The motel experience

Just a few days ago, I traveled to Beaumont to visit my grandparents for the holidays. It was fun, up until 3 days in, when I got sick and had to spend the rest of the trip in bed, in a Ny-quil induced haze. Yay. But I still got some good stories out of it – such as the following…

Picture this: it’s 9:40, after dark, in the streets of Louisiana. Cold white streetlights illuminate the ground below; a southern chill runs through the air. A rented car drives down the winding road, carrying me and my father. We had left Beaumont with the first creeping of dusk, and had been on the road ever since – 4 hours spent in the car. We are both eager to end the trip, and settle down at the Days Inn motel where we would be spending the night.

I had never stayed in a real motel before. This isn’t to say that I always stayed in 5-star hotels, or anything – but, basically, every place I’d ever stayed in had halls. That was my benchmark for hotel vs. motel: hotels had interior hallways, while motels were carved into the building like curious urban caves.

So, with my lack of experience, I was only mildly surprised when we drove up to the shadiest motel ever. It looked like several murder-shacks stuck together, shadowed and foreboding. Its location was rather “off the beaten path” (or more aptly, “nobody can hear you scream”): beside the road, sort of plunked down between the actual city and the trucker-laden wilderness we had just traveled through. Foliage towered over the parking lot.

The oppressive shadows were sharply contrasted by a few patches of fluorescent, red and green light – some of the rooms were decorated for Christmas.

“That’s kind of sad,” I casually remarked, as my father furrowed his brow and did a California stop through the parking lot.

Among other things, this motel-of-no-return didn’t seem to have a check-in office nearby. We drove through the parking lot, looking around for a detached building of some sort. None appeared. As we were merging back onto the road, I noticed that one of the stairways on the outside of the motel had a cat sitting on it.

“I hope that isn’t our room,” I mused over the sound of our screeching tires.

We went out the opposite end of the parking lot we came in through, and turned onto the street behind the motel (dark underbelly, isolated from civilization, no witnesses). As we drove down the dark, neighborhood street, we passed by a bunch of run-down, unlit houses. I dimly wondered what we would do if one of those turned out to be the check-in office, and THAT’S when I started to realize the situation we were in.

Thankfully, we didn’t even slow down for the danger huts, but rather kept driving out into the city. We finally pulled up in front of an IHOP, which was confusing at first, but then I realized we were actually going to the smaller building connected to the IHOP. Actually, it was still confusing then, because that building had one sign reading “Liffette’s real New Orleans food”, and another reading “Louisiana Video Gaming”. Also, the whole thing was oddly far away from the motel building itself. But we saw a guy walking out with a suitcase, so I trusted my dad that it was our best option (as opposed to returning to the creepy neighborhood and knocking on some windows).

Personally, I wouldn’t have minded stopping for pancakes, but there were more pressing issues at the moment.

We went inside the building, which looked surprisingly like a regular hotel lobby; clean and atmospheric, with no feral cats or depressing Christmas lights to be seen. My father went to the counter and checked in, we left, got back into the car…and drove a short distance to an entirely different motel.


Me: “So, there was some mistake – the motel we saw wasn’t ours.”

Dad: “Yeah. If it had been ours, I would have just kept driving.”

Touche. The moral of the story is to always travel with somebody who’s been around the block a few times. And also? Christmas lights can be way creepier than you would expect.

5 thoughts on “The motel experience

  1. All right, Em! We need you to share more of your writing, loved this. (And yes, Christmas decorations can be creepy under the right, or wrong, circumstances.)

  2. Stayed a night in South Georgia at a motel in the Choice chain of inns. We drove around to our room to find several unkept types hunched over a hibachi immediately in front of our assigned room. They immediately gave us the “don’t park here look”. I didn’t and didn’t even noticed what was being grilled. Back at the office I asked the clerk if she had looked at her security cameras. Glancing up, she commented that those scruffies were just contractors working on the motel. She says she can just put me on the other side of the motel. “Other side” and “motel” are words that don’t work in the same sentence. Driving over to the other side we find the parking lot devoid of any other vehicles or signs of life, or any hibachi chefs. OK it seems safe. No outward signs of impending doom. Pooped we unload, settle in with some snacks and a little TV, then off to Slumberland. At 3AM we are jolted from horizontal dreams to vertical upright sheer terror by a locomotive horn. Why a train would ever have to blow its horn at this deserted hour I’ll never know. In my highway daze the night before I never noticed the train tracks I crossed right before turning in the motel. A close inspection the next morning revealed the tracks looping around the parking lot not 90 feet from our door. The motel guide should note, less than 10 seconds from local rail.

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