In 1902 Harvard professor, psychologist and philosopher William James—the older brother of the novelist Henry by one year—published his classic study, The Varieties of Religious Experience. Some 119 years later I am keying this blog on a much less lofty topic: the varieties of motel experience. No italics, no capital letters for the more important words. Still, there is something to be learned from the differences among motels across the U.S.
First, though, let me give you some context. My wife, Cedar, and I have just returned from a three-week road trip. In the world of Covid, we had dutifully waited until we both had achieved our full Pfizer and Moderna immunities. The reason for our trip from Boulder, Colorado, our home, to the Hartford, Connecticut area, an undertaking of roughly 2,200 miles, was to help Meg Barstow, Cedar’s mother, celebrate her 100th birthday. (Google research reveals that only 30.4 Americans in 100,000 currently achieve that milestone.) Going, we spent four nights in motels. Returning we took it a little easier and spent five. I should mention that for the outbound drive I had reserved among the least expensive bookings possible. Thanks to one flea-bag motel experience, I upped the ante by around $10/night for our return. No flea-bag repeats, I’m happy to report, and we generally had satisfactory quarters at all our stops. But each motel—and several seemed hybrids of motels and hotels—presented different features, some better, some worse. I used the website hotels.com to find our places and make our reservations. I always looked at the overall satisfaction rating of each and took the time to read some of the reviews. For the most part, we landed in differently branded motels. So that may account for the variations.
First, the similarities. All were clean, apparently well sanitized, and had comfortable beds. The staffs were all friendly and most, alas, has troublingly obese desk clerks. They all seemed to have LG-brand TVs. None (thanks to Covid) had hot breakfasts. And of course, the parking was universally free. But now the differences. Some had king-sized beds while the others could give us nothing wider than a queen-sized one. All had at least one waste basket, generally in the bathroom, but several had a second one in the bedroom. Most places had half refrigerators, but one motel surprised us with a full-sized one. The same place also had its microwave close to the ground along with other handicapped-accessible features, something unique in our motel experience. Additionally, that room was alone in having a couch. One of our stops had no microwave, and several of the fridges had no freezer compartment. About half had indoor pools and hot tubs. Several offered their patrons fully equipped workout rooms. Several had elevators, the rest stairs. Some had tables with two chairs, others desks with only one. Several were well-decorated with stylish modern art; mostly, though, they had conventional “hotel art.” So, what’s my point? As with motels so with people. Each of them (and us) has their stronger and weaker points. Most of us (and them) are okay. And in motel accommodations as in life, a fundamental fact is, you get what you pay for. We are now happily back home.
Motels are like people—all alike yet all different.