When I was growing up and we (Mama, Daddy and I) would go on vacation, we stayed in motels (car parked in front of door to room). Hotels (with inside halls) were for rich people. And we not only stayed in motels, we stayed in “mom and pop” motels, not chains. The only chain of motels I remember even seeing at the time was Howard Johnson’s (which had pools!), but I can also remember Mama saying we certainly weren’t going to spend $14 a night on a place to sleep just so I could go swimming!
And, staying in “mom and pop” motels did mean that we had some interesting experiences that a chain would never have provided.
Like the time we stayed in a motel in one of the western states that was a group of concrete teepees.* I campaigned hard for that one as soon as we drove past it. And after much begging, Mama and Daddy finally caved.
(*After a little research, I find there were several of these motels around the country, but this is the only one I remember seeing.)
And once the decision was made, Mama actually got into the idea a little bit and bought me a souvenior Indian headdress at a near-by gift shop so that she could take my picture sitting in front of the teepee wearing it.
I don’t think Daddy ever really bought the idea, especially when he had to shave in front of a mirror in the morning that was on the outside wall, so it slanted down. He had to bend his knees so that he could look up into the mirror to see to shave.
Luckily for Mama, she never wore anything other than a little hand lotion, powder and lipstick for make-up, which could all easily be applied in front of the mirror on the inside of the lid of her overnight case. So, a sloping mirror wasn’t the problem for her that it was for Daddy.
Fortunately (I’m sure they would say), when we stayed in a motel it was always because we were traveling to somewhere, not as a destination itself. So, to my sorrow, we only stayed there one night. And, I’m pretty sure Daddy took a different route on all subsequent trips to avoid driving past the concrete teepee motel again.
When we stayed in the local motels, because the quality and cleanliness were not in any way “guaranteed” by a corporation, Daddy and Mama had a routine when they started looking for one at the end of the day. (I don’t even think you could have made reservations at these little motels . But even if you could have, it certainly wasn’t a concept that would have ever occurred to Mama and Daddy.) Anyway, in the late afternoon, they would start watching for a motel. When they saw one that looked okay, we would stop and Daddy would go in and ask the price and ask to see a room. Then he would come back to the car and give Mama a report on how clean it looked and he and Mama would decide if the price was reasonable. It was not unusual for us not to stay at the first motel he checked out. It was very much buyer beware.
One time, we stayed in a small, local motel in the deep South, that seemed to meet Mama and Daddys’ requirements for cleanliness and price. But, during the night, when Mama got up to go to the bathroom, she saw a very big bug run across the floor. This was particularly unfortunate because the motel only had one bed in each room, so they had given Mama blankets and a pillow to make me a pallet on the floor! When I woke up in the morning I was very surprised that I was no longer sleeping on the floor where I had started out, but was now wedged between Mama and Daddy in the double (queen and king sizes hadn’t arrived yet!) bed!
Fast forward to “modern” times. Hubby and I make reservations ahead at major hotel chains, now usually called “inns” or “suites”. We expect a certain level of cleanliness and price from our favorite chains, and usually aren’t disappointed.
But, after last weekend, I realize there are some other comforts that we have come to expect, that really make a difference in how much we enjoy our stay.
We had reservations at a hotel for Saturday night. When looking on-line for a room in the area we wanted, I missed the nuance of “Express” not being in the name of the one I booked, so breakfast wasn’t included. That wasn’t a big problem, but it did mean that the price was actually higher than we usually pay, because it was about the same price we are used to paying at the ones which do include breakfast. And, the room was a little smaller than what we are used to, and the beds were two doubles! I didn’t even know they made doubles any more — I thought all hotel beds were at least queens. And, the walls were thin. You could easily hear “activity” in the bathroom upstairs, the TV’s in the rooms around us and voices in the hall. And there was an exit door right outside our room that had a very loud swish and then thud when it closed and it was used alot! Luckily the giggling pre-teen group of girls on our floor, who spent quite a bit of time running around in the hall from room to room, went to bed about midnight, and we were able to finally get to sleep. We are very thankful we were only at that hotel for one night.
Even when Daddy checked a room, there were things he didn’t find, like a slanted mirror and a bug on the floor. And, even if we had check the one last Saturday before staying there, I don’t think we would have noticed the near-by, noisy door or the thin walls. And, we might not even have noticed that the beds were smaller. And we certainly couldn’t have predicted that we would be on the same floor with a group of noisy teenagers.
So, even after all these years, renting a room can still be a little like buying a pig in a poke!