Read part one here. Or, if you don’t wanna read it, here’s the recap:
Back when I was a kid, I was seduced by commercials for Mount Airy Lodge. Commercials like this one:
Somehow I convinced my family to spend the weekend there. This is my story.
The Mount Airy Lodge lobby had seen better days. Everything was worn out: the carpet, the upholstery, and the hotel staff. The old guy behind the front desk reminded me of a gray crayon left in the backseat of a hot car.
As my parents conducted their business with Melted Crayon Man, I scanned my surroundings. The walls were crosshatched with black scuff marks reaching far too high for any shoe to reach—unless, perhaps, those shoes belonged to a ballerina. A crystal chandelier clouded with dust dangled from the popcorn ceiling. An unmanned bar stood in a darkened corner. In another corner was a couch pointing at nothing.
It reminded me a little of a basement rec room.
“Okay,” Mom said, keys jangling in her fist. “Let’s go.”
Our room wasn’t nearly as shabby as the lobby, just ordinary, indistinguishable from the Holiday Inns and Best Westerns I had seen on all my other summer vacations. Pale walls. Framed landscapes bolted to the wall. Aggressively patterned carpet.
I radiated disappointment, but no one noticed or cared; my family was much too preoccupied with “settling in.” Each had their own particular ritual. Mom got down to the business of unpacking (Mom was never truly happy unless she was moving clothing from one place to another). My sister tossed her suitcase in an unoccupied corner, found her issue of Cosmopolitan, and disappeared behind it. And Dad sat on one of the king-sized beds and assessed the room’s merits. Dad could find merits in every hotel room. If the room was too small, he’d focus on the view. If the view was unimpressive, he’d appreciate the diagonal measurement of the TV screen. If the TV wasn’t worth mentioning, he’d compliment the firmness of the mattress or the softness of the pillows or the ferocity of the toilet flush. As far as Dad was concerned, no hotel was without its charms.
“This is a well lit room,” Dad declared to no one. “Good for reading.”
This was true, but I was distracted by a more pressing matter. “Wait!” I sputtered. “Where’s the bathtub shaped like a Champagne glass?”
My family fell silent.
Mom raised an eyebrow. “The what?”
Mom had a gift of asking you to repeat yourself in a way that made you not want to repeat yourself.
From behind her Cosmo, my sister let out a quiet, mocking snort.
I hadn’t been at Mount Airy Lodge for 10 minutes and I was already confounded by the place.
I was on a search for ice—and an ice bucket. In my experience, ice buckets were always found in the guest rooms, but not at this place.
“Maybe the buckets are by the ice machines,” Dad opined before returning his attention to the view. “Hey, look, a pond!”
I roamed down one long, scuffed hallway after another feeling stupider with every step. Was I missing something? Did I zone out and walk past an ice machine without noticing? I doubled back but found nothing. I tromped up a flight of stairs and journeyed down another hallway. No ice machine there either.
Despite the scuff marks and the boring bathtub, I still hadn’t quite given up on the idea that Mount Airy Lodge was a classy and sophisticated place. Classy and sophisticated places must do something special with their ice, I reasoned. Did they have a special Ice Room? Was I supposed to ring for the ice steward? Was an ice bucket put on my pillow as part of the turndown service?
Whatever the ritual, I assumed it was something that every classy and sophisticated person intrinsically knew. So I was reluctant to ask for help. I didn’t want to reveal myself to be a rube unworthy of the Mount Airy Experience.
But my options had run out. I needed to either ask for help or return to the room empty handed. I followed the signs to the lobby and approached Melted Crayon Man.
“Ice?” I whispered.
“Hah?” the man bleated.
I leaned over the desk to get closer to his ear. He smelled dusty. “Ice?” I whispered again. “Where can I get ice?”
“Ah!” He jutted a bony thumb toward the swinging doors behind him. “Through there.”
So this was how classy and sophisticated resorts handled ice requests. Good to know.
Through the door was a gray cement hallway. At the end of the gray cement hallway was gray cement staircase leading down to another gray cement hallway. At the end of the second gray cement hallway was another swinging door.
I shoved my way through and found myself in the restaurant’s kitchen.
This did not feel classy or sophisticated. Not. At. All.
I stood there frozen watching the kitchen staff doggedly ignore me. Eventually a dishwasher glanced my way. His eyes were ringed with red. He was either a haggard 60-year-old or an incredibly haggard 20-year-old. It was impossible to tell.
“What?” the 60- or 20-year-old said. It wasn’t a question as much as it was a challenge.
“Um. Ice?” I replied.
“Fifty cents.” He plucked a quart-sized plastic container from the counter and deposited it into my hands.
I knew a joke when I heard one, but I was too flustered to let out a polite laugh.
I mean, it had to be a joke, right? Fifty cents? Ha! For ice? Ha ha! In this dinky little container? Ha ha ha! Good joke!
But broken men like that dishwasher do not joke. Ever.
He cocked his head in the direction of the ice machine and the handwritten sign taped to it.
50 cents per bucket
The sign couldn’t have been more clear, but I stared at it as if the words were in a foreign language.
I was being charged for ice.
“Well? You want some or not?” someone else asked. I had been lingering in the kitchen for too long.
I slid open the small steel door and scooped up as many cubes as the cup would dare hold. I cradled my precious cargo in the crook of my arm, dug into my pocket, and dropped two quarters into someone’s waiting palm.
In retrospect, paying for ice isn’t a big deal, really—but the act of doing so flipped a switch in my brain.
I felt wronged and betrayed. The commercials had lied to me. Mount Airy Lodge was not classy. Or sophisticated. It was a crappy has-been resort so starved for cash that it had to shakedown a 12-year-old in a basement kitchen.
I had never known such fury. I just couldn’t shake it off.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t really want to shake it off. I was ready—and sort of eager—to hate everything about Mount Airy Lodge from this point forward.
You wanna play it that way? I thought. Fine! Let the vacation begin.
Now read the gripping conclusion of The Cray Cray Vaycay!