They All Look Alike

“I’m staying at a motel about thirty miles away.” The Passer says and shrugs. “It’s not great, but it’s under the Company Spending Limit.”

“Great.” I say. “I’ll follow you there.”

It’s been a long day and we are both tired.  The Shoot is in the middle of nowhere and we are both dead on our feet after a long drive and a busy day.  So I follow her for about forty-five minutes until she pulls into a motel parking lot.

“Just tell them you want The Company Rate and give them my name.” The Passer says.

“Ok. Thanks.” I say and head for the front desk.

The night clerk tells me that there is no one checked in under the Passer’s name.  I ask how much the rooms are and he gives me a price a few dollars over the Limit, so I take it, as I am really tired now.  About this time, The Passer stumbles in.

“They say you aren’t checked in.” I say.

“Oh yes I am.” The Passer say. “I came earlier and my stuff is in that room.  My key won’t work though.”

The Night Clerk runs a new key-card for The Passer and she heads off to her room.  A few minutes later she is back again.

“There was someone in the room!” she says in shock. “I’m not staying at this motel!”

One time a Photographer got a work schedule and remembered being at the church a couple of weeks earlier.  He thought that it was a makeup day, so he went back and they said they didn’t think they had another day, but OK, whatever.  So he setup.  The Passers saw his car in the parking lot and they stopped and setup as well.  They were at the wrong location, the Shoot was a couple of blocks further down the road.

I have sat in front of buildings waiting for someone to come and open the door for a couple of hours, only to find out that I have been waiting in front of the wrong building.

But I don’t think I have ever tried to get into a motel room I was not checked into.

Over the years I have stayed in thousands of motel rooms all over the country.  Many of them do have a similar quality, many of them change hands on a regular basis so that a Super 8 or La Quinta becomes a Scottish Inn or an American’s Best Value or Whatever.  It’s pretty common for all kinds of once nice motels to become all kinds of not so nice motels.

The people whose portraits I take often ask if I am staying at the local Holiday Inn or the Sheridan or maybe a Hilton.  Uh, no.  The Company doesn’t like to write a lot of checks-and they have no interest in providing us with quality motels.  We are on the road to Work, we are not on a Vacation.  This is a bit odd since no one would take and keep this job if they didn’t like to travel-and didn’t want to treat at least part of the travel as a vacation.

We are often in small towns that only have one or two motels, and usually one of these motels is a cinder block model with an hourly rate.  Not the kind of place you want to spend much time-but it is often the one that is in the Company’s price range.

I used to wait until after work to look for a motel room, but that was a really bad idea.  Looking for a motel room at 10 o’clock at night can be a bit of a challenge at times.  And each motel that turns you away makes you just a little bit more desperate and makes you think a few more time about quitting Assembly Line Portraits and getting a real job.

The Company doesn’t offer any food reimbursement, this despite the fact that we spend a lot of time on the road and it is often impossible to prepare our own food.  So whenever possible I try to stay at one of those motels that has a Continental Breakfast, which is often nothing more than a bowl cold cereal and a cup of coffee-bit hey, it’s better than nothing.  The better places have a Hot Breakfast, which can include waffles and sausage and eggs.  So that is one less meal to worry about.

Many of the Cheapie Motels are not in that great a shape and the last motel where I stayed, the door wouldn’t lock.  This can be a bit of problem.  I’ve been to some motels that didn’t have locks on the doors, they had a chair you shoved under the door knob.  I didn’t actually stay at that motel.

On the whole, I am pretty happy with most of the motels I stay in.  I don’t have Cable at home and enjoy watching the odd and random shows that fill the cable world these days.  It’s also nice to find that most motels now have Microwave ovens, small refrigerators and free WiFi as standard equipment.  I run across the occasional free in room whirlpool bath as well.  The exception to this rule is the Big Name Chains, who still think of travelers as a luxury class who either don’t need these things or are willing to pay extra for them.

I’ll stick with the no name and small name motels.  And I’ll be sure to block my door, just in case someone tries to get in by mistake.

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