Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Living It Up, Motel Style!

Ah, motels!

We just got back from vacation. We drove over 2,000 miles and spent four nights in motels. And, I dare say, the motels were wonderful, insomuch as they got us out of that mini-van for a few hours! There are some experiences that are unique to motel living. Here are some of my thoughts:

The Decor: One of the first things I noticed about our motel was the carpet. What the heck? Are they trying to disorient me? Here's a picture:

The dizzying motel carpet
Do you see that carpet? I'm at a loss for finding words to describe it. The best I can come up with is that it looks like a robot coughed up some hairballs. Would anyone, anyone put this carpet in their house? Heck to the no! It's horrendous! And if you think it's bad in the hallway, check out what it looks like on the stairs:

The disorienting stairway of death!

Add up that crazy carpet, a couple of armfuls of luggage, and my new bifocals (see: Bifocal ) and it's amazing that I didn't break my neck!

But, while the carpet at the motel is bold, their choice of artwork is bland and/or drab.

At our second motel of the trip, we had a larger room. The room had two queen-size beds and a pull-out couch. Above each bed and the couch was a bland, drab, nondescript painting. I think they were paintings of vases. (The paintings were so bland I can't really remember what the subject of them was.) The paintings were pretty much just one color, too: a dull gray-ish, tan-ish drab. The paintings were dull, boring and absolutely unmemorable except for one fact: they had placed the exact same painting in the room three times, one over each bed, and one over the couch! That's right, three drab, forgettable paintings, exactly identical, all in the same room!

But wait, there's more! At that motel my sister-in-law and niece had the room next door to ours. Guess what? Yes, that's right, the exact same picture was in their room, too! And not once, not twice, but three times as well!!! (At this point I'm really kicking myself for not taking a picture of these paintings, both as proof of their sameness, and so I could remember what exactly the bland paintings were of.) 

Now, I can't be sure that every room in the motel had the same painting in it three times, but if so that would be about 300 prints of the same forgettable painting in one motel! Why would they do this? It's like they were furnishing the rooms and said, "Hmm, we need to put something on these walls. Hey, Ed, didn't your wife Brenda just take an art class at the community college? Did she paint anything we could throw in the copier and stick in a few hundred frames?"

(And while I'm ranting, why is it that art teachers are so fascinated with making their students paint pictures of vases? Really? A vase? Has anyone ever said, "Hey, you know what I want a painting of? A vase! I want a painting of a vase!!!" No. No one ever.)

So, I'm not sure why there is such a contradiction in the boldness of the carpet and the blandness of the art. But there must be a reason, right? Surely someone has done research on this and knows that there must be some purpose for this, right? Because if not, I'm completely befuddled.

The Amenities: We stayed in Upper-White-Trash motels, so our rooms came with the standard Upper-White-Trash amenities: Cable television (with remote!), coffee maker, hair dryer, ironing board and iron, microwave, and small refrigerator. The second motel we stayed in was even so modern that it had a recharging station with USB ports for the recharging of our electronical gadgeteries. 

While the refrigerator is great to have in the room, we learned, by sad experience, that it is best to check and make sure it is turned on before loading it up with foodstuffs. (Traveler's tip: Ice cream sammiches don't stay frozen in a refrigerator that is not turned on.) 

I always like to turn on the motel television and flip through the channels. Nowadays, when I watch television at home I don't flip through the channels because there are too many channels to flip through. Instead, I use the channel guide. But, at a motel, the best way to find what you're looking for is to flip through. 

One of my favorites is to stop for a minute or two at the local news. For some reason, the local news personalities from a different city always seem a little less competent, and a little more hokey. And they usually have funny names. (Seattle has a weather guy who goes by the name of "Jim Guy." Jim Guy. I don't know why I find that so funny, but I do.)

The problem, when traveling with kids, is finding appropriate children's programming at night-time for them to go to sleep to. One night the best we could come up with was one of those Disney channel shows for "tween" girls. Five-year-old Roni watched for a minute and disapproved, repeatedly saying, "That's not a kid show!" (Although she did pick up a math joke with the punch line "apple pie are squared" that she thought was hilarious enough that she kept repeating it for the next several days.)

Of course, one of the standard amenities of every motel room is the shower. If our first motel room of the trip had a glaring weakness (besides the dizzying carpet), it was the height of the shower head. Now, I'm a tall person (6'2"), but I'm not unusually tall. And The Wife stands at 5'10", which is definitely not an unreasonably height. The shower head, however, seemed to be made for people who stood about 5'5" or so. Here, let me demonstrate:

Standing in the shower. Pointing at my chest.

As you can see (maybe) from this poorly staged photograph, I am standing in the shower/tub, taking a picture of myself in the mirror, and pointing to the spot in the middle of my sternum where the water from the shower hits while I try to take a shower.

This is fine if you are the height of Tom Cruise or Mary Lou Retton, but for anyone taller than Spud Webb it means that if you want to wash your hair you had better be able to do a squat thrust or a deep knee bend, exercises that you probably haven't performed since your junior high gym class. (And you thought those exercises would never be useful once you got out of school!) (Now if I could only find an everyday use for algebra.) (Totally unrelated: Hey, you know what would make a good name for a junior high school gym teacher? Yes, that's right, "Jim Guy!")

Personally, I have never used the coffee maker, the hair dryer, or the iron and ironing board at any motel room I have ever stayed at. Perhaps I should have used the iron, but I figure if I don't use it at home, why should I use it on the road? 

Of course, one of the amenities I didn't mention earlier is one of the biggest: the swimming pool. No one likes the parents who let their kids stay up late to play in the pool. Well, on this trip we were those parents! 

I'm sorry, but after a long day of riding in the car, the kids needed to have a place to get some wiggles out, and since most motels don't have a playground, the swimming pool was our best option. So, if we pull in to the motel at 9:45 PM and the pool stays open until 11:00 PM, our kids are going to be in that pool, wearing themselves out so they will actually sleep, until it is 10:59 PM (and 59 seconds!) 

The Continental Breakfast: At the Continental breakfast at our motel, there were two kinds of people: people who have used the waffle maker before and people who have not used the waffle maker before. I, of course, am an experienced waffle maker user. As such, I know that if you walk into the breakfast room and the waffle maker is not being used, you immediately go to the waffle maker and make a waffle. It doesn't matter if you want a waffle or not. Make a waffle! Because the last thing you want to do is decide later that you want a waffle, but find yourself in line behind a person who has no idea how to use the waffle maker. Not only will you be in for a long wait while the person tries to figure the waffle maker out, you'll probably end up scraping the burnt remains of their failed attempt out of the waffle maker before you can make your own. 

Aside from the waffle maker, our breakfast nook included scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, some yogurt, toast, mini-muffins, danishes, assorted fruit juices, milk, and three plastic bins of cold cereal. The three choices in the cereal bins always seem to be: 1) Off-brand Froot Loops (those things ain't real Froot Loops, that's for sure!); 2) Off-brand Corn Flakes; and c) Off-brand Raisin Bran. I am not sure how often these cereal bins are changed, but there is a pretty good chance some of that off-brand Raisin Bran has been in that bin since the Clinton administration.

One last thing I don't understand about the Continental breakfast is the fact that the breakfast nook seems to contain about five small tables, even though the motel has well over 100 rooms. Somehow, the math doesn't seem right here. There are never enough tables for the people who want to use them. (Perhaps this is where I could use that junior high algebra?) (If only I remembered any of it.)

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