For those who might be residents or devotees of Virginia Beach, let me apologize in advance. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with the place, really. Maybe I was just tired (so tired). We arrived in a driving downpour and found ourselves in a hotel right out of a low-budget horror flick.
In our defense, pictures lie. They lie so convincingly and perversely – making innocents (us) think that all oceanfront hotel rooms must be stunningly beautiful – if only made so by the view. I’d never spent any time in VA Beach; I’m an Outer Banks girl.
Further to our defense, we booked all the hotels using our Visa points. Therefore, we were somewhat at the mercy of the Visa rewards program’s choices. That reminds me, I should call Visa right now and tell them, for the protection of their loyal customers, to remove that hotel from their list as a public safety service.
So. We arrived in a downpour, exhausted by the long drive from Atlanta. My husband came back to the car after checking us in, an odd look on his face. “It’s old,” he said as he stood outside the car, droplets of rain dripping off the end of his nose. “It’s definitely an older hotel.” Maybe he meant “quaint.” I was tired.
The mouldy hall carpet, slightly squishy underfoot should’ve been a clue.
We were tired.
The not-so-faint smell of urine in the elevator, hallway, and well – just about everywhere – should’ve told us still more.
We were SO tired.
Upon entering the dark, dank, smelly orifice that hotel management dared to call a room, I sensed what would happen next: one or both children, tired as they were, were going to take running leaps at the beds, flopping their innocent pure (heretofore healthy) little bodies down on coverlets that had not been laundered since the early ’70’s.
I was too late.
My son, my youngest, my baby hit the top of the covers with a loud thwump, scattering God knows what kind of airborne pestilence throughout the room. Gagging, I headed for the bathroom. Gagging again, I retreated and stood in the middle of the room. Have you ever been somewhere that you didn’t want to touch anything?
Strains of bad music floated up from below our room. Worst cover of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song ever. Gazing out the cloudy glass door to the balcony, I saw my beloved Atlantic yards away. Hell has an ocean view. Looking down, I saw an open air “cabana” attached to the hotel, source of the “live” music.
There must have been some kinda look on my face when I turned around. My husband mumbled something about parking the car and fled. Maybe he realized he’d better hide the car or I was going to make a break for it.
The song ended; unbelievably there was not only applause but rebel yells and whoops the likes of which I hadn’t heard since attending a Civil War re-enactment as part of a school field trip in Grade 5.
“At least there’s a pool, Mom,” said my daughter. She is one who always tries to look on the bright side – like her Dad. We looked down at the murky, grayish-blue water in the pool. Dark, unidentifiable things lurked in one end. “No, I would rather have you in the ocean even though it’s a red flag day.”
We walked to the beach after my husband deemed it safe to return from the parking garage – our lucky car got to be a few blocks away from Hell. As we walked by the open air pavilion/concert venue, we saw the band – a few grizzled old fellas hammering away on guitars with one or two equally grizzled women grinding away in front of them.
One good thing about that night: we found a decent restaurant. Authentic Northern Italian food in a family-owned restaurant. I regret to inform you that I cannot recall the name of said restaurant. I shot a few glasses of wine in quick succession.
Several times in the night, my own miserable mewling woke me up. Some time in the night, we acquired a new band (reggae). I think at one point I tried to sleep sitting up so as little of my body would touch the bed as possible.
Dawn broke revealing heavy, leaden clouds. My husband and I decided to go in search of coffee. We stepped into the hallway. “Is there a waterfall in the lobby? I didn’t notice it coming in…” I began to say. My husband pointed over my shoulder. “Nope. That’s the water feature, I guess.”
Rain was pouring down through the ceiling tiles into the hallway outside our room. We were on the top floor and obviously the roof was in the same shape as the rest of the place. Underneath our feet, the carpet squelched and belched, completely waterlogged. My face must have said it all. Within the hour, we had booked a room further down the coast on the Outer Banks.
We never packed so fast; it was if we had been unexpectedly sprung from prison. I hit the Wright Memorial Bridge from the mainland to the Outer Banks doing about 95 mph. I lowered all the windows down – not only to smell the tangy salt air but also in an effort to expel whatever airborne spores we still carried from Hotel Hell. As our tires thumped over the sectioned concrete of the causeway, I could feel my mood lifting.
Every summer, around the middle of July, the wheels of our family station wagon spun over that same white concrete. The Outer Banks – OBX – stand for summer and always will. I hung my head out the window like a dog and inhaled the salt wind. I was on my way home.