Hotel room-number obsession

I write this one not just as a sufferer, but 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 often revolves around certain room numbers being ‘bad’ or ‘dirty’, and therefore avoided. ‘Bad’ numbers can be even or odd, sometimes as they are or when added up. For example, ‘Room 3172’ is 3+1+7+2=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 obsessions, and now want to help other people struggling in any way I can. Of course, at the time I didn’t mention anything outside of my job role.

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.

Numbers give me horrible thoughts. This gives me anxiety and guilt.

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 5-star hotels between 350-450 bedrooms.

I remember guests checking in and after giving them their room key, doing the math in their head. They would close their eyes or look up to the ceiling 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’.

I didn’t ask why. I assumed it was due to intrusive thoughts. 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 the names 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 others 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 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 elevator. A leaflet in the drawer. Let those suffering in silence know they aren’t alone, nor do they have to do the compulsions.

They say silence is violence. To me, silently letting OCD get away with punishing us in any way it can- is violence I no longer want to endure. And I know many others feel the same way.

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Disclaimer: Articles contain lived experience and research but cannot be used to diagnose. Diagnosis can only be obtained from a licensed professional.

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