It’s been a long time since I shared a proper hotel failure. While few things can top Miss Chippy, we had an experience over last Easter break that made me think back to my very first travels.
Long ago (I allowed 30 to come and go without mention here last fall) I participated in a high school travel program. This sort of trip is an excellent and cost-effective way to get very drunk indeed under the auspices of mind-broadening travel.
Our trip was called “Shakespeare, Dickens, and Scott.” It hit the literary high notes of England and Scotland over a seven-day period. After being issued our tour-logoed day packs and instructed not to let the guide’s umbrella out of our sight, we were educated about the masters. We were also learning what it meant to navigate a hotel carpeted and wallpapered in mismatched plaid tartan whilst totally bombed on cider.
For the record, it’s possible to see plaid in triplicate.
That trip was on my mind as our family ventured back south to Warwickshire, one of the old tour stops, to take the (largely uninterested) girls around Shakespeare country. We saw pretty and pretty awkward young things touring Stratford and bearing the same backpacks I once did. How nostalgic! Like looking at the Ghosts of Travel Past!
Except, booked in a fit of frugality, our lodgings now were no better than mine were then. It was a beat to hell and stained old Travelodge, with crumbling structures and plank-hard beds. I wouldn’t let the girls play on the bare couch.
It was also overrun by teens on their spring break, sans chaperone, glorying in their Travel Present.
I had a hard time resenting them. Had I not been an obnoxious young guest once upon a lagered time? But as the first night wore on and it became clear the staff had lost the plot, as the teens woke the girls again and again with stomping and screaming, I started to get irked.
The second night began promisingly. The hotel brought in additional security to cope. But by 7pm the hijinks were back on, and slurring voices roamed the halls.
Finally, one of them started drum-pounding on our door looking for his buddy… five minutes after both girls had fallen asleep. I leaped from the bed and charged the door to present the little jerks with the Gorgon visage of the Ghost of Christmas Future: a nearly-30 pudgy Mom of two little kids, sheathed not in robes but in old yoga pants and keening with the shrill banshee howl of death foretold.
I forget what exactly I said to them; I just know there was a lot of cursing. The shocked teen boys (between 15-18) recoiled as if I had come bearing a water cannon. The staff heard me a floor below at reception and came inquiring about the unhinged woman. Tom calmly explained that if they couldn’t get the situation back under control (he had done his yelling the night before during wake-up number five) we wouldn’t be paying for our stay. They readily agreed. Tom clucked after “That is the maddest I’ve ever seen you!”
Ultimately we left a night early and with our stay totally refunded, having had our Murtaugh “I’m too old for this shit” moment. It made me far more patient on our cruise two months after, though: one day I too will chuckle at campy lounge humor and wear sensible polyester slacks that zip off at the knee and lose my bifocals before dinner.
It was, in a way, like looking at our Ghosts of Travel Future.