Executive Inn and Suites, my foot.
Having blasted out of New Orleans after a fun night, we struck out across western Louisiana, into a small stretch of Arkansas, and back into the flatlands of Mississippi as we changed course to a northwest trajectory.
The sun set across the mind-numbingly huge stretch of open fields as the day wore on, and our daily search for a place to sleep yielded The Executive Inn and Suites in Greenville, Miss.: king bed, non smoking – $32. Since we care a good deal more about scenery, experiences and food as we travel, we’re on the hunt for cheap, safe and clean housing, and it seemed likely that a joint with such a lofty name would be perfect.
We should have paid attention to the sliding service window in the motel’s office.
We should have heeded the warnings of the steel-barred windows on the proprietor’s residence.
The ominous signs warning immediate eviction should anyone “other than the requisitor” be found on the premises at any time should have sent the warning lights a-flashin’.
But no. Ever the optimists, eager to be off the road and in the pursuit of dinner and with stuff to write for the evening, we backed the car outside room 15 “next to the Coke machine,” the manager directed us, and unloaded our overnight bags and computer bags into a scene from a David Lynch movie.
We overlooked the fact that the room was cold and had an eerie funky smell. It seemed oddly funny to us, two educated, fairly worldly travelers checking into such a seedy joint in a town crammed in between the Mississippi cotton fields. Everything – from the towels to the remote control to the plastic ice bucket (though I’m damned if I could find an ice machine anywhere on the premises) was labeled “Exec. Inn, 15.” Even the towels, which were also labeled “VA property, not for sale.”
We, laughed to each other, shrugged, turned on the heater and headed out to find a place to eat.
Greenville has little to offer by way of fine dining, so we settled for a chain restaurant in a strip mall and proceeded to play hangman on the table paper with the crayons conveniently provided. As we wound down the meal my instincts kicked in and I asked the waitress where she would stay in the area. Once she learned we’d booked a room at the Executive, she became horrified.
“Oh, no. Please don’t stay there. There’s all sorts of drugs and prostitutes…it’s a bad, bad place.” She went on a bit, but we were instantly convinced.
Passing on dessert and further small talk, we thanked the waitress profusely (verbally and in the tip) and bolted back to the Exec to retrieve our stuff and take a shot at getting our money back.
The manager was less than thrilled that we had checked in, disappeared for an hour then came back and wanted out, but a bit of my northern charm – and a reference or two to the inn’s extracurricular activities that might interest the authorities – convinced him he should do the right thing and partially reimburse us.
It was a principle thing, and I got $15 and an enormous sense of satisfaction out of the deal.
Our waitress had directed us to a clean, quiet inn down the road, and I can tell you that the Taj would have been no more a welcome sight to our beleaguered eyes.
This morning I headed out early in search of coffee, and with a king-sized cup of Huddle House’s best I drove back to the motel to wake up Gabi and resume the journey. As I drove, the sun rose before me, an orange-red sliver appearing over the opposite end of the flatlands into which it had disappeared the previous night. The brilliant orb rose quickly on the horizon, spilling light over the mist-covered fields, once again winning the battle of light over darkness.
A sip of coffee, a heavy sigh, and I turned into the motel parking lot, where the towels are threadbare and the lights bright, but nothing is labeled.