7 ways to while away the time while stuck in quarantine
You booked your ticket, boarded your flight, and Oopsies! now find yourself quarantined in a soulless hotel room serving out a government-imposed confinement. What to do with all the unplanned downtime? Don’t feel sorry for yourself; try these 7 ways to pass the time with no extra equipment beyond the courtesy items found in most hotel rooms and the contents of your carry-on luggage. With a little imagination, these projects will transform your sad, lonely stay into a thrilling 14-day creativity retreat.
If you’re a fan of William Burroughs or John Cage, you’ll love this sort of artless art. The basic philosophy is to create something unintentionally: you just do the drudgery, and chance will provide the aesthetic content. Taking mundane sources such as local guides, in-house magazines, and yesterday’s newspaper, you can deconstruct the texts and imbue them with new meaning by reassembling them randomly on the page. Depending on your point of view, the result could be great literature, inspired nonsense, or total garbage, but with a bit of luck you’ll find some kind of bizarre logic in there somewhere.
Warning: The creator of this form of literature was notoriously inspired by his use of illicit substances.
What you need:
Local guides and leaflets
Newspapers and magazines from the lobby
Tip: Naked teapot
Cut random words and phrases from your texts and store them in a clean, dry coffeepot. Give this a thorough shake, and pull out cuttings one by one, sticking them neatly onto the paper in the order they come out—don’t be tempted to read them at this stage. Continue until you run out of words, paper, or patience. Now try reading the results. Weird, huh?
Staples: Sugar glue
Sugar glue is the hotel hobbyist’s adhesive of choice, using a cunning formula that combines sugar (found in packages in most hotel rooms) and water (found in all but the most basic hotels) to create a strong glue. Mix two parts sugar with one part hot water to form a thick syrup that hardens as it cools.
The main problem with mind-numbing boredom is just that—if you’re not careful, your brain degenerates into a vegetative state in a matter of minutes—so it’s vital to keep the little gray cells ticking away. There’s no better form of intellectual gymnastics than a hard-fought battle on the chessboard—but how much more satisfying it is to play the game of kings with a set you’ve made yourself. Ok, you’re in self-isolation, so you’re going to have to play yourself, but some consolation is the rule that every time you take a piece, you have to drink.
What you need:
Bottles from the minibar (use caps for pawns)
Scraps of paper
Join four napkins together and mark the eight-by-eight chessboard with a felt-tip pen.
To distinguish between black and white, use clear bottles contrasted with brown or green, or simply play gin versus whiskey, for example. If it’s a problem finding all 32 pieces you can easily manage with 16 by using the caps as pawns.
Stick on scraps of paper and toothpicks to create the distinguishing marks for each piece—a cross for the king, crown for the queen, mitre for the bishop, pennant and shield for the knight, crenulations for the rook.
Grand Master Smirnoff (white) and Johnny Walker (black) do battle. This is the first time they have faced each other across (or under) the table. Expect a spirited match, Smirnoff moving like a well-oiled machine and Walker playing a very tight game.
Sugar Zen Garden
Using sugar from packets on your coffee tray spread it out in an ashtray or soap dish to make your Zen garden and rake it with a fork. Make different patterns every day for the length of your stay, going for especially auspicious patterns to encourage a positive outcome for that important phone call for help to your local embassy, requests to your parents to wire more money, your teeth-chattering Covid chills to subside, or an agreeable airline to fly you out of the third world purgatory you now find yourself in. Place the finished garden in the appropriate corner of the room for the intended enterprise and make sure it has an uninterrupted, energizing light source.
What you need:
Ashtray or soap dish
Sugar (brown and white)
TIP: Yin/Yang Garden
The yin/yang symbol is a great centering image for the jet-lagged and dislocated. If possible, use brown and white sugar to get a nice, balancing yin/yang thing going. Wet some of the sugar so it clumps into rocks. In the Zen tradition, rocks are used to signify treasure islands.
This game’s so old; they were doing it on cave walls in the Stone Age. You just need a light source and a wall to project onto. Close the curtains, switch on the desk lamp, and point it at a clear space on the wall, then make shapes with your hands. With practice, you’ll soon be able to make recognizable animal shadows. Add your own sound track and you have the makings of a great evening’s entertainment.
