Reid Bramblett - Travel Writer

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Thin Walls
11 July 1999

You name a noise, the guy in the room next to me is making it. It's 2 a.m., and he has been at it for the better part of an hour now. In fact, I'd wager good money that the body of the man in room 28 of the Hotel Pratic is emitting every sound possible outside of actual speech.

It began with a prolonged session of rat-a-tat's, a queer sound that would start off grouped into two long burbles, then repeat as a short burst, pause for several seconds, then start in again with the double long burbles. At first I thought it was some kind of weird Morse code. Then I realized it was snoring. Oh, great, I thought. He's going to snore at me all night.

Oh, how I wish he had merely kept it to snoring.

The man in room 28 soon took to harumphing and clearing his throat. He took to sniffling, snorting, and blowing his nose quite triumphantly and repeatedly. He took to wheezing, hacking, and making little strangling sounds, rounded out by a good stiff bout of coughing (which ended with the inevitable hocking of lugies; this popular pas de duex was encored several times throughout the evening). At one point engaged in a single, memorable sneeze that I don't think the residents of this Paris neighborhood will soon forget.

Then, at a certain point, he grew weary of the nose and throat division and began to explore the whole range of noises that upchucking afforded. First came the wet, squelching streams of vomit, splatting against the aluminum of what I can only assume is an identical copy of the tiny dustbin in my own room. This was followed by a protracted session of systematic, cyclical retching. Almost hypnotic. Almost rhythmic enough to lull me back to sleep. But then he had to go and finish it with a staccato series of irregular dry heaves. And just to be sure I was still awake, he ended with one large, reverberating — and somewhat relieved sounding — belch.

You thought it couldn't get worse, eh?

To top it all off, running like a melodic theme throughout the freakish aria that has become my evening's aural torture was his resounding, boisterous, earth-shattering, powerful, positively monumental flatulence. We're talkin' the sort of grandiose emission of noxious vapors that wakes up the neighbors (case in point); that registers on the Richter scale; that causes flowers to wilt. When this guy broke wind, it was a meteorological event.

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