The list of things that make me feel guilt stricken is long and seemingly unending. This week it includes; not having taken my kids to get pumpkins yet, ordering pizza for dinner because I didn’t plan a well balanced meal, spending money (on anything), and now I can add another to the list….having a terrible time on a vacation and having to admit it. We seem to have expectations when it comes to the word ‘vacation’ and those expectations include returning from said vacation filled with happiness, contentment, and an abundance of rich experiences to brag about. Days on the beach, amazing meals, and surprise interactions with complete strangers that make us smile and feel grateful that we are alive. But sometimes a vacation isn’t all that vacationy…sometimes it’s just a few days in another city where the struggles of being human seem exacerbated. At least that’s how I feel after my four days in San Diego.
My trip began with picking up my rental car and being informed that this particular rental agency had a new gas policy. They now required you to bring in the receipt from your final fill up and the gas station you filled up at must be within 10 miles of their location. Don’t wanna fill up? They are happy to do it for you at the reasonable rate of $9.87/gallon. After gagging, I signed my name, grabbed my keys, and headed out to choose which Matchbox sized car I would prefer to die in. As I was pulling out the parking lot, I looked down at the gas gauge only to realize that it was at 1/4 of a tank instead of full. Apparently I needed to fill up the fucking car, but no one else was responsible for that kind of nonsense. Instead of switching cars, the gentleman up front signed his initials that the car was not full of gas and gave me directions to the nearest gas station. Directions that made absolutely no fucking sense to me because I don’t live in San Diego. Hence the rental car, Oscar.
I then made a quick drive up to LA to visit friends and by quick drive, I mean I spent three hours navigating California freeways completely oblivious to how far San Diego is from LA. Blah, blah, blah, I saw the Hollywood sign and other shit and then it was time to head back. Which I couldn’t do until traffic cleared up around 9 pm. Driving in the dark for three hours in a state you aren’t familiar with should be the intro to some horror movie because I was certain my car would break down and I would be repeatedly stabbed on the side of the road. This was around the time that I started wishing I could just go home. Then I arrived at my hotel.
My husband is a budget traveler which usually works out fine. We have stayed in all sorts of motels, hotels, condos, and 99% of them have been great. The one he booked for me this time landed in the other 1%. As I pulled in at 11:45 pm, the registration area was closed and the only way to check in was through a bullet proof window that had a hole at the bottom where you could slide your credit card through and pray to baby Jesus you would actually get it back. This place was not only an overnight motel, but a weekly and monthly motel. And not the nice kind. The handwritten sign taped to the bulletproof window informed guests that “If you are paying cash, we require you leave a $200 deposit or your state issued ID”. Or a picture of yourself in front of your trailer park or the phone number to your heroin dealer.
As I made my way around back, I saw a prostitute traipsing around the parking lot in a leather mini, stiletto heels, and a Baby Gap tank top. I began feeling ill and very homesick, but I kept telling myself that the room would be fine and I was just being silly and it would look much better in the daylight. It didn’t, in case you were wondering. Once inside my very small, very 70’s style abode, I turned around to deadbolt the door and realized that there was no deadbolt and no way for me to keep anyone with a key out of my room. Which seems reasonable when the majority of your clientele are probably wanted in 30 states or selling bathtub meth to make rent. I wanted to cry. I wanted to call the airline and request a flight back to my normal, predictable, happy life. Instead, I pushed the small table and chairs in front of the door, bobby pinned the curtains closed, and went to bed.
This place was just as scabby in the morning, so I left as soon as humanly possible to find a breakfast joint. During the next four hours I became lost 46 times, was stopped by an elderly gentleman who wanted to tell me about the horrors of Obama, and spent more money on parking than I spend on groceries in a month. By the time I reached the check-in desk for the writing conference that afternoon, I was on the verge of a meltdown. The kind you need three weeks to recover from.
The first evening of the conference I hung out with a fellow writer and we decided to find a coffee shop where we could sit and chat after our classes ended. As we grabbed our drinks and sat down on the patio, the gentleman next to us looked up and said “I’m smoking here and if you don’t like it, you should move.” We should have taken his advice. After a few minutes of benign conversation, he began sharing with us the type of women he prefers to date. At one point he looked directly at me and said “You have nothing to worry about, I have a specific type of woman I like.” Thanks, dick cheese. He went on to tell us how he, as a 52-year-old rich dude, prefers to date ladies in the age range of 18-23. “Once they are older than that, they want to plan a life with you. They want to know what is next. I don’t need that.” Who does, really? It takes a special kind of crazy to tell a complete stranger that they are old and ugly after knowing them for 6 minutes. He was that special kind of crazy.
Each evening at the Bates Motel, I had to batten down the hatches before going to sleep and each morning I peeked out of my second story window to make sure there were no hookers or bookies waiting outside my door. I hated driving in the dark, I couldn’t find a coffee shop to save my life, and alcohol was out of the question since drinking at the conference bar would have forced me to take out a second mortgage. I couldn’t find a beach and that fucking rental car would randomly sputter and threaten to die on the freeway. It felt like one cluster fuck after another. And I wanted to go home.
So when you ask me “How was your vacation?”, don’t expect some Pollyanna description of baby ducks or walks on the beach. It was kind of a disaster.The kind of disaster that leaves you with only a few vacation pictures on your iPhone, all of which are photos of your hooker motel.
How was the rest of my vacation? Tune in next week for how the actual conference was, links to some cool writers I met, and a sneak peek at my elevator pitch. The one I spent hours writing and never actually used.