Sunday, September 30, 2012

At least the darkness helped hide how creepy the maintenance guy was. (Vacations)

Continuing the story of my [not so] recent vacation to Florida... read part one, "In Another Universe, I Am In Birmingham, Alabama, For Some Reason," by clicking here
or part two,
"Why Would Anyone Want To Drive Through Illinois?" by clicking here
Or part three, "
We Are READY TO GO. Well, almost", by clicking here.
Or part four, "Sometimes, a house" by clicking here

Or part five: "Superman and the Albino Squirrels vs. The Dentist" here. 
Part six: "Dwight The Lady GPS Takes Us On A Tour Of Metropolis" here.

I have never had much luck in picking out hotels on vacations, going all the way back to when Sweetie and I were going on our honeymoon and I booked us into the worst hotel in the worst part of Cleveland that you can possibly imagine. 

That, at least, could be blamed on the fact that back then, we didn't really have an "Internet" to speak of -- or at least I didn't, because that was in 2000 and my computer in my office had an Internet hookup but I had no idea what the "Internet" was good for, mostly because it wasn't good for anything back then, causing me to pick hotels through the painstaking scientific process of:

1.  Remembering that my dad stayed in an Econolodge when he had come to my law school graduation about two years earlier, and

2.  Thinking "Econo" sounds cheap, which is important when you technically, or not so technically, have no money, and

3.  Calling the local Econolodge and getting their 1-800 number and then booking us into Econolodges in Cleveland, Buffalo, and near New York City.

Whatever the complete lack of merit in that process, there wasn't much more merit in the method we used to pick hotels for the trip to and from Florida for my in-laws' 50th anniversary, either; having picked out the city we would stay in through the expert-recommended system of "determining which cities have giant statues of superheroes in them," we then tried to see if there were hotels located in that city, and according to most Internets, there were -- two of them, if not more!

First choice for both Sweetie and I was the hotel connected to the casino in town.  It turns out that Metropolis has a casino in town, and that makes the city every bit as depressing as a Mother Jones article about what happens when a casino comes to town would suggest.

"In town" isn't quite accurate, as the casino in Metropolis, so far as we could tell, wasn't located in town but instead was located on the river because our peculiar American attitudes towards gambling require that we act like we don't like gambling.

(When I say "we" I really mean, as usual, you, because I honestly don't like gambling, mostly because I have been poor for most of my adult life.  My poorness has ranged from "So poor that one of my meals per day is, technically speaking, leftover popcorn from the movie theater where I work at the second of my two jobs" to "Poor in the way that makes you bring a calculator to the grocery store to keep track of your budget but if you're careful you can afford to get Oreos, some weeks."  It's only recently that I have come to have enough money that I don't worry about paying the bills [most of the time] and that I can splurge at the Dollar Store and let Mr F and Mr Bunches get three things without fretting about who will pay for the groceries this week.  So I've never been fond of gambling because my money means lots to me.  When you have only a nominal budget for entertainment -- when a stop at the convenience store represents the entire budget for your Saturday outing -- you choose wisely when it comes to what you'll trade a buck for, and gambling was never entertaining or interesting enough for me to want to do much of it.  One of the most depressing things I've ever done in my life was, on a trip to Las Vegas, decide with Sweetie that we would see what all the fuss about slot machines was, and thereby devoted $20 to a slot.  The $20 lasted about 5 minutes, we won nothing, and to this day I sometimes find myself thinking about what else I could have done with that twenty.)

It's okay, we (you) figure to have gambling, provided it's off to the side, or in Nevada, or maybe on an Indian casino, because we (you) figure that makes it seem like people don't really like gambling or that gambling isn't a big deal, and so we have riverboat casinos like the one we almost but didn't stay in in Metropolis, off to the side of blighted towns that have all the money sucked out of them by gambling, because people who come to gamble don't come to spend money at a Superman museum or a local restaurant, they come to gamble, which would be a great reason for someone like me, who doesn't like gambling, to argue against gambling being legal, but I don't: you can do what you want with your money, and if you want to have your money siphoned out of your pocket by a corporation that promises a momentary thrill in exchange for your willingly handing over your money to an enterprise that by law is allowed to keep 70% of all the money handed to it in exchange for nothing, well, that's your business.

That said, I do sometimes play the lottery.

Anyway, we tried to book ourselves into the Metropolis Casino hotel, whatever it was really called, but it was full that weekend, according to an Internet site that said so, and so we looked around for other hotels, nearby, because we couldn't follow our usual rule of selecting hotels, rules became set in stone that night in Cleveland on the honeymoon.  Those rules are

1.  No Econolodges, no matter what.  EVER.
2.  Stay near the airport.

That was the advice given us by a helpful lady on the phone as I sat awake in Cleveland assuming that hordes of Uzi-toting gang members were going to stop doing whatever they'd been doing and instead start mugging us to get access to our expensive video camera (a wedding present) and our cassette tapes, re-booking our hotels.

