Nobody wears a uniform at the Kirkland Inn, so you may have trouble finding someone to complain to about the air conditioning. No matter; it's useless to complain about the air conditioning, because there isn't any.

One can almost define the Kirkland in terms of what it does not offer its customers. Muzak in the elevators, for example -- there are no elevators. Your own personal shoeshine cloth in the bathroom. (the bathrooms are down the hall, not in your room.) Room service. (You get a new bar of soap and a fresh towel once a day; otherwise, nobody from the hotel's staff, which seems to consist entirely of a husband-and-wife team, ever comes near your room.) Television. (You can bring your own and plug it in, but none are provided.) Telephone in the room.(There is one on the first floor. You put a dime in it, a price which may seem delightfully old-fashioned to Washingtonians.)

What the Kirkland offers is a room with an adequate closet, bed, desk, chair and lamp for prices that begin at about $15 per day -- that and location. cThe office is at 67 Kirkland St. in Cambridge, Mass., but most of the rooms are in another house, around the corner on Irving Street -- the other end of Irving from the house where e.e. cummings was born. The Kirkland is within easy walking distance of Harvard Square -- the true hub of the universe, a few miles away from Boston, which arrogantly claims that title. Perhaps that is why the grafiti in the phone booth tend to be more literature than most examples of that art. And why each room offers an abundance of bookshelves -- in amenity I have never seen in any other hotel room. You have to supply your own books, however; the Kirkland doesn't even have a Gideon Bible.

Oh, yes, it also doesn't offer smiling round-the-clock service. If you don't check in before 11 p.m., when the owner-operators like to retire, it is better not to try to check in until the next morning. Ordinarily, they are reluctant to take home reservations, though they will do it if they know you well -- if, for example, you have been using the hotel regularly since the late '60s, when a room could be had for $6. u

If you do manage to get a room, it is a good idea to bring cash; the Kirkland Inn does not accept credit cards or checks.

Occasionally, one encounters an advertisement for a "basic" or "no frills" American hotel, where rooms can be had for under $30 but your television may not have color. Kirkland oldtimers (who tend to be foreigners or the kind of young people who travel with backpacks) smile indulgently when they read these ads.