I wrote this one not just as a sufferer. I’m also a witness to how many others go through this specific theme of obsessive thinking. Working in hotels throughout my twenties helped me realise that I wasn’t the only one with certain compulsions.
A hotel room-number obsession usually revolves around certain room numbers being bad and avoided. ‘Bad’ numbers can be even or odd, sometimes as they are of when added up. For example, ‘Room 3171’ is 3+1+7+1=13. 13 is considered a bad number for many.
Interestingly, a specific chain of hotels that I worked for had me checking in some guests with OCD-style behaviours. There are reasons as to why I feel this specific chain brought out these behaviours.
This realisation helped me. I felt less lonely about my own OCD, and wanted to help other people struggling in any way I can. It was probably a catalyst for creating this website.
I have always disliked certain numbers
Numbers mean something to me. I don’t want to get into the specifics because these ‘special’ numbers vary for everyone, despite coming from the same thought processes. I have made a more detailed post on my Numbers OCD article though if you would like to read it.
Numbers give me intrusive thoughts. This gives me anxiety and guilt. If I don’t reverse the thought I feel I am okay with the possibility of the thought becoming a reality.
The ‘wrong’ number can make me feel uneasy, and often contaminates the thing that I am doing. A ‘bad’ room number can contaminate a whole vacation.
It is more clear to me that this is a by product of OCD. Previously I would just get the room number from the receptionist and deal with it quietly. Although not very well.
I found many hotel guests had the same thought processes
I started working in a hotel at the age of 21 and did so until the age of 30. Seven hotels in three different countries ranging from 3 to 5 star-rating. Despite this there were only two hotels that I remember guests displaying behaviour similar to mine.
I won’t mention the chain of hotels, but they were hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne. Five star hotels with between 350-450 bedrooms.
I remember guests checking in and after giving them their room key, seeing them doing the math in their head. They would close their eyes or look up to the roof before telling me ‘sorry, this room won’t work. Can I have another one?’
I never added up the digits of a room number myself. My problem was having a number staring me in the face, such as the number 3 or 13. So if I was given room ’203‘, or ‘513‘, those would make me feel uncomfortable. It seems for some people, they have to go even deeper to find the room number is ‘good’.
The guests would never tell me why it wasn’t a good room.
And I didn’t ask as I knew it was due to intrusive thoughts. I could just tell. But this also saddens me, because I wonder how many of these guests knew they were having intrusive thoughts? Is this their normal?
When OCD has been a lifetime struggle, it is hard to know that it is something we can escape.
I have ideas as to why I only encountered this in hotels with four-digit room numbers. I guess it was happening in hotels with two or three digit room-numbers too… the math was simply easier to do. People didn’t have to take as long to count the numbers.
Superstition also played a part
The two hotels in question also accommodated certain airlines staying with us after their long haul flights.
Two of these airliners- I won’t mention their brands either- had many cabin crew that were superstitious. Often I would have guests request a room move as they felt a presence in the room or felt a ‘bad vibe’.
Many numbers are considered bad luck or demonic throughout the world. Some of these numbers are the same worldwide. I have always been interested in the relationship between superstition, religion and OCD, as they have many blurred lines between them.
Again, I didn’t question their requests, I just got on with it. It wasn’t my place to ask questions but make them feel at home as soon as I could.
Plus, with hundreds of people checking in over the course of the evening it wasn’t a big deal. I’ll give that room to someone else after housekeeping do a quick re-check.
To those suffering a hotel room-number obsession
It isn’t easy. Especially for those that travel with business countless times a month. This constant struggle with compulsions and intrusive thoughts can really be debilitating.
I would love more to be done to help people that aren’t aware of OCD- or other anxiety related disorders- that may not know they can get help.
Hotels check in millions of people every single day. And with a large chunk of the population suffering with OCD, it would be a great opportunity to display a poster in the lift. A leaflet in the drawer next to the bible. Let those suffering in silence know they aren’t alone, nor do they have to have do the compulsions.
They say silence is violence. And to me, silently letting OCD get away with punishing us in any way it can is violence I don’t want to feel anymore. And I know many others feel the same way.