I am writing this from Room 227 of the Howard Johnson in Tifton, Georgia. The room is small but comfortable, situated in the corner of the motel closest to the interstate, which - along with a Cracker Barrel sign in the distance - has provided my view for the weekend.
It's very obvious that - until recently - this Howard Johnson was a Motel 6. The desk, the chairs, the light fixtures, the curtains, the mirror, the "For Your Protection" sign above the door handle reminding you that you're in a cheap motel so maybe consider using the deadbolt and security latch - all of these are far-too-familiar to me from my far-too-many stays at Motel 6's around the country. An attempt has been made to Howard Johnsonize things by adding amenities that Motel 6 usually lacks - fridge, flat screen with more than 20 channels, coffee maker, free WiFi - which has helped with the comfort level, but has also made the room feel even smaller. It still feels like I'm in a Motel 6, only one that's more cramped than usual. At least I can keep my beer cold, though.
Throughout my stay, there has been a beeping noise going off in the distance, maybe every minute or so from the other end of the hallway. I have no idea what the beeping suggests. Is it a smoke detector with a low battery? Did the last person to ever own a beeper leave it behind, and the motel is not allowed to remove it due to its historical value as the last beeper in existence? Has a carbon monoxide detector picked up on a very slow, growing leak but no one's been paying attention to it and why am I so sleepy all of a sudden?
With the TV or the air conditioning turned on, the beeping is pretty easy to ignore. Even if it wasn't, it would still be a better noise than some of the ruckus I had to deal with earlier in the week from non-battery-operated scourge.
Shockingly, there are more people in this world than you and I. They have their own reasonings for being at a motel, and have different definitions of what constitutes proper behavior at a motel. A lot of them are quiet and respectful (just like you!) - just passing through town, too tired to do anything other than watch TV until they fall asleep.
But then there are The Others.
Here are some of The Others you might be unfortunate enough to encounter during your motel stay, most of which I happened to experience this week prior to arriving in Tifton:
1) The partiers. This is divided into two groups: (a) the high school partiers who will fill every inch of a motel room with bodies and beer cans, and who will party loudly into the wee hours with little fear of recrimination, as it's unlikely that the motel clerk will call the cops on them because it's pretty obvious that the motel clerk turned a blind eye to the obvious fact that he-or-she was checking-in an underaged person that just got out of a car overflowing with other underaged persons; and (b) the adult partiers, who are smaller in number and closer to middle-age, and who - when you see them making their way into their room - you assume that they must be making a porno, one that you would never, ever, ever want to watch.
2) The work crew. In the early evening, the trucks all pull up into the parking lot. A short while later, a bunch of them are hanging outside one of their rooms together, smoking, drinking beer, and shooting the shit at a volume that increases with every new beer. And that's perfectly fine - when your life is essentially a Ford F-150 commercial, beer and camaraderie are clearly earned after a long day. The problem is that they always seem to pick the room that's right next to mine. On the plus side, they poop out a lot earlier than the partiers.
3) The cougher. Hey, remember SARS? Wasn't that a wacky time? At the height of the SARS epidemic, I found myself at a hotel outside of Toronto, which was one of several Canadian cities that experienced a cluster of SARS cases. My room was one of those that had a door that could connect to the next room. And who was in the room next to mine that evening? Just some dude who coughed and wheezed all night long. I could feel the SARS creeping into my room through the space between the carpet and that stupid adjoining door. It was not a pleasant evening.
4) The person who insists on talking on their cell phone while standing outside your room for no apparent reason. Why are they there? Are they even staying in this motel? Maybe this is the only spot in town where they get cell reception. In any case, their conversation usually goes on way too long and it usually involves finding some help for their drug-addicted niece.
5) The new couple. Bow chika wow wow.
6) The old couple. Instead of screwing all night like the new couple, they fight all night. If you're ever in a motel room at night and notice flashing blue and red lights seeping through the edges of the curtain, the old couple is usually the reason why they're there.
7) The fucker who decides to pull the fire alarm at 4 in the morning. You don't want to die in a motel room, so of course you get out of bed, put on some pants, and stumble outside to wearily mingle with other sleepy, disheveled people, one of which just might be the piece-of-crap who instigated this situation. Upon realizing that there clearly is no fire, you just want to go back to sleep, but you can't because no one can figure out how to turn the goddamn alarm off until the fire truck arrives.
I experienced a new batch of The Others this week: children.
At a Travelodge in Cordele, Georgia, I was woken up by the sound of little kids outside my door. I couldn't tell if there was just 2 of them or a whole slew - it sounded more like the latter, as if a whole grade of kids were taken on the saddest field trip ever. It was 7am, and it went on for about a half hour before their high-pitched yabber went away, and it totally ruined my morning. I can't discount that it was all just a dream, though, as I really can't imagine why a bunch of kids would be hanging at a motel so early in the morning (not that I'd be any less befuddled if a bunch of kids here hanging at a motel late at night).
As has surely been concluded in various scientific journals, other people can suck. However, when it comes to other people in motels, they tend to suck in their own cramped corner of the world. In other words, they might be loud and obnoxious - and they might be loud and obnoxious right outside your door - but their loudness and obnoxiousness won't spread beyond that.
In other other words, The Others suck, but at least they'll leave you alone. Everyone is weary of other people in motels - that bald, good-natured, Jewish-looking dude (i.e. me) could easily be a serial killer (not possible, as I don't have a middle name) - so engagement is kept to the barest of minimums. That's what exacerbates the aggravation of dealing with the fire-alarm puller: it forces you to engage with other people in order to make sure that the place isn't going up in flames.
The Others suck, but they're not going to suck you into their suckiness, so there's no need to fret too much about them. There's every need to curse at them under your breath, but that's really all you should do. Relax, tune out the suck as best you can, and take comfort in the fact that - come morning - your paths will never cross again.
The photo at the top of this post is of the curtains at the Motel 6 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. They are the same type of curtains found at the Howard Johnson in Tifton. More of my motel pictures can be found over at Motel Interiors. If you wanna contact me for any reason, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.