Soviet room

This item appears on page 53 of the November 2009 issue.

Tell ITN about the funniest thing that ever happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. There are no restrictions on length. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) The ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.

This month’s winner is JIM HENDRICKSON of Lynden, Washington:

When I first visited the Russian Federation, it was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or, simply, the Soviet Union. Those were the days when tourists experienced many inconveniences as they traveled around that largest country in the world.

I remember experiencing a major inconvenience after checking into a Moscow hotel during those Soviet days. As I opened the door to my room, I instantly smelled a terrible odor of smoke, which permeated the entire place. A large ashtray atop my night table confirmed that this was, indeed, a smoking room. I am a dedicated nonsmoker.

I called down to the reception desk for some assistance. Within minutes a hotel employee knocked on my door. He spoke in broken English.

“Sir, I help you?” he said.

“Yes,” I answered. “I wanted a nonsmoking room, and this is a smoking room.”

Without the slightest hesitation, he grabbed the ashtray from the night table and said, “Now, no-smoke room. Okay?”