Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hotel California

Every so often I catch a TV news magazine story about dirty hotel rooms. The reporter enters a room with CSI-like equipment, including a black light, sterile swabs, and ZipLock freezer bags for specimen collection. (I’ve often wondered if these bags with a label strip are right out of the box from the grocery store or if they cost $10 a piece because they’re purchased from an approved state vendor list.)

Inevitably the investigative reporter finds exotic bacteria, an assortment of bodily fluids, and live creatures—some microscopic, some not so tiny. It’s enough to convince us never to pull back the sheets again in a hotel room.

Help is only $75 away. You can travel with what amounts to a body bag, though much softer as it’s intended to be used by live people. The DreamSack will protect you from making contact with anything left behind by prior guests.

I wish I had owned several DreamSacks back in 1998 when we took the family to Los Angeles for a Disney vacation. Being as cheap as I am, my idea of a Disney vacation does not include staying at a Disney hotel. Instead, I searched out the lowest priced hotel room within a reasonable driving distance to Mickey & Minnie.

In fact, my plan was to spend Wednesday scouting out attractions around Hollywood and Vine, waiting until Thursday to hit Disneyland. I had studied the daily attendance stats for Disneyland and determined that Thursday is the best day to avoid long lines.

So it made sense to find a hotel within walking distance of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and the Hollywood Wax Museum. With six kids and the need to rent two rooms, price is paramount. I found the perfect place, just half a block off Hollywood Boulevard: Motel 6.

It wasn’t until we were driving at night in our rented Lincoln Navigator—which, in spite of its size, didn’t have room for all eight of us with our luggage, so we had purchased bungy cords to lash the suitcases to the roof rack, making the vehicle look remarkably like the truck driven by the Beverly Hillbillies—that I noted an abundance of red lights close to the hotel.

And I don’t mean traffic lights. Who would have guessed how friendly these scantily-clad ladies would be when I stopped to ask directions to North Whitley Avenue?

We eventually found the Motel 6 and I became even more uneasy when I walked into the office and saw the night manager sitting behind bullet-proof glass with one of those metal speaker things. He leaned and over spoke into the speaker thing, asking if there was anything he could help me with, as if the last thing on his mind was that I might be there to rent a room.

Against my better judgment and because it was already 11pm, I rented two rooms. Not being a complete idiot, I paid for the rooms in cash, thinking that my credit card would be charged to the max before our wake up call.

We rode an elevator that barely accommodated the eight of us and found the rooms. One of the kids questioned, “Eeeew! What’s this sticky stuff on the door knob?” I have no idea to this day what it was, but I made him wash his hands until they were raw.

The rooms were visibly dirty, not like the ones on TV that appear to be clean, but aren’t. No need for a black light here. Did we pack sleeping bags?

The two girls stayed in our room and the four boys occupied the adjoining room. I told the kids to sleep with their clothes on, including shoes, and to use some of their packed clothes to make a pillow. Try not to touch anything in the bathroom, I warned. Sleep tight. See you in the morning.

I didn’t sleep too well that night, imagining all sorts of things that had never occurred to me before. I know the girls were pretty apprehensive as well, but the boys slept just fine. Boys are like that. In fact, their room at home had gotten pretty disgusting from time to time, thanks to hoarding food and who knows what else.

The next morning, nobody was dead. Good start to a fun day. First on the list of To-Do’s was to reserve two rooms at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn. Twice the room rate but, as they say in the Mastercard commercials, “Priceless.”

Have you ever spent a harrowing night in a hotel room? I’d love to hear your tale.


  1. Why yes, now that you ask, we have spent at least one night in an interesting hotel room.

    Nashville, TN. A typical family vaca odyssey, wife and kid, late at night, exhausted after a 500+ mile drive, blinding rain. Pull off the interstate into the "Alamo Motel". Clerk behind the barrred window astounded that we want the room for more than an hour. Room basically cold tile, dirty rug, dirty bathroom, dirty bed, dirty torn blanket with holes, same for the sheets but add a few large dark stains. Couple of very large roachs (the bug type) on the carpet along with an empty condom package (well at least the previous occupants were being safe) . Phone torn from the wall. Stench! Kid discovers that for a quarter you can make the bed vibrate for 5 minutes, but he really gets his moneys worth as it vibrates and clanks all night long. Couple in the next room "trying to win a prize" for endurance,but soon disintegrates into an incoherent, threat filled screaming match over money or the lack thereof. Ahhh, Welcome to the "Music City".

