My family and I share a number of memories over which we laugh from time to time. We’ve been through a lot, and many of our experiences are funny in retrospect. Of course, not all of them were funny at the time.
Perhaps the most notorious of these was That Time I Stayed in the World’s Worst Motel, a harrowing experience that bound my family together in suffering and endurance. After all, the deepest love and brightest humor are forged in the fiery crucible of such trials. Nothing brings a family together like a bad motel!
I wish I could say the Motel of Despair, whose official name was something unassuming like The Dollar Inn, was fronted by a sign that spelled out HELLO in red neon lights, and that the O had burned out, but that would not be strictly true to the facts.
It would, however, have been a fair description.
My memories of that fateful night are pretty hazy. I suspect this is because my subconscious is trying to protect my fragile psyche by repressing all recollections of that motel. I remember a dingy room with a damp, moldy carpet. There was a television, I recall, dating from approximately 1943, which gave us dozens of channels of static. I seem to recall finding a crumpled chip bag and half a bottle of soda beneath the bed.
Then there was the bathroom. It… it was… that bathroom…
The horror! The horror!
The water was rust-colored, I think, and the floor teemed with fascinating specimens of molds and fungi. There may have been insects or arachnids lurking in the shadows, but I honestly don’t remember.
I do remember that the “pool” promised by the motel’s brochure was a rectangular hole in the ground, not much larger than a couple of bathtubs side by side, built of concrete. The “continental breakfast” offered by the motel was one or two packets of instant oatmeal, supplied grudgingly in the office by the motel staff.
I have stayed in resorts, hotels, motels, cabins, inns and hostels in several countries across three continents. Many of these were not fancy or luxurious. Some lacked hot water; most lacked television; practically all lacked Internet. In one memorable set of cabins—which, may I add, my family and I visited regularly over many years—we found, on separate occasions, a snake slithering across the floor and an enormous frog lurking in the toilet.
However, no place I have ever stayed was worse than The Dollar Inn. It may not have been the world’s worst motel, but it was certainly the worst I have ever seen. I consider myself fortunate to have survived it, and blessed to have had the moral support of my parents and brothers. Whatever else our stay in that motel may have been, it was memorable. We have certainly never forgotten it.