Back when I was a hardcore backpacker, I spent up to 10 days in the woods. Most of the time, when I arrived at a supply town, I would take a pay shower at a campground, load up my food, and slip back into the forest. In those days, motel rooms were a rare treat. I wasn’t discerning at all. A motel had to fulfill four basic qualifications: 1. It needed to cost twenty-eight bucks a night or less, 2. It needed not to be a working brothel, 3. It had to be across the street from a place where you could get a two-dollar breakfast, and 4. it had to have running — and, if possible, warm — water. My younger self did not care if the curtains smelled like Salem Lights, or if there were mystery splotches on the comforters and on the ceiling, or if there were shirtless burly dudes hanging out in the parking lot all night, slurping Boones Farm Strawberry straight from the bottle. I didn’t even mind if the doors to my room would not close unless you propped a bunch of couches against them. As far as I was concerned, a motel was a motel. Right?
But not anymore. These days I’ve grown a little soft. For example, I just got back from a whirlwind visit to Seattle. The trip itself was fantastic, but I had some concerns with my accomodations on Aurora Avenue. A certain online cheap reservations service (I can’t tell you the name, but I can tell you that it rhymes with Shmavelocity) stuck me in a chain motel room that was exactly seven feet from a Jack In the Box drive through window. I was so close, I could have leaned out and ordered myself a shake at three a.m. All night long, I had to put my hands over my ears because of all the people driving up and bellowing orders: “I WANT A BEEF MONSTER TACO, A STEAKMELT, CHOCOLATE OVERLOAD, TWO PITA SNACKS, TEN ORDERS OF CHEESY MACARONI BITES and A SOURDOUGH ULTIMATE CHEESEBURGER.” And then the perky woman in the drive-through counter couldn’t quite hear them, so she would shout back at them, and then they would shout their order even more loudly until my motel room began to quake. I put several pillows over my head, and even put on the kind of industrial strength earplugs that jackhammer operators use on the streets of Manhattan. In spite of my best effforts, the hungry, shouting customers and the perky-voiced attendant just got louder and louder. Next time, I’m going to stay in a nicer, more quiet place. (Or maybe I’ll just pitch my tent in the middle of a Jack In the Box and see if anyone notices.)