Although camping isn't always the most luxurious and restful way to spend your leisure time, I was reminded that hotel and motels stays can be equally distasteful. Here are my two worst experiences.
When I was going to college at Berkeley, for a while I had a girlfriend attending college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, which was over 200 miles away. Occasionally I'd come down to see her, and we'd stay in some cheap motel since her sorority was rather strict about allowing boys in the house.
I researched these hotels carefully in my AAA book, looking for something both affordable and pleasant. One evening my gal and I strode into a motel I had carefully chosen for a romantic evening.
Ok, so sure there were some stains on the carpet and bedspread. We knew this wasn't a five star hotel. No big deal.
Alright, there were a few dead bugs. Not a show stopper. We'd seen dead bugs before. I scooped one into the trash bin. "Look!" I exclaimed to my wary girlfriend, "That's what trash cans are for!"
The bathroom was really the kicker though. First, there was a puddle of water in the corner. Some exposed wire snaked out of a hole in the bathroom wall, and the end of it dangled alarmingly into the puddle. We stepped gingerly past the electrocution feature and noticed that the sink contained a sizable helping of vomit. It would seem that the previous room guests had recently consumed some broccoli. Apparently it did not sit well with them.
The toilet, however, in what I can only describe as the ironic punchline, was wrapped by a paper strip upon which we read the slogan, "Sanitized for your protection."
I got my money back.
Years later I took a trip to Reno with my Hewlett Packard coworkers. To save money a bunch of us all crammed into one cheap hotel room, with a couple of us crashing on the floor in sleeping bags. Late late one night, after we all returned from the casino, we were sleeping peacefully and dreaming of doubling down when someone started pounding loudly on the door.
"Hey! Open up! Open this goddamn door!" someone yelled from the hallway. This roused us and we all laid there sleepily for a moment while the would-be intruder started rattling the door. A few more voices joined in the chorus, "Open the door, you assholes! I'm going to kill you!"
Abruptly, the door popped open a crack. The flimsy chain lock was the only thing keeping the door from completely opening. A large hand awkwardly reached into the room, fumbling and grasping to release the lock.
I laid there on the floor, totally stunned by what I was watching. I was frozen by fear, praying that the lock would hold. One of my coworkers grabbed the phone and began to dial the front desk, as though that clerk was going to save us from these murderous intruders.
The ominous hand kept jiggling the chain while we all watched, mesmerized and terrified. The yells from the hallways got louder and suddenly the chain popped off. Several large men stumbled into the room from the hallway, and I stared at them fully prepared to defend myself by peeing into my sleeping bag.
The men took a couple steps into the room, looked around, and then one of them said, "Whoops! Wrong room. Sorry dudes." On that anticlimactic note, they shuffled off.
The front desk clerk never arrived.
The next morning we regaled each other with stories of our bravery. One guy bragged about his quick reaction to the phone. Another demonstrated how he popped out of bed and almost got to the door in time. I explained how my bladder was at the ready. Amusingly the fourth guy in the room slept through the whole thing. He was a good sleeper.
I'll bet he likes camping too.