Life in a motel without a car
Part1: People in motels with cars get up early.
Woke before dawn when two people walked past my window talking. People in motels with cars get up early so they can get in their cars and go. My sleepy brain, thinking we were home where there’s nothing outside the window but a long drop, frenziedly tried to figure out what was happening. I couldn’t find the light switch so I turned the TV on. The news said that while I slept a man in McDonalds was shot to death. The thought of a fluorescent-lit MacMeal being the last thing you eat, or even see, before you die was a mournful one to start the day on. The weatherman said 93 degrees and gusty winds; a good day for an early run.
Part 2: Going for a run beside a freeway.
It was a freeway motel and since I don’t have a car, the only place to run is the freeway. Running beside a freeway isn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s far less boring than a treadmill – for one thing there’s that tinge of anxiety that the driver of one of those enormous trucks going by at 75mph might get distracted by the sight of you trying to race them, veer over and squash you like a bug. Though still safer than McDonalds probably. Also, the knowledge that however fast you run you’re still going to get there last and that there really isn’t any ‘there’ to get to, gives it a Zen element that running – running by choice, I mean, as opposed to necessity, like if you’ve a bus to catch or an armed maniac to evade – ought to have.
Part 3: Breakfast.
I’ve never much enjoyed going out for breakfast; I’m not much of a morning person and like to ease into a day. The motel offers a free continental breakfast – although America is the only continent I know that breakfasts from a big plastic bin of fruit loops. I’d forgotten all about fruit loops – can you get them outside of motels? But I appreciated the subtlety of their colours, the pastel lime and dusty pink. Breakfasts in America and the places you eat them tend to be far too colourful for the food they serve and for the time of morning. The motel also had a waffle machine, which looked scary, and good coffee with those little pots of half and half that make you feel guilty that your desire to open a third one and only to use a drop of it has put yet another knife into the environment. And, on my run, I noticed there was a Dennys. I think I’ll start going out for breakfast.
Part 4: Buying shit.
Really there are too many shops, period. You can get almost anything you need to get by from a freeway gas station. And the staff is friendly. The gas station was empty; when the guy working there noticed that there was no car accompanying me, he seemed genuinely concerned for my well-being and my ability to return whence I came without the help of wheels. Had I been a several decades younger or a few decades older I’m pretty sure he would have given me an icecream and called the authorities. I came back with fresh milk for the fridge, a bag of trail mix and a hand-drawn map to a dry river bed where I could go for a run tomorrow.
Part 5: Motel pools.
Motels invariably have pools. They tend to be small and square and fenced into their own little gated compound, as if to protect them from someone making off with them in their truck. There’s a slew of trucks parked around the back of the motel, but strangely only the fronts. All of the trucks are missing their back ends, which makes them look funny, like semi-pantomime horses. The pool in this motel here is sparkly clean, with loungers all around and an umbrella that no-one’s put up, because no-one but me is here. In motels, most people tend to get in their cars and leave by seven in the morning, so the car-less guest gets the pool to herself. And the sound of the traffic going by on the freeway is soothing. Like Tom Petty wrote in American Girl, the cars roll by like waves crashing on a beach. And yes, for one desperate moment there, he crept back in my memory.