This past Saturday, my father and I flew out to Las Vegas. This trip included a medley of sights that spanned through California, Nevada, and Arizona, planned by us for years and executed as a late high school graduation present. This is the tale of our first night and the treacherous fate we narrowly dodged.
Chapter 1: The Journey
After we landed and left the airport, we plugged in the address of first hotel we booked for the trip. It was only a few miles away, but the estimated arrival time showed 35 minutes, which is apparently a hasty voyage for Vegas traffic, as we came to learn. There were a lot of palm trees around hotels and in the street dividers along the route, which comprised the only vegetation for 500 miles in any direction. Eventually we saw the sign for our lodging site, Motel 8 Minus 2. After another 10 minutes, we arrived.
Chapter 2: First Impressions
When we pulled in, there was a mini market convenience store with bars on the windows and a small village of ramshackle motel rooms in the back. It was only once I pulled out my magnifying glass that I noticed a sign that read “<— Hotel Check-in” that we found the little registration building. The parking lot was narrow and parking was limited. “Well, let’s do it,” I said after we parked, and we walked to the office, passed up along the way by a low-grade security guard riding on a modified Segway that had a third wheel and an aesthetic reminiscent of personal computers from the 1990’s, the officer wielding a walkie-talkie and what my father swears was a handgun. I guess if this was the kind of place that necessitated arming someone like that, I’m glad he was prepared.
Chapter 3: Waiting (Part I)
Inside, there were a motley crew of individuals sitting along the sides of the lobby in folding chairs while there was a line waiting down the middle. People missing more teeth than a 6-year-old, people with unintentionally tattered clothing, people who probably thought the guard’s wannabe Segway was the latest and most groundbreaking technology of the 2000’s. One of the receptionists was suspiciously enthusiastic and shouted cheerily, “Hello and welcome! We’ll be with you shortly!” We joined the line and waited for the next available clerk.
Chapter 4: The News Bomb
“Name?” the hotel clerk asked, and my father verbally provided it: “Papa Roach.” “Two queen beds?” My father confirmed this. “All right, we have two smoking rooms, one on the first floor and one on the second floor.” My father stopped him– “Smoking? I wanted non-smoking.” The man behind the counter said, “It was never marked in your preferences, so we didn’t hold one for you.”
Chapter 5: Acceptance
Dad sighed loudly. Neither my dad nor I smoke, and we have made a habit of not intentionally being around cigarette smoke. Of course, my father grew up in a household with parents who smoked, and I didn’t want the trip to be ruined by this, so I said, “Well, let’s just deal with it. What are we going to do– cancel it and have nowhere to sleep?” Dad reluctantly agreed, and I told the hotel clerk that we would prefer the second-floor motel room because some general knowledge in the U.S. states that robbers are less likely to put in the effort of striking higher-floored dwellings, and robbery (or worse) seemed a real possibility in this community.
Chapter 6: Discovery
We went back to the car and drove around the building and by some motel rows until we came to our lot number. We parked, removed our suitcases from the trunk, and went to ascend. Up close, the building looked just as shady as it did far away. The doors were painted salmon pink, so you could tell right away this was no reputable establishment, and cockroaches scuttled around trying to find their motel room for their stay in Vegas. Since it was a motel and the doors all opened to the outside with no elevator, we had to carry our suitcases upstairs in the 90 degree cement-coated Vegas heat. Dad slid the key card in the slot, and opened the door…
Chapter 7: Suffering
…to a room that was practically still cloudy from a crowd of smokers. It was as if the room contained not oxygen, but only smoke. Looking around, the room layout and contents seemed perfectly acceptable, and I was in the midst of saying, “It’s not that bad–” when some mutant smoke residue slipped into my mouth and sucker-punched the back of my throat, launching me into a hideous coughing fit. Dad began to cough as well. “That is certainly rank,” he commented. “This is so bad,” I replied, trying to adjust to the scent and only coughing more. The odor stung my throat and eyes as if it were some sort of poisonous tear gas. “What do we do?” we asked each other. I considered what it would be like to sleep in this atmosphere, and concluded I would hack myself to death if I did. “Let’s cancel it and have nowhere to sleep.”
Chapter 8: Groveling
We descended the stairs with our luggage (the cleaning lady had moved in with a giant immovable plastic bin on wheels which was left at the bottom of the stairs, so we had to squeeze by this; I thought at one point I may have to saw my arm off to fit through) and drove back over to the main office, still coughing. Of course, we had to wait in line with all the other pleasant folk also seeking the services of this shady motel. Two ladies were up at the desk, inquiring, “Do you have any open rooms?” The clerk responded, “No, we’re completely full.” Unfortunately, had they waited around another ten minutes, they could have gotten our canceled room, though perhaps it was an act of God that saved them from that smoggy container they called a motel room. Anyway, when we finally were up in line, I decided I would speak for the two of us. “May we get our money back? We can’t accept the smoking room as we had previously thought.” The lady said absolutely, but said she needed to send the guard to inspect the room to make sure we hadn’t broken anything. (I thought about this; as if we had walked into the room, smashed everything in sight, stolen the lamps and the Bible, and came back five minutes later asking for a full refund.) We agreed and took a seat.
Chapter 9: Waiting (Part II)
While the guard rode his 1980’s Segway (if Segways existed in the 1980’s, surely they would have looked as boxy and tan as this one) over to our room to check it out, we watched the motel passersby through the glass walls. One lady walked by the office and the swimming pool, which was just outside, followed by a man. She had some tattoos and was wearing a pink tank top that was beautifully complemented by her black, bulky house arrest ankle bracelet. A few minutes later, we heard sirens sounding and witnessed the suspiciously well-timed and sudden departure of the man rushing back the way they came, followed now by the woman under house arrest, who was shuffling behind him. “Papa Roach?” the motel clerk called to my father, and we approached the counter again.
Chapter 10: The Getaway
“Just sign here,” the clerk ordered, and father signed his name in beautiful, swirling cursive: Papa Roach. “All right, you’re all set,” she said, and just like that, we were free of the demon, of the smoke smog that threatened to linger in our lungs while we rested. Now all that scorned us were the after effects. We were free– not unscathed, but free; we drove into the evening, not bound to any seedy residency, and slightly traumatized by our sore throats.
However, we were without an arranged place to sleep. Courageously, we soldiered on through a wonderful meal, a hilarious comedy set, and then drove into the night bravely and desperately seeking that which would provide us a resting place. Through the night, we eventually spotted the largest, most gaudy sign in all of Las Vegas: Miner’s Paradise, in the middle of West Jesus Nowhere. They had a single room available, non-smoking, and that was our sweet and savory bliss of the trip, a miracle bestowed on us by the Gold Rush Gods of Nevada, who love gambling and lodging as much as its greedy subjects.