I have owed someone this story for a very long time. And because it’s been too long since this story happened and since I have written for that matter…here it is.
At the end of last year, I traveled to California for work with 3 fellow co-workers. During the trip planning process, my female co-worker took on the task of booking the hotels. She had been in the area before so I trusted her judgement and knowledge.
Unfortunately, I realized this may have been a mistake as we neared the hotel in Garden Grove on night two of the trip. As the GPS told us to head through a very sketchy neighborhood to find our destination, I knew we were in trouble. No way is a hotel we want to stay at located that close to a residential area.
We emerged from the neighborhood to find a seedy strip mall that housed what I can only imagine were rat infested restaurants serving questionable meat and laundromats that were probably fronting gun shops and drug houses. As I made sure our doors were locked, I got a text from my other coworker, Video Guy. They had beat us to the hotel and all the text said was “this hotel is shit.”
We pulled up to what appeared to be a busy hotel until I realized the cars parked in front were there for the “lounge” where you could find dinner AND karaoke. As we drove around to the side where the hotel guests parked, there were only 4 cars. As we parked and got out, Video Guy was standing out on his balcony. He yells down, “it smells like cat pee in here.” Awesome. I tell myself at least it’s only for one night.
We walk into a lobby that looks right out of the 1970s. The motif along with the no wheelchair accessibility makes me think no one responsible for hotel codes is keeping track of this place. This is not going to end well.
We check in and the front desk attendant tells us we are free to park in the basement. I look at my female coworker and tell her we are NOT parking in the basement. Not that the dark, empty parking lot will better, but at least someone might hear us scream.
I make my way to my perspective floor and as soon as the elevator doors open, the smell hits me. Video Guy was right, cat pee. I cover my mouth and nose with my jacketed arm as I make my way down what can only be described as a hallway from The Shining. The lights flicker as I walk by each one and there is tinkly elevator music playing. I think I make out the piano version of Britney Spears ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time.’
I find my room at the farthest end of the hall (of course) and brace myself as I open the door.
It smells a whole lot better inside. I walk in and wait for the door to swing shut behind me. But it doesn’t. I have to actually shove it shut and then press my entire body weight against it in order to get it to lock. This can’t be safe.
The room looks old and all the furniture has clearly been pieced together from various second hand stores. The dresser is a 1970s, heavy, wide, wood piece that has more drawers than anyone would ever need for a night in a hotel. And trust me no one is staying longer than a night at this hotel. Hell, at this point I may not make the night. There is a white dorm fridge with a white dorm microwave sitting on top. I have already received yet another text from Video Guy describing the terrible stench coming from his dorm fridge so I don’t even think about opening mine.
I am traveling with liquor (thank god) and I quickly make a drink while we figure out where we are going for dinner. We can’t possibly stay there and by the looks of the surrounding area, we need to drive far away for a safe meal.
I now receive yet another text from Video Guy telling me not to turn on my water. He has tried to wash his face, and the water emitting from the faucet smells like death. There is no way in hell I am showering.
We decide to find dinner on the DisneyLand lot. Because my two co-workers are male, they actually felt safe to park in the basement garage so we now venture back there. We take the elevator down and as the doors slide open, I’m pretty sure this is where I will die. We step out and see what I assume is a maintenance worker creeping in the corner. I’m convinced this is the end…but we keep our heads down and make it to the car.
During dinner, I discover that Bad Hotel Booker has left her patio door open in her room to air it out. The door has no screen or safety lock, it’s just open when it’s open. And yes, I understand that her room is on the third floor…but there are ladders and the hotel is tucked back in a dark corner. I can’t decide at this point how one grown woman can make so many bad decisions.
Dinner ends too soon, and we have to head back to the Rape Hotel. As we roll into the lobby (we chose to NOT tempt our fate with the basement parking) and walk past the “lounge,” I can hear what sounds like a lonely lounge singer. I just know it’s this middle-aged woman, dressed in this slinky, red, sequin dress, who comes out for Karaoke every Tuesday night. The lounge has to be empty by the look of the parking lot. But just as we pass the lounge door, it swings open and out slides two guys who HAVE to be mob. They both have 1970s leather jackets and and they smell of smoke and steak and loneliness. And I think, “ah, these are the killers who will take our lives.”
We all 6 get into the elevator together with the two mob guys standing in front of us. It’s a super awkward ride and Video Guy cracks a joke. The 4 of us laugh…The Mob does not. The elevator stops at the floor below ours and The Mob exits. But as they walk out of the elevator, Mob Guy #1 turns slowly and stares at us. And I think, “yep, he’ll be by later to kill me.”
I somehow convince myself to get in bed, but I sleep on top of the comforter and I leave the lights on. I have no idea how I fall asleep, but I do. But I’m up again before it’s even light out. Video Guy has fled the hotel an hour before that and is waiting – safely – at a near by coffee house.
As I wait to check out, I become convinced it’s the hotel I can never leave. But after a 5 minute wait someone finally shows up to check us out. I take my receipt and race out of the hotel as quickly as I can.
I get in the car, and I realize that the printer appeared to have crapped out while printing my receipt. I don’t actually have a receipt that says anything. As we pulled away I’m pretty sure the hotel disappeared into the past behind us and that I had stayed at a hotel that didn’t actually exist.