* Ahhhh, the Executive Inn. My parents had their wedding reception in the Atrium there, which is the smack-center of the hotel, with rooms overlooking it for 4 floors. The marquee out front said “CONGRAGULATIONS MARY AND DOUG” and on the next line, “TRY OUR NEW POOL”, like they were inviting my newlywed folks in for a cool dip on a June day, and I’m pretty sure the pool has not been renovated—maybe not even cleaned—since that weekend in 1972. Dad says people used to travel TO the Exec for the restaurant and “big name entertainment,” but sadly, those days are no more. A couple of Christmases ago, my brother, his fiancée, and A. and I stayed there for a night, as it is ridiculously close to the retirement village where all of my grandparents now live. It was deserted, we had drinks in the bar, and there was some incident at check-in where we couldn’t open the door to our room because the deadbolt was flipped from the inside, and we could hear the TV on, like someone was in there. A maintenance guy came up to check on it and wondered aloud if someone had died in there. (they hadn’t.) I don’t remember it being great, but I don’t remember it being horrible. But, as I mentioned, I’d had a drink or two that year. The reality is that it has gone from Premier Destination to Super Shithole without me taking much notice, apparently, boasting two bars and catering to truck drivers and floozies. I, of course, made a reservation there for Saturday night.
So A. pulls up to the door with a sleeping bird in the car at about 8:00, and drops me off to check in. On my way to the front desk, I pass a very young woman in a formal-ish dress, smoking a skinny cigarette, with a house arrest bracelet strapped to her ankle. (I do have to give her mad props, though, because she had it kinda covered with heels that laced up her calf.) I walked in and talked to the skeleton-lady clerk, reminded her of my crib request, and told her my parents were on their way to meet us with a pizza, and could she please direct them to our room. During this whole conversation I’m thinking the music is very loud, and I turn to face into the Atrium and lo and behold, IT IS THE FUCKING LINCOLN HIGH FUCKING PROM. At first, I am jazzed about this. I love to gawk at people, especially people in formal wear, and especially young people in tacky formal wear on what they are sure will be the biggest and most important night in their young lives. I had a fleeting vision of Andy and I leaning over the balcony watching the prom below, drinking beer and laughing at the promminess, slipping into the king-sized bed, warmly drunk and giggly. I skipped to the car, and announced to A. that it was Promalicious in there. “I know.” He said. “I’d noticed.” And just as he said that a big ole truck rips into the Executive Inn Parking lot pulling a flat-bed trailer with hay bales and about 20 kids on it, one of the boys standing up and pretending to unzip his tux pants. All fabulous until I remembered we had a sleeping six-month-old to care for.
We get on the elevator (which has a sign on it that says “no more than 6 people on the elevator at one time”—yikes), and head up to our non-smoking room, which smells like 20 years of smoke and other bar and/or whorehouse activity. There is a knock at the door and it’s the maintenance dude, BJ, wearing a nametag that says “BJ the Beautiful” and he has an un-sheeted, rickety crib on wheels. I would have preferred a laundry basket with a pillow in the bottom, and BJ looks and smells like he’s been sleeping under an overpass for the last 6 months, and he’s wearing a filthy Donald Duck shirt that says “I’m the boss.” That Usher song is still bumping through the door, and this is looking more like an opportunity to contract some disease and experience sleep deprivation than a comfortable place to rest for the night, so we head back down to the front desk and promptly cancel our reservation. You would think, if someone called the day before the prom to reserve a room with a crib, that you might mention the prom. Unless you are the big sweaty dude and the skeleton lady, and in that case you don’t say a damn word.
We rendezvous with my parents at the Comfort Inn, where they do not have any non-smoking rooms available, but they do have “smoking optional” rooms, meaning, I guess, that they do not force you to smoke in room 132 overlooking the Arby’s drive-thru. My Dad is present for this check-in, and he makes a big deal about whether or not the room smells like smoke, and the Chinese man behind the desk is having a tough time communicating with him and with me, because Dad is making a fuss over whether the room smells like smoke and I’m talking over him to say that it doesn’t matter, we’ll take it. I just want a piece of damn pizza. So Chinese guy passes us to Chinese Lady, whose English is worse than his (my grandparents do not live in a big city. These are undisputably the only Chinese people around), and she finishes checking us in, charging us ten extra bucks for the crib despite the objections of the youngish girl behind the counter with them who actually speaks English.
When we arrive at our room overlooking the scenic Arby’s Drive-Thru, we pass the original Chinese man in the hallway carrying a large can of air freshener, which had to have been empty by that point, because our room was cloudy and damp with smells. Citrus smells that did not originate in citrus fruits. The same citrus spray-smell that we used to use in the bathroom at the mental health drop-in center, where good hygiene was a rare surprise and bonus, but never a requirement.
So we spent the night in our little cavern of smells at the Comfort Inn, eating a cold-ish pizza, watching Birdy slowly roll around and play herself to sleep in the ACTUAL, CLEAN CRIB WITH A SHEET PROVIDED BY THE HOTEL (Thank you, Comfort Inn), praying that she was actually putting herself to sleep and not experiencing some strange and slow failure of her nervous system due to inhaling the mushroom cloud of citrus we were trying to push out the open window and into the Arby’s parking lot. Good night, little family Snee.