You can all breathe a sigh of relief— I'm not about to start belaboring the particulars of whatever it is I've been up to of late. Even I grow weary of the patterns of debauchery, degradation, contrition, and empty promises I have been peppering these pages with since I first relapsed in December, so I expect y'all are firmly in Camp Been There Done That, Bought The Commemorative Proof Set Now Kindly Shut Up. I feel your pain. Think about my mom, who's been listening to it for 40 years. That woman is a saint, I tell you.
So. After the library staff accused me of being a rapist I got a little gun-shy. Understandable, I think. After a couple hundred consecutive complaint-free columns, save for maybe the occasional charge of sophistry, anthropomorphism, or sophomoric twaddle, to be branded a perv shook me a little. More than a little, really. It fucked me up. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and blame then for my relapse this time. For shame, librarians. You are supposed to be an oasis of enlightenment and social responsibility, and here you are pushing a poor struggling addict back into the rapacious arms of Mother Meth.
So I decided to take a little break and think about what direction I wanted my work to go and what I needed to do to atone for my sins, decided a little think-powder might help crystallize (pun definitely intended) my ruminations into some kind of workable plan and before I knew it 2 months had passed. I grabbed up an AVA just to be sure the paper hadn't imploded without my reinforcing brilliance and was shocked to find my name, quite cruelly and unceremoniously, stricken from the masthead.
Just like that, after 8 years of faithful service, without so much as a how-do-you-do. Hmph, I say, and furthermore, harumph. A fella can't take a little sabbatical without being tossed out like last night's pizza crusts? Cockburn, bless his name and memory, has been expired for seven years and still occupies a place of honor amongst the yet-breathing scribes. I don't pretend to be in that league, of course, but still.
Emeritus status may have eluded me but I am, for better or worse, back. Financial concerns, a childish need for attention, an undernourished self-image, and a gradually eroding identity have led me back to the fold and hopefully, back into the hearts and good graces of a couple of crotchety editors and you, the readers.
So, what else have I been doing besides spending brain cells like a rapper firing singles at a strip bar? Working, for one, in an entirely new field: Guest Services Representative for [redacted] Hospitality, known to most as Motel [numeral redacted]. The south side one.
Locals and anyone in the know about this particular inn will now be shaking their heads in wonderment at the apparently boundless levels of my heedlessness. While tis true that this establishment, like any budget motel, caters to weary travelers of a certain class, both foreign and domestic, this demographic represents roughly half of our revenue.
The other half is provided by the grittier elements of society, which basically means it’s paid for by you, the middle-class taxpayer, either directly through the SSDI and SSI programs, or indirectly as these resourceful gals and fellas without homes hustle all day doing anything they can to put a roof over their heads, usually at the cost of wearing more holes in the social fabric.
But if you make the price of one night on a bed, peeing into porcelain and pillowing one’s head with something other than a rock, the equivalent of 10% of your income, that’s an absurd notion and another example of white America seeking to slide in a little Jim Crow Lite. Like cigarettes and gasoline, budget motels have not kept pace with inflationary rates and changing economic paradigms — adjusted for inflation, the early-60’s $6 rate is $50 in 2019 dollars — and the reason seems to be keeping the rabble out as homeless rates skyrocket.
The exclusionary squares may have a point about motels and their intended purpose NOT being permanent housing but a way station for peripatetic midwesterners piloting their bloated environmental crimes across the landscape, but in these kind of lopsided, rigged and gerrymandered social and economic systems it’s a cinch that at least one motel is going to end up being That One, the one where all the bedlinen has cigarette burns in it and the drug dealers operate more or less freely, where folks will come in off the street and straight up bathe and do laundry in the pool. With shampoo and conditioner and Tide yet. The Clorox is already in the water, I guess. The Sunrise and Economy Inns have loudly proclaimed “¡Basta Ya!” in giving their properties a complete makeover, presumably with significantly higher rates and a comprehensive strategy for keeping out the riff-raff.