"Always stay near an airport," she told me, because that's where businessmen stay, so the hotels are nicer and cleaner and cheaper and less downtown-y, so you end up with a reasonable hotel.

We couldn't do that in Metropolis, because Metropolis didn't have an airport or, so far as we knew, a downtown, so instead we chose a hotel that was located near the casino, and that appeared, from the website, to have all the features you want from a hotel: rooms, with beds, and floors, and doors.

Honestly, what can you tell from a hotel website?  All hotel rooms look the same, more or less.  They always show you the room and you can look and see what "starving artist" painting of horses they've got on the wall, and where the television is bolted to the nightstand, but beyond that, it's pretty much just a standard set of stock photographs.  Whenever we check out a hotel on the Internet, all I look for is a picture of the pool, anyway, because of the time in Los Angeles when we went there on vacation and the hotel assured us they had a pool and when we got there the "pool" was about six feet long and three feet wide.  Also, it was out of order.

I don't, either, read reviews of the hotels online (or offline, if that's a thing still) because here's why:  Who writes reviews of stuff?

Not me.

I write reviews of things that I buy only when I'm specifically asked to do so, in which case I typically resent it and you are taking your chances asking me to do that because the minute you ask me to do something you make it into a chore and now I don't want to do it.  That works with everything including leftover pizza, which is my favorite nonliving thing in the universes but if you came to me and said "Here's this leftover pizza I'd like you to eat and tell me what you think of it," well, I'll still eat it but I won't be happy with you.

So I never review anything if I can help it, and since I am the sanest/most reliable person I know -- shut up, over there, nobody wants to hear your opinion of me -- I assume that most of the reviews I see online are written by people who are less sane/reliable than me, and I have evidence to back that up, if by evidence you consider that I mean "a completely uninformed opinion that is probably accurate anyway", and that evidence is this:

Who in their right mind cares enough about something to go online and review it? 

I will tell you who:

People who have too much time on their hands.
That applies to even people who have a particularly good or bad experience with a thing: before you go review it, you've got to have enough time to want to review it, which means that you either literally have nothing more important to do than go back online and write a review of, say, a Creepy Crawlers Oven, or, worse yet, you picture yourself some kind of crusader for good or something.

That is honestly the only two types of people I can imagine posting a review of something: Someone who has no real purpose for existing and therefore has the time to do it, or someone who thinks of themselves as a kind of superhero.

Take someone like me: I yesterday took Mr Bunches and Mr F for a trip to the mall to get them each a toy, because that was how I had decided to bribe them into helping me go shop for Sweetie's birthday present, only the bribe backfired because Mr Bunches was so excited about the toy he bought that he insisted that we go home immediately to play it, and so in essence I made a trip to the toy store to bribe Mr Bunches... to go to the toy store.

The toy Mr Bunches bought is called the "Toy Story Slide N Surprise Playground Set," and it involves kind of a rudimentary waterpark for the Toy Story folks:

You put water in that yellow bucket, and Woody slides down into the hot tub, then showers off, goes over to the easel, and paints for a while.  Just like real waterparks!

The big thrill (?) of the Slide N Surprise is that Woody changes color when he gets wet: his shirt goes from the old familiar yellow to a thrilling shade of red, in just under twenty minutes, by my count, from when he first gets wet.  Then he changes back, as he dries, a process that takes about 30 minutes.

(The fact that Woody changes color caused Mr Bunches, at the toy store, to announce that he wanted to get "Colored Woody," which caused me to ponder how to teach Mr Bunches, there in the aisle, about 50 years of civil rights progress and why we don't use that word, either, but then I realized what he was talking about so we were okay provided he never ever said that again.)

The Slide N Surprise gets things wet, and Woody doesn't exactly change color all that quickly, and overall is a disappointment, but do you see me going online and complaining about that?  Not in any helpful way, you don't and that's how real Americans live.

Nor do the extremely disappointed, but sane, productive, people go online and complain, either, and I assume that to be true by looking at the example of Sweetie, who for purposes of this paragraph I'll assume to be sane and rational.  Sweetie doesn't go online and complain about things like the fact that our hotel in Metropolis had trash in the pool, because Sweetie is sane, and rational, and also because (as I frequently point out) that was actually our fault.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

We arrived at the Metropolis hotel about 8:30 or thereabouts.  Maybe 9:30.  I don't know.  I know that it was late enough that we were exhausted, but I had been promising Mr Bunches swimming for hours, and so I was glad to note that when we pulled up the pool appeared to still be open.

Leaving Sweetie, The Boy, and Mr F in the car, Mr Bunches and I went to check in.  We walked into the hotel lobby and almost immediately were accosted by the scent of stale cigarette smoke.  It is hard to believe that there was a time that all of America, including me, smelled like that.  What were we thinking?