  2. OMG I never would have slept in such conditions regardless of the price! The option of sleeping in the car or in the woods is cleaner then what you both describe.

    Our story was 3 sisters were going to N.H. to ski and visit another sister for weekend, 2 toddlers and my Krysta who was only 4 montha old. My sister is phobic about a sudden snow storm we watch the weather to make sure that doesn't happen with our precious cargos. Well guess what, we make it to Nashua and the most sudden snow/ice storm ever lands and their are cars, vans and trucks going off both sides of highway. We crept along screaming and praying at one another and found the first decent hotel knowing the rooms would be going fast once all the drives in the ditchs were pulled out that night. No crib in car (n.h.sister has a crib)
    we lined a bureau draw with blankets and Krysta slept wonderfully thru the night!

    Randy, Mary's is a saint!
    You wouldn't have survived being so cheap and subjecting us to god knows what.Lice, bugs, disease.....

  3. A very interesting topic Mr. Hunt.

    During part of my earl life I had a job that took me all over the place. At times I would be in three different states working.
    I had this one occasion when another engineer was helping us closing out a project. We did not finish so we got permission from the home office to stay over night, rather then leaving and coming back the follow day.

    Well we find a nice place of the beaten path and after showering we hit the bed. We are both tired from the long day on the job and it is close to 9{ we had been on the road since 4 that morning.

    Well my room mate is soon sound asleap in his own bed and start to go off when I hear the magic sound of a singing cricket. Well I knew that I would not be getting to sleep real fast. So I was determined to locate the bucker and put it out. Well within a short period I locate the singing cricket and placed it outside.

    Well peace at last I tell myself and head on back to bed.
    Perhaps an hour goes by and there again is another cricket singing a song .

    Well I began searching out this songster and as I was crawling on my knees I hit my room mates bed and wake him up. He began to shout[what in the hell are you doing]I explain that as tired as i was I could not fall asleep with all the noise the cricket was making.

    Now we have two on the floor searching for this bugger, and finily after much waiting and manurvering we capture the little beast and out he goes with his music.

    Peace at least and we both go back
    My room mate goes off into snoring and here I am left with another distraction to get some sleep.

    Well before you know it we have our wake up call at 4 and I am still on my knees looking for another singing cricket.

    That was the last time we ever would allow our company to book two in the same room.

    More to come

    Carl Johansen

  4. Worst expierience:
    I had gone to college in Co. and would drive back and forth yearly.I owned a ragtop jeep CJ5 and would pack it to the gills with all my worldly possesions to make the trip home until the following fall when I would do it all over again and head back. One May well making the trek back east, I got a late start and drove as far as I could and ended up at a fleabag hotel. It was busy with lots of cars so I figured it couldn't be too bad. I was dead tired from 13 hours of driving and went to the office to get a room. It was very seedy and the clerk asked how many hours I wanted the room for (first red flag) when I told him I wanted to stay the night, he asked if my jeep locked and if it had an alarm (2nd red flag)When I told him it didn't do either (convertible doors) he told me to look around at the cars in the parking lot-all were caddilacs or lincolns with women sitting in them, their pimps were in the front seat(entire shipload of red flags) He advised me to keep on driving and 4 hours later I made it to a Red Roof Inn, vowing to never again attempt to sign a hotel registry in the middle of the night.
    best expierience:
    On one of the trips back to Co. I ran out of gas in Iowa (people drive thru Iowa, not TO Iowa) I hadn't left with enough money and only had personal checks. I told the store keeper (a very obese man with a genuinely warm smile) my woes and asked if I could write a personal check,college student,checks, yeah, I don't think so! At least that is what I assumed he'd say. But to my surprise he said "write it for whatever amount you need and make sure you have enough money to make it all the way to Denver" I thanked him profusely and when I walked out the door he handed me a big home made sweet-muffin and with a big heartland smile, wished me a safe trip. I always think of those people whenever I travel!


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