Sometimes, You Get What You Pay For

So a funny thing happened when I went to Bakersfield.  I know, again, why?  And the answer is that one of my closest friends from college was getting married.  She and I had not kept in touch at the level that either of us would like—when she texted to say that she was engaged, I had to text back, “Who is this?”—but she asked me to stand beside her in an orange satin dress, and I was honored. 

I was honored to shell out $300 for the dress, more for the shoes, to co-host the bridal shower, and to offer to put together a cookbook for the bride that has yet to be finished.  Something I was not honored to do, was pay over $200 for a weekend at the Bakersfield Doubletree. 

As a bridesmaid, I supposed it would look bad if I wasn’t staying with the rest of the wedding, but I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money when I wasn’t even going to be in the room.  So I went to

I found a room at the Howard Johnson (affectionately called the “HoJo”) for $45 a night and convinced myself that the authors of bad reviews were just expecting too much from a limited service motel. 

“I mean, how bad could it be?”  I entered my card information and paid the $100 in advance for the weekend.

When I arrived at the decrepit structure coated in Pepto Bismol whose address might as well have been on Highway 99, I decided that maybe expecting too much wasn’t a bad thing.  I sat in my car in the empty parking lot and while the intense heat of the afternoon sun slowly turned my skin from damp to dripping, I watched the army of maintenance men crawl like ants over the grounds. 

“Maybe the Hojo took the bad reviews to heart?”  I thought as a pair of overalls slathered the railing with sea foam green, his huge drips barely missing my car. “Staying here will be like eating at Taco Bell after the E. coli scare.”  Yes, I realize I was comparing my hotel to fast food.

I had an hour to get ready and get to the rehearsal so I checked in, “You wanted nonsmoking, right?”  and then hurried up to my second floor room.

Five seconds after I’ve opened the door, “Rrrriiiiinng.”


“Hi, I just wanted to make sure everything is ok with the room?”

“Uh, well, I just walked in, but everything seems to be here.”

“OK, well, if there’s anything you need, please just tell me.”

“Yea, ok, I will.”

“Anything at all.”

“Yea.  Sure thing.  Listen, I gotta jump off here and get ready for a rehearsal dinner.  But thanks for checking.”  Weird.

In too big a hurry to care, I dumped the entire contents of my bag onto the bed, grabbed my toiletries and headed to the shower.  I looked around for bugs, spiders, mold; dead bodies on ice, but everything looked in order so I just shrugged off the weirdness of the receptionist.

Then I turned on the water.  As soon as I turned the knobs, the showerhead flew across the bathroom and icy water started spraying everywhere.  I panicked and tried turning the knobs one way and then the other but all this did was change the temperature from frigid to scalding and they eventually just came off in my hands. 

Crap.  Seriously?  I did not have time for this.  I slammed down the shower lever and as boiling water filled the bathtub, I reattached the knobs and scientifically figured out how to turn off the water.

I didn’t even need to open my mouth when I squished into the lobby.

“Oh.  Let me get you a new room.  Do you want to be on the first or second floor?”


“Yea, that’s probably a good idea.  The second floor is safer.”  Safer?

“Excuse me; is there a safety issue here?”

“Oh no, I just meant, you know, you’re by yourself and-“

“Yea, if you could just get me into a new room, I now have 30 minutes to get ready.”

“Do you want smoking or nonsmoking?”  Didn’t we just have this conversation?


“Ok, here you go, room 208, right next door to your old room.  And it’s nonsmoking.”

Nonsmoking, my sopping wet behind—the second I opened the door the acrid aroma of a hot-boxed room sucker punched me in the face. 


“Hi.  Yea, so the room smells like someone smoked in here for a week without opening the windows or doors.  And it’s also like 100 degrees in here and the AC doesn’t feel like it’s working.”

“Oh, yea, well, it’s going to take me a few minutes to figure out if I can get you into another room.  I could put you in one room tonight and then move you tomorrow.”

“Forget it.  I have get ready.  Thanks.”

I grabbed my stuff in armfuls and threw it on the bed of the neighboring room, took a body shower and arrived at the rehearsal 15 minutes late. 

Later that evening I found out the bride had reserved a place for me in her hotel room at the Double Tree, but had neglected to tell me.  I considered collecting my belongings from the far flung corners of my room at the HoJo and checking out after the rehearsal dinner, but the required effort was entirely too much for me at midnight.  So I stayed.  And woke up every hour to huge semi’s barreling by my door.

The next morning I was so cracked out, I went for a run and brought the wrong room key.  I stood at the door to my hotel room like a lost puppy, locked out with my entire body dripping and slouched with defeat. 

“Ugh!”  Sometimes a good foot stomp does wonders.   I slammed down the hall and opened the lobby door with as much punctuated force as I could muster. 

“Excuse me?!”  I said, probably too loudly.

“Yes?”  I cringed.  The girl behind the counter looked like she’d been ridden hard and put away wet and was still pissed about it.  Her yellow, pockmarked skin framed a diseased mouth that was missing enough teeth to seriously alter her diet and the glory of her glittered nails belied a problem with priorities.

“I need a new room key—I accidentally brought the wrong one and locked myself out.  And then I need to check out.”

“What do you mean, ‘wrong one’?”  

I explained the events of the day before but homegirl was neither sympathetic, nor was she moving very fast.

“Why didn’t you return the key to the otha room?”  She said with all the attitude of a hooker and about half the charm.

“Because I was in a hurry and I didn’t think about it.”

“Why couldn’t you bring it with you when you got the new room?”  I might hurt you.

“Because your shower exploded on me and soaked half the room and I had a wedding rehearsal I was late for.”

“Why do you want to check out?” 

“Because this new room smells like the Marlboro Man hotboxed it for a week.”

“Spoiled Gringa.”  I was stunned as she moved to the computer and muttered this under her breath.

“At least my meals don’t consist of soft, easily digestible food.”

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing.   I mean, I need to talk to your manager.”

“What for?”  All avenues to management were currently closed.

“I want my money back for tonight.”

“Of course you do.  Well, she’s not here right now.”  Yea, I’ll bet.

“What’s her name?”


 “Thanks, and what’s your name?”

“Cherise.”  Her monotone was threatening as she tossed my new hotel room key on the counter.

I weighed the possibility that both their names could be Cherise, and then decided that sometimes, it’s just best to let things go.  I slid the key off the counter, showered, packed and left for the greener pastures of the Double Tree. 

 Upon my return to San Diego, I wrote to both and the HoJo, outlining the atrocities of my stay and demanding compensation.  I have yet to receive a response.  Shocking.

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