I think there is a special kind of horror you can experience only upon having to sleep in a substandard hotel. It is one thing to ride on a smelly bus or use a gross bathroom. It is quite another to walk into a room, be disgusted by it, and then have to embrace it as your place of repose for the night.
I've stayed in a lot of crappy motels in my life - mostly in the Middle East - but I have to say that the one legendary, ultimate bad motel was in Montana, somewhere. I've forgotten exactly where. I've also forgotten where, in my memory of it, reality ends and childhood exaggeration begins.
I do know for sure that we were in Montana because my dad was participating in a long-distance bike ride of some kind and my family went along for fun. We got to one little town in the middle of nowhere (which is saying a lot for Montana) and there were two hotels there. One (I still remember this) was romantically called The Nez Perce Inn. That's probably all you need to know about how classy that hotel was. Its parking lot was filled with Subaru Outback-type cars and trim, newish sedans. That hotel was full.
So our family went to the other hotel in town. It was called The Sandman. And that's probably all you need to know about how classy THAT hotel was. Here's what I remember about it. Keep in mind that I was a young child at the time so some of these may be unintentional exaggerations. MAY be. Anyway:
- Some of the rooms' windows were cracked and had holes or chunks of missing glass in them.
- The decor colors were lime green and yellowish brownish orange.
- There were ladybugs ALL OVER THE ROOM.
- One of the doors had a gunshot hole in it. I swear this is true.
- Let's just say there weren't any trim, newish sedans in the parking lot. Let's also just mention that our family's huge, white trash, red striped shoebox-on-wheels van fit riiiiiight in.
- My parents would usually have let a couple of us kids sleep on the floor to save space but in this hotel it was not deemed sanitary enough.
- I was genuinely distressed to stay in that hotel. No matter how many times my parents laughed and said it was an adventure, I didn't believe them because I was too busy being afraid. I think it had something to do with a misplaced childhood perception that the Sandman himself would come to the hotel and wreak some kind of sand-based havoc on all the guests.
We survived our stay there, but the legend of The Sandman's horrors has only grown over the years.
I meant to talk about some of the other bad places I've stayed but I think I'll save them for another time. Here's a teaser: have you ever stayed in a hotel so bad that the only sign indicating it is there is that its name is spray-painted on the alley wall? I have.