Family and/or Autobiography

The Cray Cray Vaycay (Part 2)

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!

46 thoughts on “The Cray Cray Vaycay (Part 2)”

  1. Oh, I can feel the devastating disappointment and injustice of it all, Mike. I sense a perfect storm about to unleash its vengeance on Mount Airy Lodge. Great storytelling. Can’t wait for Part 3!

  2. Wow, that must have been a very disappointing vacation. ICE IS ALWAYS FREE! I can only imagine the rest of the story. I had a similar experience going to a horse ranch resort that looked like a great idea, but turned out to be run down — even the horses. So I can commiserate.

  3. you’re winding us up for a super surprise, i just know it! Mount Airy Lodge indeed! perfect place for a crime, or criminal retreat? waiting for the next installment!

  4. Did your parents ever watch that commercial before agreeing to take their vacay there? So far, it seems only you observed something was terribly wrong with the place.

      1. Now that I know about advertising, I’m not surprised…but even as an adult, if I was expecting the commercial and got what you got…i’d ask for a refund.

  5. Well that is an interesting beginning to the story… I can only imagine where it is going from here!
    Looking forward to Part 3? 2? whichever… I’m like Roxie, me thinks you gotta surprise at the end!! 😉
    (weird kid indeed) You not weird anymore?? LOL!

  6. You did it again! Another cliff-hanger. Now I can’t wait to find out what young Mikey does about this huge disappointment and the thrown down gauntlet of charging for ice.
    We’ve had some surprises in the line of vacation lodging. As a kid, we only went on a few vacations. There were 5 of us and my dad didn’t like to take 5 kids anywhere. Not to mention they couldn’t afford it. lol
    I’ll be waiting for #3.

      1. I can handle a week away but then I’m really missing home. My bed, my bathroom, my coffee. I’m a total homebody. I also loved the melted gray crayon, and the shakedown of a 12 year old in the basement kitchen, lines. Perfection.
        I recently read a book where the author would slip little lines like this in and I liked his writing so well, I ended up buying 3 more of his books.
        Thanks for entertaining us.

      2. Fredrik Backman was the author. First book was A Man Called Ove. It’s been made into a movie, but I would definitely recommend the book first.
        Buy 3 of your books? You never know! I have a 14 month old grandson that loves to be read to. I think they would be a good investment. :-))

      3. A Man Called Ove was a book club read and I loved it. When I got to bookclub, I was surprised and a little disappointed that no one else admitted to relating to the main character’s curmudgeon ways like I did. I totally understood him. I hope I haven’t oversold it here, but it was one of our better selections. Okay, okay, you’ve worn me down, I need to go look at your books. Why stop at 3? Ummm… because my husband wants to retire?

      4. I am now the proud owner of 3 pre-ordered Allegra books. Since they’re not being released until next month and then October, I will forget that I’ve ordered them and it will be a lovely surprise in the mail for me.

  7. As I recall, your parent’s spent their honeymoon at Mount Airy back in the sixties. Hopefully, they got to experience the champagne glass bathtub that you expected! Can’t wait for more info ~ ~ having dinner with them tomorrow!

  8. This makes me think of the Eagles Hotel California. You may get in but you may never never get out. Spooky! Your writing just gets better and better. I’m going to use some of this to my creative writing students as great examples of detail and similes!

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