A friend of mine came up with a novel idea for her anniversary: she was going to treat her husband to a night at "the cheapest, tackiest motel" she could find.
"Are you going to go, too?" I asked.
She responded with a look that told me she found my question completely tasteless, but she allowed me to go along on her search anyway. Finding what she was looking for was not as difficult as one might think. Y'see, our little community sits on a section of the Mother Road, the old Route 66. Back in the '50s, there were a large number of motels along the road, most of them catering to travelers just passing through on their way to Paradise (aka the West Coast). They fell into motel limbo when Interstate 44 opened just a couple of miles north of the old road.
On our leg of the Mother Road, the grand dame of those tacky establishments was the Coral Courts--Art Deco in design, the rooms had garages in which to hide one's vehicle from view in case you were there with someone you SHOULDN'T have been there with. The stories of things that went on there live on today, long after the old lady was demolished to make way for a new residential development. Some of the lesser motels remain, and it was one of these my friend chose for her anniversary tryst.
We went into the tiny, dark cave of an office to inquire about rates (surprisingly, they no longer rent by the hour). The owner appeared out of the back, a big, intimidating hulk of a man of few words. We dubbed him "Lurch." He gave her the rates and excused himself, indicating he would return. She gave me another of those looks, this time one that was sort of a mix of confusion and borderline terror.
"He went to get Bela Lugosi," I told her.
For some reason, she took no comfort in that. But she did rent the room. Actually, it became a pretty popular place. I wonder if there's an untapped market for cheap, tacky motels?
Even the allegedly classier brand-name hotels in our area have their share of characters and stories. There's one in particular--again, I can't name names, much as I'd like to. I had friends who worked there, so I got to hear all the juciest stories. Some of the employees lived on the property. The former general manager had kept a room there, where she, uh, how do I put this, bunked with the head maintenance guy. It was the worst-kept secret in the whole place. She didn't think anyone knew. EVERYBODY knew.
The owner also lived on the property for a time. His wife kicked him out, so he and the dog moved into the hotel. He would give the dog to the head of housekeeping every morning, and when I was around, Luis would give the dog to me. Oreo and I were buddies. One morning, I was in the breakfast room talking to Dana, who was in charge of the breakfast room, when this flying bundle of fur and tongue landed in my lap.
"Luis, I told you not to bring that dog in here," Dana yelled. (The health department was already giving them grief.) Not sure why. The dog didn't offend the guests as much as some of the employees did.
Some of the guys would take a room after a night of partying, rather than drive home. One morning, one of them called Dana to bring him his breakfast. "We don't have room service in this dump," she reminded him. "You want biscuits and gravy, you come and get it like everybody else."
She probably should have left well enough alone. He came down to breakfast--with a serious gas problem. One morning, Dana arrived and was parking her car when she spotted one of the live-in guys standing in his doorway, drink in hand, wearing only a robe--a robe that wasn't exactly secured, if you know what I mean. She panicked, wondering how many of the guests might have seen him.That's a tough image to get out of your head. Makes you want to claw your eyeballs out.
He spoke no English, which got him into a few difficult spots when it came to the opposite sex. He took a fancy to two guests, women who turned out to be transvestites. One night, the front desk manager, Big Joe, saw Raul take the pair to his room and decided he couldn't let the poor boy be blindsided. He went to Raul's room and knocked. Raul came to the door. The two transvestites were sitting on the bed. Joe tried to find the right Spanish words to break it to him gently....
"Amigas...uh, no amigas."
Raul didn't get it. "No amigas?"
Joe shook his head. "No amigas. Amigos."
"Amigos?" It finally sank in, immediately followed by a horrified expression on poor Raul's face. "Amigos?"
The transvestites left...in a hurry.
Big Joe was a huge man who looked intimidating, but he kinda reminded me of the Pillsbury Doughboy. A real sweetie. He was the guy you wanted as a big brother. He would get the karaoke machine out when he was on the front desk, and nobody was safe. He could have been a great deejay--his talents were wasted behind the desk. The desk was near the pool, inside the inappropriately-named "fun dome." One day, I entered from the opposite side of the dome, but Joe spotted me right away and started calling attention to my entrance.
Somebody please take that thing from him before he does any real damage.
One day, when he was dealing with problems created by the former GM's ineptitute, he took out a small box and placed it on the desk. Inside was a front desk bell. A badly-mangled front desk bell. "What happened to it?" I asked, not sure where this was leading.
"She ticked off a guest."
"And he did THAT?"Joe nodded. "Another disgruntled guest threw a bell into the pool." Maybe they should have just thrown HER into the pool.
Then there was the night the restaurant next door put up a sign: Valet Parking $10--and proceeded to park their customers' cars on the hotels' lot, leaving angry hotel guests storming the front desk because they had no place to park.
Joe and Dan never wanted to work nights--except when the Russian ballet was in town. The dancers spoke no English, but they didn't have do, as far as Joe and Dan were concerned. The girls liked to swim naked late at night. 'Nuff said.