Ian Mutch heads into Europe and discovers a brave new world of hi-tech bewilderment

We are moving deeper into a world of automation and there is no point  in challenging that, it’s just evolution but there are times when you think, ‘hang on this is counter productive, this is automation or technology for its own sake and actually the old fashioned way was really more efficient.’
Take my recent experience at a hotel in Switzerland.
I’d ridden so far; well, for so long at least, that I had had enough. I wasn’t going any further and all my ideas about finding the quintessential Swiss hotel with cuckoo clocks in every room and a personal penknife with a special blade  to cut your own holes in your after dinner cheese faded.
Seeing a large slightly brutal concrete building with the word
H-O-T-E-L  spelt out over five floors I  parked up and
stepped inside.
I could see no traditional reception but a machine set in the wall which invited guests to book in DIY style. I started with positive intentions of seeing it through but it would not accept that I was British and persisted in claiming I was Malaysian. I have nothing against Malaysians but I am just not  one. Soon I became fed up; I’d had endured several weeks of trial by bewilderment on many levels and really just wanted to go home. ‘Nein nein simple simple!’ insisted the bearded man from the managers office who virtually dragged me back to face the contraption of interrogation again.
Well give him his due he walked me through the whole process at the end of which the machine spat out two pieces of paper. One was a receipt for an eyewatering sum of money and the other featured a square picture a bit like a more imaginative bar code.
The manager grinned at me and sent me off with my trophies to explore the next level of bewilderment. Now there was a time when you got in a lift, pressed a button with a number corresponding to your floor and you went there. No no no laddie  you’re not getting off that easily. I pressed the number of my floor and stood waiting with the certainty of a man who has  thrown a coin in a wishing well but knows deep inside that nothing good is really going to happen.
I returned to the manager’s office, scrap of paper in hand. He laughed; it was a laugh I was to come to recognise. Together we scuttled off to the elevator where he showed me how I must hold the piece of paper with the sketch on it up to the little window and then press the number for the floor I want. Well of course! what a fool I had been. We laughed with mutual glee and off I went to my floor. Now in case you hadn’t spotted it there was a pattern developing here. Clearly  the piece of paper, like some scroll sealed with the king’s sealing wax and royal  crest was to be pressed into service again. It didn’t work. I held it against the window next to my door handle, I smoothed it out and pressed it flat. I turned it through 90 degrees; I turned it through 180 degrees. I presented it diagonally. I pirouetted swiftly in a circle and slapped it against the window to take it by surprise. Nothing happened; my door could not be opened.
Back to the manager’s office . More amused than annoyed he led me back to my room where he performed a pantomime of instruction. What I had not noticed in the lift was that he activated the window by stroking his hand across it before presenting the coded paper. Ah silly me!  My how we laughed again. All that was necessary now was to crouch quietly and listen like a safe cracker for the tell tale tumbling of mechanisms and hey presto  you’re in! Phew!
After all this I fancied a shower; time to relax with water therapy.  Holy shit what’s this ! I slid back a heavy glass door to reveal a large shower cabinet in the corner, doors open and glaring at me like some latter day ‘iron maiden’ see Chamber of Horrors / Spanish Inquisition.
Disrobing, I stepped inside and tried one of a multitude of controls, not counting the TV style remote above that I soon learned played a variety of music to be bewildered by. Unhappy with the temperature I continued to explore the plethora of options and seemed to be moving up the warmth scale when I unwisely twisted something that precipitated the closest thing to an aqua mugging I have yet experienced. Six jets aimed horizontal, in malicious tandem with a vertical ceiling rose, battered me with a spontaneous Niagara of iced water that sent me crashing howling out into the greater bathroom, slamming the doors shut before my whole apartment flooded and my bed sailed away to the strains of Julie Andrews.I stood for a while glaring at the closed doors of this cubicle of contempt as I carefully considered my next move.


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