What you need:
Thought you’d be hitting the links on your trip south? Perhaps not as scenic, but olive minigolf guarantees a game whenever you want, and because you design your own course, you can play to your strengths or practice your weaker strokes. Another attraction is the eccentric aerodynamic characteristic of the olive. Any fool can play with a round ball, but it takes a real pro to cope with a knobbly oval—putting presents a particular challenge, especially on carpet.
What you need:
Creamers and sugar from the coffee tray
Tip: Course Design
Good course design is vitally important to a satisfactory round of olive minigolf. The right mix of straightforward and tricky holes, scenic fairways, and interesting hazards makes all the difference. A nice touch is to place the final green just next to the minibar, so you can have a celebratory shot at the nineteenth hole.
Roughly map out a course around your hotel room floor. It’s probably a bit ambitious to go for the full eighteen holes, so aim for nine. Try to get as much variety as possible—different lengths, doglegs, etc.
Use the little creamers from your coffee set as holes, then add a few hazards. Use sugar as a sand trap, a towel for the rough, and fill an ashtray to create a water hazard.
Work out a par for each hole, and a name. Maybe give yourself a handicap (as if you need any more handicaps!).
Place an olive at the beginning of the course, and tee off. Use teaspoons, coffee mixers, toothbrushes, and nail files as clubs (you’ll soon discover which make good drivers, wedges, or putters).
Make your way around the course, keeping a scorecard. End with a sniffer or two at the clubhouse, recounting the tale of the near hole-in-one at the long sixth, or the incident of the pigeon on the balcony at the third green.
Cell Phone Snap
This has more to do with those “spot the difference” puzzles in newspaper fun pages than the card game Snap, but the principle is the same. First of all, you need to call an influencer in another room or hotel and challenge him or her to a game. You then take turns photographing stuff in your rooms, using the camera on your cell phone, trying to copy the image you’ve received. You’ll be amazed how much fun this is—especially the arguments over what constitute an acceptable true likeness.
What you need:
Influencer or friend in another hotel room
Tip: Beginners beware
Keep it simple to start off with, using things you know are found easily in any hotel room. This will lull your opponent into a false sense of security. But look around for anything unusual in your room (a void airline ticket, for example). Keep this up your sleeve until you’re ready to deliver the coup de grâce.
How to:Take a picture of an area of your room (dressing table, sink, etc.) and send it to your opponent.
Your opponent tries to match your picture precisely in his or her room, takes a picture, and sends it back to you.
If this matches, your opponent then takes a turn to add to—or subtly change—the arrangement and sends it for you to match… and so on.
Continue until one of you fails to give a satisfactory match (getting the layout wrong, missing an item, using an unacceptable substitute).
The goal is this game is to toss a sponge into a floating shower cap in order to gain points, wild applause, and fame—simple in concept but requiring patience, practice and perseverance to master. There are many different shots you can try out, ranging from the simple drop shot through slam dunks and bank shots, to over-the-shoulder lobs and trick shots bounced off the sink or toilet. And no need to shower after a hard game!
What you need:
Bathful of water
Open out a shower cap and float it upside down. Experiments show that bubble bath provides a good surface and keeps the shower cap from drifting. Bath salts are alleged to aid buoyancy, but this is not yet proven.
Take a sponge, small enough to fit easily into the shower cap, and squeeze it dry. Devise a points system: e.g., 1 for landing in shower cap, 2 for bouncing off a wall first, 3 for two walls, 4 for ricocheting around the rim of the toilet.
Throw the sponge, trying to land it in the shower cap. Depending on how athletic you’re feeling, this can be done from a standing position. Experienced hobbyists generally prefer to remain horizontal in the bath.
See how many points you can score before the bathwater gets cold. There are, of course, penalty points for sinking the shower cap or getting your big toe trapped in one of the taps.
Cannabis strain pairings:
Anything you can get your hands on (legally). You're stuck alone in a fucking hotel room; it's no time to get picky about your weed!
Back in 2005, creative-genius-on-a-shoestring, philosopher and soothsayer Marcus Weeks wrote Hotel Hobbies: 50 Things to do in a hotel room that won’t get you arrested. Sadly, this masterpiece of entertaining how-to wisdom is now out of print. Having reviewed the original book when it first came out in our print magazine, Heads Lifestyle contacted the author at the start of the pandemic. Here with his blessings, we bring you a few of our favourite hotel hobbies adapted from his book. Who could have predicted how timely these projects would prove to be, especially for those quarantined in hotel rooms rather than lounging on the beach in Cancun or some other sunshine destination.