I Live in a Motel

Travelers know what to expect from a motel: not much, besides pornography. When our writer is forced to live in one for a month, he finds a bit more to appreciate.

1. I am obliged to live in a motel for four weeks. New job in a new state, and a new apartment that I can’t move into till next month. I am writing these words on a notepad. At the top of the notepad is the motel’s logo, which seems maybe generated by the software that teachers used to create dot-matrix banners, ‘round about the time that Beverly Hills Cop 2 came out. I’ll call this motel Nautical Mist after the scent of the industrial-grade cleanser that saturates the pillows, the carpet, the curtains, my sinuses, even this pen, which does not feature the Nautical Mist logo but a generic You enjoy your stay!!

2. The cheaper the motel, the greater the number of laminated information cards. The top of the TV is covered with explanations of the cable system and pay-per-view movies. The nightstand urges me to conserve water by using the same sheets during my entire stay. Four cards hang from the doorknob, none of which say Do Not Disturb No Molestar. I’m not supposed to open the door to strangers. I’m supposed to take all valuables from my car. I may want to look into getting the Nautical Mist Preferred Guest card which will garner me any number of bonus amenities, not least of which is a free USA Today outside my door each morning.

3. The toilet seat won’t stay up. I have a smallish heart attack when it slaps down while I’m in mid-stream, not paying attention. I feel obligated to clean up after myself since I’ll be running into the maids all month. I desperately want them to like me, to confide in me about the other guests, the things they find in the rooms.

4. Seriously, what is this toilet paper. Pressboard? I feel violated, way down deep.

5. Little bottles of shampoo are not provided. No lotion, either, or shower caps, or a little coffee maker. The cups are plastic sealed in plastic. The ice machine doesn’t work. The little bar of soap is oddly metallic. Every time I tear the wrapper from the soap and toss it in the trash, I remember when Janet Leigh did the exact same thing in Psycho.

6. The room is pitch black. I doubt I’ll be able to read these words in the morning. The freeway traffic outside my window is haunting, mournful [?]. I have dropped into a hole that’s been stabbed [?] into the heart of the world.

7. I wake up and have zero idea where I am. I can’t even narrow it down to a particular region of the United States until I sit up and control my breathing. I turn on the TV and it’s CNN, TNT, TBS. I’m living in a nation, not a city.

8. If you want to conduct business with the front desk after-hours, you have to do it through a bulletproof window, sending documents through a steel drawer like in Silence of the Lambs.

9. I eat fast food in bed while watching Showtime. I have seen the promo for the upcoming original series Out of Order, starring Eric Stoltz and Justine Bateman, maybe 100 times. I prefer the promo for the hard-edged original series Street Time because there’s a quick shot where a couple is about to have sex and the woman says ‘Oooh, let the games begin.’ I’ve seen Orange County twice and Kingpin three times.

10. I have started calling the Nautical Mist ‘home’ without any apparent irony. I come home from work, unwind a little. I left my papers at home. It’ll be good to get back home. I’ve stopped peeling the psychedelic disease-ridden comforter from the bed each night because it’s my comforter on my bed. One night I came home and my key-card didn’t open the door. A quick exchange through the bulletproof glass and the problem was solved, but still.

11. I shave to pass the time. I comb my hair in unusual ways. I practice looks in the mirror: Stern Competence, Drunken Joviality, Apathetic Desolation.

12. I peruse the pornography options on pay-per-view, but it’s ten bucks a pop and they all seem to be of the implant-and-landing-strip-pubic-hair variety. The movies have been categorized to help you decide: Popular Favorite, Wild ‘n’ Wet, Award Winner, First Timers, Super Sized. They emphasize that the name of the movie you order will not appear on your bill. I decide instead to wait for the Street Time promo.

13. Will I ever be able to make my own bed again? Will I toss towels to the floor and expect them to be (maybe) laundered and re-hung? I move my toiletries around the sink to see if the maid will straighten them up. Our relationship has become adversarial since she refused to befriend me.

14. I don’t even smell it anymore.

15. When I hear footsteps outside I run to the peephole and watch people pass by. Their bodies swell and arch as they come near. Their skin looks sallow in the fluorescent light. Their eyes are dead from many hours of travel. They wince at the odor. These are tourists, not year-rounders like me. They are ugly and careless.

16. The Nautical Mist will let your pet stay with you, as long as you’re not a Ren Faire loser with an iguana, say. Nothing non-standard.

17. I hang my coat on the hookless coat hanger and finally lose my temper. Where is the trust? The assumption that I would want to steal their coat hangers is the worst indignity I’ve suffered so far.

18. I practice my karate kicks. The rumble of the air conditioner sounds like Charlie coming in over the trees, the held breath right before a firefight.

19. I am Room 341.

20. I no longer need a refrigerator, a table, a washer and dryer, a computer, a mailbox, an answering machine, a closet, an oven. These are luxuries for the weak. I have streamlined my life to the bare essentials: bed, sink, toilet, Showtime. I am exultant. I am free.


TMN Contributing Writer Joshua Allen is a complex and exciting young man. He is a hard worker and always gives 110 percent. He is a people-person unless that person is a crab and not pulling their weight for the team. If enthusiasm and get-up-and-go are drugs, then he’s a hardcore drug addict. He’s pretty obviously an only child. He lives in Fireland, USA. More by Joshua Allen