With the success Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Triology, Sweden–especially the west–has been placed on the map as a literary destination for those readers who indulge in crime novels. Apparently (and unfortunately), some hotels have taken this as a cue to transform their accommodations into settings for this genre.
It was close to midnight when we arrived in Gothenburg. My wife had our infant strapped to her chest; I pushed the pram that was loaded with our luggage over the cobblestones. We were looking for the Hotel Royal. The street was dark and menacingly quiet.
“Do you know where the Hotel Royal is?” I asked a couple strolling secretly behind us.
“I believe it is this way,” said the man, pointing straight ahead.
“We will show you,” said the woman.
My wife and I looked at one another; we were dubious of their kindness. The couple engaged us in small talk and delivered us to the front door of our hotel like perfect ambassadors of Gothenburg.
The Hotel Royal felt like it belonged in a Jack Nicholson film, missing only the sanguine of REDRUM graffitied to its walls. The carpet was ancient, the tiled floor antique, and if this were the board game Clue, the elevator, which announced the floors in a creepy feminine voice, would have been all three answers to the mystery that each player seeks: the place of murder, the weapon used, and the killer.
When we arrived to our room–one that hadn’t been updated since the hotel’s last renovation, probably dating back to when the Cold War began, or at least before the introduction of IKEA–I looked for a safe deposit box to lock away our passports, cash, and other valuables, like my iPad. Unlike most hotels in Europe, at least in that price range, there was no safe. But I had remembered reading statistics about Scandinavian education and crime. These countries always ranked highest on the lists for most educated and least crime. Didn’t they?
Nevertheless, I jammed all of our valuables at the bottom of my bag, beneath the laundry, and laid down next to my wife. We woke at 1:00 am. There was shouting in the street; then someone shattered a window.
The next day, we ventured out into the city, passing the storefront with one missing panel of glass. When we returned to the Hotel Royal, I dug through my backpack for my iPad. But when I went to punch in my passcode, the only words that appeared on the screen were something like “This iPad has been disabled.”
That’s strange, I thought. This has never happened before. What could have possibly disabled my iPad?
Using the internet on my phone, I searched for the answer. This could only result from a person typing in the wrong passcode too many times, every internet page informed me. The explanation continued: Wait one minute and the iPad will most likely be able to be used.
A minute passed and my iPad’s screen offered the same mysterious message. I kept reading.
In the case that your iPad does not allow you to type in your passcode, it’s probably because some asshole waited that minute and then continued entering more incorrect passcodes. In that case, you’ll need to reset the device back to factory settings and reinstall everything using your back-up. The iPad gave no option to return to factory settings and I wasn’t even sure if I had a proper back-up as the message that displayed the last time I plugged in my iPhone (which was synched with my iPad) read: This device hasn’t been backed up in 30 weeks. You some lazy or risky, dumbass, ain’t ya?
I called the front desk and informed the man working the night shift about my situation and suspicions. According to all the websites that I had read about disabled iPads–from Apple’s troubleshoot page to So You Tried to Hack Into Some Dude’s iPad–everyone affirmed that some unethical human was involved. I had to presume that this individual worked for the hotel.
The receptionist apologized and said that he would call the manager. Five minutes later my phone rang.
“Yes. Hello, this is the hotel manager calling. I hear that you had an unfortunate incident,” he said.
“I did.” I walked him through the events and my conclusion.
“I’m quite shocked by this,” he said. “The person who cleans the rooms is the daughter of the owner. She has been with us for years. I have known her for decades. She would never do something like this.”
Then he stopped talking and I waited for his customer service skills to kick in, for him to shed his emotional attachment to this housekeeper and help me with my problem. But he said nothing more.
“So what are you going to do about this?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t know what you would like me to do. She would never do something like this. Never, never, never.”
“It doesn’t really sound like you believe me,” I told him.
“No, I believe that this happened. But she would never do this. Never, never, never. Maybe you left your room open?” he asked, trying to pass the blame onto the customer who was apparently never, never, never right.
“I did not leave the room open,” I told him, recalling the pain in the ass it had been to open the door prior to my discovery of the disabled iPad.
“Did you give us the key?” he asked, referring to their policy of dropping the key off every time you leave the hotel.
“I gave you the key.”
“Maybe you didn’t lock the door.”
“We went through this,” I said.
“Well, I assure you, it wasn’t the owner’s daughter. Why would she do that?”
Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe because she’s the owner’s daughter and she can’t get into trouble because dickheads like you run the place and think she’s an angel. Or maybe because she’s looking for a way to get out of having to clean rooms like Cinderella and just inherit her parent’s fortune when they kick the bucket.
The manager told me that he would speak to the owner and get back to me first thing in the morning… at 10:00 am.
“I’m catching a bus at 9:00 am,” I told him. “Why don’t you meet me downstairs at eight?”
“Absolutely,” he said.
The following morning, I ate the most disgusting breakfast at Hotel Royal, waited for the manager to meet with me, though he never did me this courtesy, and then left the crime scene for my bus.
When I returned to the States, I had to visit the Apple store because my iPad still would not allow me to return it to factory settings. Greg from the Genius Bar had to take it behind the bar to bypass the security screen.
“Could this have happened any other way?” I asked Greg, slightly doubting my certainty and worrying that I had invented a culprit. Maybe it got disabled in my bag?
“No. Somebody had to do it,” Greg said. “It’s a royal pain in the butt.”
(Okay, Greg didn’t actually say “It’s a royal pain in the butt.” But everything else is true. I just needed some way to offer closure to this bad crime story perpetrated by a bad criminal at a really bad hotel. Furthermore, what if Hollywood comes calling? There’s money in sequels. While I’m setting records straight, the picture above isn’t the Hotel Royal; it’s just a house photographed by ALW Butler that looked appropriate for a crime. I should add, I would rather stay at that house than the worst hotel in Gothenburg.)