Last week, I wrote about chaperoning a middle school band festival and finding ourselves in the kind of hotel you’d expect to see chalk outlines in. Click here to read the beginning of the story.
I stood in the middle of the room, unsure of what to do. The girls had plopped themselves on the bed to do some homework, and the boys, in their room, were watching television. I didn’t even want to let my socks touch the carpet, much less expose any unnecessary flesh to the elements and risk being attacked by a swarm of cooties while I put my pajamas on, so I stood there for a while in the middle of the room in a kind of stunned silence.
I decided to make the best of it. I looked up the motel on line to see if there were any reviews of it. When I clicked on the TripAdvisor reviews, the very first said, “Crack Smoking Hotel of Choice in the Athens Area.” I started to laugh and couldn’t stop. The girls looked over my shoulder and began to read and laugh themselves. The best part about a college town is that the people in it tend to be articulate, and these reviews, speaking of the aura of despair surrounding the motel, were written by folks who have read a lot of dramatic fiction. Most of the reviews were written by people in town for a football game who couldn’t find lodging anywhere else. About half of them elected to sleep in their cars instead. The only positive review was from one woman who seemed thrilled that the hotel allowed her to bring in her cat. Which, now that I think of it, might explain that odd smell in the corner of the room and the paw print on my son’s pillowcase.
I was truly at a loss. I texted the other Mom (whose name at that point I honestly still did not know) and went out on a limb – “I think we should change hotels tomorrow night.” I didn’t hear back. I did not insist that anyone take a shower or brush their teeth or do anything that would require using the facilities we were given.
Eventually, I put on my pajamas and gingerly got into bed, trying as hard as I could not to sink too deeply into the mattress along with whatever substances over the years had also sunk deeply into the mattress. I curled into the fetal position, and lay there for about six hours with my eyes wide open. I think the girls slept. They were quiet and breathing deeply, anyway.
In the wee hours of the morning I got up. I tried to wash my face, but there were no towels. No bath towels at all: one washcloth and a hand towel. The washcloth had makeup all over it. I made an executive decision. If I had to pay for all four rooms, I was going to get us in a nicer hotel. I checked online for availability at the Holiday Inn.
I sent a text message to the other Mom (who I was still forced to think of as “Gabby’s Mom” since the girls didn’t know her first name either) telling her of my decision and asking her if she wanted to go in on it with me. She instantly agreed. I then sent a message to the band director who was skeptical that rooms would be available. I called the hotel, reserved four rooms within 90 seconds, got email confirmation, and let her know we were moving.
I banged on the boys’ door. “Time to get up! And pack your stuff. We’re moving to the Holiday Inn.” I spent a while soaking up the praise I would have killed for when I was 13 from teenage boys for my wisdom and general all around awesomeness.
Theoretically, the crack motel had a complimentary continental breakfast. I checked it out before I let any of the kids eat. There were some pre-wrapped muffins made in an industrial bakery somewhere else, boxes of cereal, and bananas with thick, unbroken peels. So we got breakfast. The milk was only two days gone, but it was good enough for the coffee served in individually wrapped-at-the-factory cups. It didn’t curdle, and there was caffeine in the coffee. That’s all I needed on a short term basis.
After we got the kids settled in their rehearsals, Eleni (the other Mom: I found out her name from one of the girls who asked her daughter) and I, who had since bonded over our shared horror, went to the Holiday Inn together to check in and bring up the luggage. “Welcome to Holiday Inn,” the fresh faced, well scrubbed desk clerk sang out to us.
“You have no idea how happy I am to be here.” I said. “I have never in my life been so happy to be anywhere. Thank you so much for letting us stay here.” I thought about leaping over the counter and kissing the young man on his clean-shaven face. The clerk looked at me sideways, no doubt wondering what kind of crazy person was so excited to stay at a Holiday Inn in a decidedly non-exotic location, but otherwise took my exuberance in stride. He and the other clerk efficiently got us keys for two sets of adjoining rooms. We checked in our respective rooms and each took long, hot showers guaranteed to kill any lingering cooties. Clean and settled in, we went about our chaperoning duties with a great deal more enthusiasm.
I have to say, these are truly great kids. They took their adventure in stride, laughed about it heartily, and went on to play beautiful music. They are fortunate to have the opportunity, and to have a teacher who takes her personal time to make sure it happens for them. I’d do it again in a minute. As long as I get to make the hotel reservations.
Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.