" . . . Really, What's in an Old Worn-Out Motel Sign . . .?"
This sign in its sublime setting with its rusty exterior, and unbowed posture, reminds me of three distinguishable things in my younger years: One, how cheap a motel room looked where my wife and eleven-year-old daughter stayed one night on our yearly one-week vacation. Two, how miserable my eleven-year-old daughter and I were that long, hot night and three, how overjoyed my daughter and I were to get out of a place somewhere in North Carolina named The Arrowhead Lodge.
I can name the run-down motel here for this was 29, no, make it 30 years ago and if I am any judge of run-down motels, The Arrowhead Lodge now, is either a landfill or just a stretch of old concrete on the side of a mountain road. No, I am not going to lie. I am not sad for whatever happened to this place that should have paid us to stay there. It was really that bad.
Checking in was our first mistake. The clerk was not American Indian as I was led to believe by the hand-made colorful sign that hung in plain sight and read . . .”Clean Rooms! Cheap! Air Conditioned!” One out of three is not good. The clerk was a nice middle-age lady. I never got her name for I never asked for it. I had a tough time explaining that I wanted only “one” room with two beds. I took the blame for her not being able to understand what I needed. She called her angry husband who made things worse with his sharp tongue that he knew I couldn’t interpret. I saw this as unfair—using their language and not telling me what they were saying.
His wife finally understood my request when I casually-threatened to leave with the cash she seen in my hand and we were on our way to what we thought was going to be a good night. Any seasoned-vacationer can tell you that a good night’s sleep is the cure-all for life’s problems. Oh, the room set me back $48.00. Even with my pointing to their sign that read . . .”Rooms $35.00.” I guess the extra thirteen-bucks was the lodge tax. Or I looked like a fresh, rural jackass who had just ran off from his life on the rutabaga farm.
My daughter and I took turns poking easy fun at the room before my wife opened the door. I had not drank any beer that day, so I can pretty much recall that there was this bet that was made between my daughter and I for the amount of $20-dollars to the one who was more-correct about how crummy the room would really be. Now it comes clear. My daughter won pillows down. I thought to myself that God had given her a special clairvoyance at her birth for how right she was in describing the room from its fake pine paneling to the Zenith black and white television (with only five channels) on a handy cart which was an engineering mystery for the cord from the wall was only a full two-feet in length. So why the cart? The television couldn’t be moved that far. I guess the fluent-tongued owners did their best to make their lovable “rathole” motel look as modern as possible.
Before I go any further, I was telling you about the comical signs that were hanging in plain-sight at this dump-of-a-motel. I did see the funniest sign of all about ten feet from our pit, err, I mean room. The sign read . . .”Sorry. No alcohol allowed.” It hit me as I read this warning: The motel owners could have “made a killing,” (bad analogy. Sorry) selling cold beer to drinking patrons for the more-discerning patrons like us, could have drank until they would have thought that their shabby room was a room in Trump Plaza. Note: drinking beer or any alcohol would not have helped me hallucinate that our room was even decent.
If the motel you are thinking about visiting is on a list like this . . .BEWARE
When it came time for us to get our showers, not at one time, for we were not brazen barbarians, my wife and I allowed our daughter to go first. We were nice parents. Suddenly we heard a deathly-scream. We thought that our daughter had found a rattlesnake or maybe a gila monster hiding in the shower, but when we inspected the shower, we found a good amount of human blood. That did it for our daughter, the clean freak for this was sight was far worse than the little amount of dust on her to chance turning on the water in this place. In retrospect, a rattlesnake or gila monster would have been welcomed sights, believe me.
I tried to call the clerk, but she either didn’t know how to answer an American telephone or just didn’t want to since my family and one more family were the only ones in the place, so it didn’t make any sense for her to do anything to make our stay more comfortable. I mean, that in itself would take a crew of professional motel “doctors” a week or more to make our stay more comfortable. I took it on myself to walk back to the office and patiently-attempt to explain to the clerk that we did not like human blood anywhere in our room.
If you ever face a situation like we did, be good to these guys
I should have stayed in the room and toughed it out. The lady clerk, the same one I had met earlier that afternoon was more-passive in listening to my problem, so she asked, “you want more room?” “More room?” I snapped. “No, ma’am. I cannot wait to get out of the one we are in.”
Then I understood her. She wanted to know if we wanted another room. I couldn’t help but reply, “Only if there is no human blood inside the shower.” She “could” understand English for she laughed at my comeback.
My wife, the patient one in our family suggested that we just stay in our room because it was so late and we were so tired and somehow, that made sense. With several cups of hot water the human blood came right off the shower walls. So what was I so upset about? Human blood was used to cover the rust and filthy shower walls.
We tried to get our minds off of our dilemma by watching the Zenith black and white television, but that was a dead-end idea. You will not believe this. Three of the five stations signed-off at 11 p.m., eastern time. So that left us to stare at the ceiling which was the only part of the room where dirt was not embedded. We chatted mildly as we grew drowsy. Sleeping that night for me was an act of faith because I had feared that a gang of rats who had been watching us would sneak out of from underneath our bed and steal our clothes. I did hear some unnatural scratching during the night, but I never opened my mouth.
Watching the sun rise the next morning had to be “the” most-beautiful sight my eyes had ever beheld. In a few short hours I kept thinking, we would be set free from this prison and be free to ride the roads ahead in North Carolina just like any vacationing family would do. I did not even desire to take a last nap in this place with outdated carpet or maybe that was human blood too and we were too tired to notice.
After packing the car, I walked back to the office to give whomever was there the vintage plastic room key. What a rewarding walk that was. Behind the desk was the lady from the day before. She must have had insomnia for she looked drained, but that was not my concern. I wanted out of there before we contracted some deadly disease.
When I gave her the key, she said, “Ten dollar please.” “Whatttt?” I said. “Ten dollar,” she repeated. “What for?” I replied loudly. “Use phone last night,” she said. “No, ma’am. I did not use the phone,” I said. Then it occurred to me. Call my wife, the patient one. She will solve this stupidity. And sure enough she did by simply pulling-out the receipt that the lady had given me and I had (that time) the good sense to give the receipt to my wife.
“Now what do you say?” I asked.
The motel lady did not return a word. Not even an insincere apology. I helped myself to a cup of cold coffee although the sign read . . .”Fresh, hot coffee!” What was this place, a cash trap for rubes like me?”
Was I ever glad to leave this place. I started breathing easier the further away we got.
Oh by the way, there was a gang of rats in our room after all. Their names were “Harold,” “Betsy,” and “Fred.”
As I said farewell to this rodent family, “Harold” told me, “We were going to sneak out from underneath your bed (laughing hard) and steal your clothes, but we figured that you had suffered enough, so we took pity on you.”
A refelctive thought on our one-night stay . . .
I have often wondered if maybe things would have turned out better if “Harold” and his family had run this place.