to get up so they could make their flight, no reaction. Finally the (relatively) sober one began to beat the drunk to a pulp. Terrifying to hear. When I had the phone in my hand, the buddy gave up and left. The drunk guy groaned for a while and went to sleep. I am still bothered by the outcome. Did he get home? Did they remain friends??

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    1. They were shooting one of those buddy movies, so they both got married in the end.

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    2. Yikes. There's a entire novel there, Nancy. Or at least a good short story!

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  25. I heard plenty of noise in hotel rooms when I was traveling but no real words. Since I've lived in a double house all my life, I don't have to travel to hear things. The current neighbors can be noisy but usually not that late or early. I seldom can make out words but sometimes can identify music.

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    1. The bass right? SO difficult to ignore.. thump thump thump.

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  26. A few years back my husband and I were traveling in the deep SmÃ¥land forests of southern Sweden. There weren’t many hotels. Finally we found an old motel with separate cottages with two guest rooms in each, separated by a small hallway. It was all somewhat eco-gothic, with vast dark forests for miles around and smelled vaguely of things decomposing. We realized soon that the room next to us was inhabited by a young and ... vigorous couple. Of course, taking into consideration their youth and passion we tried to ignore the noise when it started. For the first few hours we were very patient. 5 hours into the breathlessly bright Scandinavian night we were still not able to sleep. 6 hours in they even louder. Finally, at 5 in the morning they abruptly stopped. Just like that. We blearily looked at each other, and whispered about the possibility that they may have expired blissfully together. Then, we heard some shuffling in the hallway right next to other door followed by a quick retreat into their pine-paneled bower. I just had to look. What had they left next to our door?? When I carefully peeked through the door I found their sex toys plugged in and charging in the outlet next to our door.

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    1. OMG. I'm rolling on the floor laughing!

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    2. Ahhhhhhhh I am trying to un-know this...:-)

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  27. I clearly need to get out more. I haven't heard anything to put in a book. I have learned to book a room by myself at conferences to get better sleep. Once I booked a second room in the middle of my first sleepless night, in order to get rest before the drive home. A snow storm closed the highway, so my roommate invited a stranded traveler to share the room with her. In the morning, the woman accidentally put on my friend's bra, so they became "bosom buddies" inadvertently.   I once noted that the room across the hall from me was filling up with pre-teen girls and birthday party decorations. To my relief, they were quiet, polite neighbors, and in the morning I introduced myself and told the mother of the birthday girl how lovely they had been.   (I couldn't make the comments on the blog work -- I'll try again later).

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    1. Mary, looks like the comments are working for you now! :-) Great road trip stories!

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  28. We can’t forget it either! Plot twist: When we checked out the owner asked if we had slept well.

    Me: No, our neighbors made loud love all night.
    Owner: .... but....they’re.... girls?!

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    1. Quick trip into the 21st century for the owner!

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