At one time I had a job that required fairly regular travel for business. Every couple of months I'd be packed off, usually at short notice, to a city that required a flight and a hotel stay. I was still enough of a peasant to be delighted by these opportunities, and every hotel with a free continental breakfast, however frightening the instant eggs and flaccid english muffins, seemed super nice and I sat at my small table under the everpresent bleat of CNN feeling smug and important.
One trip in particular took me to Atlanta for a GSA conference. The GSA, or General Services Administration, is in part the purchasing department for the federal government. This trip involved the standard conference experience of standing around smiling, smelling stale popcorn, handing out swag and business cards, our only entertainment whipping the occasional squeezy hand exerciser shaped like a moving truck at the douchebaggy lawyers across the aisle.
My getting there was a whole 'nother story, which is explained here . Once we got there we discovered why its really better to make your own reservations.
The salesman who was coordinating this shindig told us to stay at a particular chain hotel on Peachtree. Now for those of you unfamiliar with the fairest of fair cities, Atlanta, Peachtree St NW is a main corridor that runs through downtown. And there is one of these hotels very close to the conference location. This is the one he meant. The only wee problem is, its not on Peachtree. Its one block off. The other wee problem is, there was another of this chain on Peachtree. It was six blocks away. This is where we had reservations. And as every other hotel downtown was sold out, we had to keep them.
We got there and from the lobby, the hotel seemed to be full of old world charm. That is, after I shook off the creepy feeling from the historical marker outside, which detailed a horrific fire that took place there earlier in the century. Our rooms were done in early Miami Vice. Very, very early. In the case of mine the dusty floral and aquamarine-appointed room was obscured in a layer of funk comprised mainly of nicotine and despair. The night stand was sticky and scarred with multicolor stains much in the way a toaster gets when you leave the bread bag too close to it.
I peeled the gold bedspread off with two fingers and flicked it in the corner.
At this point in my life I wasn't much for making a fuss and complaining so my meek request to move to a non-smoking room was dismissed with the explanation that they couldn't move me until the middle of the day and WOULDN'T move my stuff if I wasn't there. I decided to make the best of it. I spent my life camping. I was a camp counselor. How bad could it be?
Any hopes of a luxurious soak in the tub were squashed by the jaunty, cheerful curl of a rogue pube. At this point I had no real desire to even take off my shoes. But the best was yet to come. The closet in this room had been moved in a remodeling, leaving a shallow recess in which a safe had been installed. Some terrible compulsion made me poke my head into the dead space alongside the safe, in the unused right hand side of the old closet.
This was a mistake.
Unfurled and stuck to the carpet was a used condom. A furiously whispered conversation at the front desk resulted in its removal....the next day.
These days, I get to stay in better hotels. Even so, I inspect them before I take off my shoes, checking all corners, scrutinizing surfaces. So far these inspections have yielded no more unpleasant surprises.
I still hold my breath when I peek into the closet.