I mean, I know what I was thinking when I started smoking, America: I was thinking "Hey, if I take this cigarette and smoke it, maybe this hot girl will like me and go out on a date with me."  That was how I started smoking, when I was 17.  I was at a teen bar, and I was talking (!) to an actual girl (!) who did not appear to be talking to me as a joke, or on a dare, or because her boyfriend needed someone to beat up.

This girl midway through a sentence dug in her purse and pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights and put one in her mouth and lit it and then offered one to me and looked at me and said:

"You smoke, right?"

I didn't, at that point, actually smoke.  I never had and had frequently said I would never smoke, but when you are a seventeen year old boy and a hot seventeen year old girl asks you whether you do something, then, especially if you are me as a seventeen year old and usually the seventeen year old girls don't even notice you enough to make fun of you, you are just invisible, well, then, you do what the seventeen year old girls assume you do.

"Sure," I said, and seventeen years later I would, after about $20,000 in money spent on cigarettes and countless dead cells, finally quit smoking and realize just how bad I'd smelled for the better part of two decades.

The hotel lobby smelled enough like cigarettes that I instinctively coughed and looked around for what I assumed would be an RJ Reynolds smokestack that vented into the room, but I didn't see it.  Mr Bunches, meanwhile, started trying to head for the pool, but I told him we had to check in.

I gave my name and the confirmation number to the girl at the desk, and she said "We've got rooms on the first floor or second floor.  The first floor rooms used to be smoking rooms," she said, "and so they might smell like cigarettes."

I wondered about the used to be.  And the might.  From what I could tell, the entire hotel was built on a cigarette butt graveyard.

"We'll take the second floor," I said, hoping that maybe we could reach the upper atmosphere and get away from the thick layer of tar I could feel coating my eyeballs.

She finished up registering us, explained that the pool was open, completely failed to warn us about the Psychotic Dog Of Terror that was allowed to roam the grounds, and then said "Oh, we're having some trouble with the electrical upstairs, so when you go up there it's going to be dark in the hall but don't worry, the room lights work okay."

It was dark in the hall.  Very dark, which is worrisome when you're shepherding two little boys, 114,000 suitcases full of Sweetie's skin-care products, 17 bags of cheese puffs in case they don't make those in Florida, and a sarcastically tired The Boy upstairs to your hotel room.

More worrisome? The dark shadow moving down the hall, clutching what appeared to be a head as he loomed out of the dark.

"Awfully dark, isn't it?" the shadow said, clutching the now-wriggling head as he approached and I tried to quickly, but politely, work the key in the door because although I was actually convinced we'd slipped into a Stephen King story and were about to be murdered in a haze of cigarette smell and cheese puffs, I also didn't want to seem impolite to this lurking-in-the-dark-threatening figure.  It would be rude of me, some lizard part of my brain thought, to suggest that the way he just popped up out of nowhere to loom over us in this dark hall in the middle of a ghost town might be frightening.

I got the door open, Sweetie and the boys went into the room, I grabbed a suitcase for protection and the guy came into the light, holding what now was revealed not to be a squirming, live, disembodied skull but instead a tiny dog, which was somehow not even a tiny bit less terrifying, and said:

"We're working on the lights."

I assumed he meant "Me and the dog," because the alternative was "Me and the spirits of all the folk I've killed in this hotel," and saying "Great! Have a good night!"  I quickly shut the door and wondered whether we could get Mr Bunches to the pool, where I might have more of a fighting chance against the guy.

Next: I explain about the trash in the pool.


Andrew Leon said...

Oh, man, a Lego store! We just took a 2 hour drive to one of those yesterday for an anniversary event at the store.

I'm glad to see your post up this morning. I was starting to worry and was actually planning to email you today.

I'm assuming all this review talk of yours doesn't apply to books. :P

Rusty Webb said...

Lego stores, eh? I bet the mega block's folks are peeved.

I had mega blocks, I had gobots, I had matchbox cars. That's probably why I break down in tears when the wife 'suggests' we use generic laundry detergent.

We'll use 'effen Tide with color bleach and lilac scented softner beads! We'll go to work in rags before anyone smells that, 'fresh scent'' from some cheap detergent.

I meant to just stop by to say that you're still awesome.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh! and I forgot to mention:
We had a book fair here last weekend, and I went to hang out at the booth of the local distributor that handles my book (well, used to handle my book), and I wore your t-shirt. Man, I got so many comments on it. People were yelling from, like, 20 feet away "great shirt!" So thanks for the shirt!
As soon as I have the money, I'm going to have to get another one. I'm thinking about the semicolon, although I may have to go with the comma because of my comma post.

anna. said...

toy story = best movie ever.