Their pit bulls terrorize the cleaning crew, their cars come wheezing and rattling in, haphazardly festooned with their belongings which will always include: parts from current and former vehicles which have fallen off or become inoperable; cartons of food-bank comestibles; and the detritus from that which they actually eat, fast food wrappers. They are a loud, dirty, obnoxious, and crafty bunch who will attempt the most transparent ruses imaginable to obtain free or discounted lodging; importing outside insect life, wild tales of marauding housekeepers, or sabotage of equipment and furnishings.
Despite all this and many, many more unsavory and unhygienic practices, I treat these guests exactly as I do the nose-wrinkling mayonnaise spreaders wondering if we can’t do something about all these Mexicans partying all night long.
I tell them, you could try and stop a paisa from busting his nalgas in the hot sun all day and unwinding with 12 or 13 Modelos afterward but you’re not likely to walk away from that endeavor feeling anything like success. He is going to drink, he is going to sing, and ultimately the ai-yi yis will come out. Best to enjoy the rare opportunity to experience the customs of other cultures.
Respect, friendliness, helpfulness, and humor are freely dispensed during my shift regardless whether you arrived in a Lamborghini or on your Lamborfeeties. (Credit where it’s due: that is my friend Kylee’s joke). Everyone wants the same thing — a cool room, a clean, comfortable bed and occasionally some sort of special request which I will fulfill or die trying, and they want it fast.
The people who have been on the road for hours, days, or weeks are naturally the least patient and most likely to snap, and I’m proud to say that only twice since I’ve worked there have I been unable, by the time the transaction is concluded, to have soothed their passions and improved their attitudes. Once they get their key in hand and realize they were being an asshole over 10 minutes of extra travel time, they become extra-nice in atonement for their douchiness.
An exception would be the little old lady from Grants Pass who, scant hours ago, abused me thoroughly and viciously over a series of small deviations from the straight road to Sleepytown.
Like, seriously mean and only making the situation worse with her vitriol because if you’ve never had to reverse-engineer data-entry mistakes during a hardware crisis while being called a retard—again and again—and also trying to calm her down, don’t waste your time writing a play about it because it’ll just make the audience uncomfortable.
I never lost my temper. I kept saying things like, “I thank you for your criticism and I hope your opinion of me will not color your impression of the motel. I am very sorry for the inconvenience and do hope you’ll continue to choose Motel [numeral redacted].”
The closest I came to parrying was toward the end when I said, “Ma’am, with all due respect, I could probably unravel this mess a lot faster If I wasn’t talking to you. I’m sure that if you take a seat and allow me to concentrate I’ll have you in your room in no time.”
Bad witches from Oregon notwithstanding, you couldn’t pry me from this gig with a wrecker bar and a gallon of duck butter, and the reason why is not the generous remuneration, cause it don’t pay shit. It’s not the work environment nor the benefits nor the scintillating co-workers, who in fact scintillate about as effectively as wet clay.
It’s because I have spent my entire working life pissed-off and I didn’t even realize it until given the opportunity to help make a few small, reasonable dreams come true. Being helpful gets me out of my own head and into the real world, where a few dedicated and selfless people—whatever line you’re in —can make someone feel glad to have participated in what is, at best, usually a tedious necessity. Nobody ever claimed commerce was fun but I’m bound to make it so.
This should surprise no one, but Canadians are the most likely to loosen up and engage with me. Their good-looking women are also way more down-to-earth than, say, the Spaniard variety—and I’m quite aware of the gauche nature of my racist generalizations—who have elevated the art of being beautiful into something between fine art and smart bombs. I’ll stop there before I accuse some other group of being pathologically picky and insisting on discounts if the towels are folded incorrectly.
Never thought, being an antisocial misanthrope with depressive tendencies, a career in customer service would be anything but torture. I stayed in the back of the house because I doubted my ability to deliver food to anyone without throwing it in their faces, but it just goes to show you. Maybe try to find out what all the smiling’s about instead of dodging them.