A Harrowing Stay

A blogging friend recently commented about staying in a Bates-type motel on a recent vacation to Alaska. If you’ve never seen the movie “Psycho,” the reference might be lost on you, but trust me, one does NOT want to spend any time, let alone an entire night, in such a place.

Studly Doright and I, along with our infant daughter, once had no choice other than to overnight in just such an unsavory hotel. We’d flown from Amarillo, Texas, to Houston when our baby girl was due for her heart checkup at Texas Children’s Hospital. We spent one night in a moderately priced hotel before her appointment and then afterwards drove directly to Houston Hobby Airport for the trip home.

Unfortunately a storm system moved in and our return flight was canceled until the next day. Studly and I had stretched our resources just to pay for the trip. An unexpected night in Houston was not in our budget. Had we not had an infant with us we might’ve just stayed at the airport, but our baby needed a place to sleep.

We searched the hotel directory at Hobby for a motel we could afford. There were several we could swing, but with the added cab fare they were financially out of reach. Finally I found a hotel that had cab fare included. It seemed perfect and we made a reservation.

Upon our arrival we noted the hotel appeared a bit rundown. The neon sign had missing letters, and the stucco was peeling off the facade in places. The lobby smelled strongly of roach spray, and a sign behind the desk had room prices listed by the day, the week, and the hour. Let that last one sink in. I had a bad feeling about the place.

A woman in a skin tight, cleavage baring, leopard print jumpsuit took our information and most of our money before handing us a green key for a room on the first floor. Walking down the musty hallway to the we heard the sounds of despair: babies screaming, elderly people moaning, people doing what people do in seedy motel rooms. I had the strong urge to run back to the lobby and hail a cab.

Our room door looked as if someone had taken an axe to it. There were deep gouges next to the frame, yet the lock looked solid. Inside the room we were confronted by what appeared to be a large bloody handprint on the wall above the bed, the smell of roach spray wafted on the air, stronger even than in the lobby. Oh, and the sliding door onto the tiny patio wouldn’t close all the way, so we couldn’t lock it. That might explain the presence of the handprint.

Our sweet baby was asleep in my arms, so we made her a nest out of our previously worn clothes, laying them on the sheets so her little body didn’t have to make contact with whatever might’ve been infesting the mattress. Thank goodness I was still breastfeeding her, since money for food had been all but depleted.

Studly ran next door to an all night diner to find a snack for the two of us while I watched over the baby and jumped at every sound. When he made it back we nibbled on our makeshift dinner and then tried to rest in a way that wouldn’t require us to make full contact with the bedding. We didn’t dare turn out the lights, but Studly actually snored while our daughter slept in innocent bliss. I, on the other hand, don’t remember closing my eyes for even a minute. Someone had to keep the bogey man at bay!

The sounds coming through the partially opened balcony door indicated violent activity in the vicinity. Sirens blared all night, and I swear I heard gunshots at least twice between midnight and two a.m. It was no place for sissies, and brother, let me tell you I’m a big ol’ sissy. Morning couldn’t come soon enough.

I didn’t rest until we were safely on the plane headed back to Amarillo the next day, certain that we’d barely escaped with our lives. And those Southwest peanuts and the free soft drinks were akin to manna from the gods.

Nowadays we can afford to stay in nicer places, but I never enter a hotel room without remembering that scary night in our own Bates Motel. Bloody handprints are a deal breaker.

Peace, people.