So, Where Are You Staying?

“I was at this motel last night.” The New Guy says in a conspirator’s tone. “And it was run by Indians.”

“Really?” I say in mock surprise.

“Yeah, and not Native Americans, like East India Indians.” He says.

“Hmm, don’t travel much, do you?”

Just as every town in America has a Chinese family running a restaurant, every town in America has a motel run by an Indian family.  Some of these people seem happy enough, but most of them look unhappy,  overly emotional, and ready to shoot somebody over ten dollars.  This may have something to with the usual clients of cheap motels and having to deal with them on a daily basis.

The Patel Motels have been around since the 1940s but really took over in the 1970s and 1980s.  For the most part I have had positive experiences, but I have also been ripped off a couple of times.  One time I was charged for a lot of phone calls I didn’t make and several times I have had the Indian owner call my room and demand more money or that I move to another room as the person who checked me in made a mistake.  This has happened more than once, and has the feel of a well worked con.  But then, I do spend a lot of time in motels and I have seen a lot of dimwit clerks.

Why do Indian women have a red dot on their foreheads?  So their husbands can scratch it off to see if they won a motel or a gas station.

I still find motels that smell of curry when you walk in the door, have large garden patches filled with exotic plants, and have the owner’s children playing in the lobby.  I remember seeing one man who wore a white turban and was dressed as if he had just stepped off a movie set.  There are often older family members sitting around under trees looking depressed.  But maybe they are just tired from doing some work around the motel.

Indian run motels have one thing going for them, they fall within my tiny motel budget.  So I don’t care about the curry or the accents.  I care that the room is cheap, the sheets are clean, and the water is hot.  I also like having a microfridge and a lot of cable channels.  The people I work with often turn their noses up at Indian run motels, but sometimes, that’s all there is.

Indian run motels are not limited to run down left overs from the 1950s, though these are mainly the ones I tend to find in smaller towns.  Econo Lodges, Days Inns, Holiday Inns, Comfort Inns, Quality Inns and Super 8s are favored by Indians as these are economy/budget properties with no food, conference facilities, guest laundries or room service.  Indians also own and franchise a growing number of full-service hotels like Marriott, Hilton and Sheraton.

The people at the Shoot often ask us where we are staying and they are often shocked that we are not staying at the Holiday Inn or the Hilton, but at the little Indian run motel just down the street.  Of course, most of them are surprised that we drove several hours to get to the Shoot anyway.  I can understand why people think you live nearby if we’re shooting in Oklahoma City or Houston, but why are people surprised when they live in the middle of nowhere?   I guess it isn’t the middle of nowhere to them.

My favorite hotel was the New Orleans Marriott in the French Quarter.  That is one nice hotel and they had an amazing breakfast buffet and a couple of people standing around to cook omelets to order.  It didn’t hurt any that it was in New Orleans.  These were rooms I got as part of a book promotion, for fifty books you got a free night at any Marriott hotel.  Since I always have a couple of thousand books laying around, I went and got a couple of rooms.  That was a fun trip.

Another time we were working for a Company run by complete idiots and they had us working in San Antonio and Wichita Falls.  For those unfamiliar with the great state of Texas, these two cities are about 400 miles apart.  They had us working both Shoots in the same week, which meant setting up and tearing down and driving for several hours a couple of time.  Big fun.  My old Chevy Custom Deluxe pickup called it quits when we were in Austin on a Friday night.  During South By Southwest.  So there were no cheap motel rooms to be had and we were facing the prospect of sitting in Dennys all night.

I looked out the Dennys window and saw an Omni hotel towering near by.  I told the Wife that I bet they had a room.  So we walked a couple of blocks and asked the girl at the counter if they had a room. Yes.  How much? $65.  Wow.  We would have paid that at La Quinta-if they’d had a room.  So we got  a room, and it was a really great room.  But since we had left our bags in the truck and it was locked in a mechanic’s shop on the other side of town, it was not as good as it could have been.  But the bed was big and comfortable, the view was impressive, and we quickly enough went to sleep, thankful for the Omni.

One minor compliant that I have about many cheapie motels is that they are really big on the No Refund front.  This can be a problem when I have a schedule for a week and get a call that I need to go somewhere else in the middle of the week.  This doesn’t happen very often, but I always seem to be staying at a No Refund motel when it does happen.  Do I need to mention that these are often Indian run motels?

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