The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hotel Joy

I have found that even people who are familiar with what I do tend to think of archaeology as being somewhat of a glamorous profession. In order to disabuse people of this notion, I figure that it is high time I write about the hotels in which we stay while doing fieldwork.

I have written before about one crappy hotel in which we have had to stay. I wish I could say that that cess pit were the worst and last of it. Unfortunately, it was not. For your reading pleasure (?) I present a short description of the hotels that I have known:

Napa, CA
The Discovery Inn was the first hotel that I stayed at as a supervisor with my current employer. It was the subject of an earlier entry. My room had strange stains in the bathroom (which, aside from the stains, appeared to have never been cleaned), dried spit (at least, I keep telling myself it was spit) on the walls, and a general dankness to the place. One of the other supervisors had a bathtub that filled with sewage due to problems with the plumbing at the hotel. Oh, and a guy in the parking lot kept trying to get me to sell him drugs (I don't think I ever managed to convince him that I wasn't a dealer).

Fun place.

Visalia, CA
Visalia is a growing city in Tulare County. On the whole, it was a pretty good place to stay. However, the hotel in which we stayed, I believe it was the Lamplighter Inn, was a bit odd. The rooms were clean, and the service was fine, and so to that I have no complaints. However, the entire place had a strange smell about it, rather like air freshener that has been sprayed in an unsuccessful attempt to mask the odor of a recently soiled bathroom. In addition, frighteningly realistic-looking plastic food was placed at various places throughout the hotel, raising and then dashing the hopes of some nice fruit, or some tasty chocolate cake. The other denizens of the hotel were a strange lot, often given to long rambling (and very drunken) conversation late at night outside of other people's hotel rooms. On the whole, it wasn't the worst experience I have ever had at a hotel, but it was a remarkable strange one.

Taft, CA
I dealt with three different hotels in Taft. The first was the Topper. This was an increasingly run-down little place that had probably been built in the 40s or 50s. The manager was an affable fellow, and seemed aimed to please. Unfortunately, he was saddled with a place that would have been more successful as a cautionary tale than as a successful hotel. The rooms were about the size of shoeboxes, with the air conditioners and televisions curiously suspended in places that appeared to have been calculated to be concussion-inducing. Every morning began with the crew tallying the number of cockroaches in each of their rooms to see who was the winner. The room nearest the courtyard entrance (also the main entrance to the hotel) was occupied, apparently permanently, by someone who seemed to spend all of his time smoking pot and blowing the smoke out his window.

The next hotel was the Caprice. Most of the rooms were simply dirty - I once walked from my shower to the bed to get dressed, and the soles of my feet became blackened on the 20-foot walk - and, again, cockroaches were everywhere (we used to time them for the purposes of "cockroach races"). None of my crew trusted the staff to wash the sheets in between residents - many of us actually brought our own blankets or sleeping bags and slept above the blankets that came with the bed. The mattresses were strangely stained, a few even having clear and obvious blood stains on them. Many of the rooms had obvious (and mysterious) water stains all along the bases of the walls. Add to this that either A) the couple who ran the place had no communication, or B) they were trying to rip us off. On more than one occasions, a crew member had to leave early due to illness or another project, and each time one of the managers tried to charge me for un-used nights, claiming that the person had not checked out, when, in fact, they had. Also, after we had payed for rooms, the management decided to try to rent our rooms out from under us to other people.

I was pissed.

The last hotel, the Holland Inn, was the nicest hotel in Taft, but that's not saying much. On the plus side, the hotel was clean, the cockroaches less omnipresent than the other places in Taft, and the staff never tried to rip us off. On the downside, the staff never payed any attention to the "do not disturb" signs on the room doors, openly admitted to mucking about with our personal belongings when we were out at work, and the owners (who lived on the East coast) refused to actually pay to have the advertised amenities (such as Internet access, ice machine, and fire alarms) working. Still, it was better than the other two places, and so we were fine with it.

Lancaster, CA
Our hotel was located on the Sierra Highway, a major thoroughfare in the Mojave desert, and near Edwards Air Force Base. The rooms were fine, if unremarkable. However, the portion of town in which the hotel was located had been conquered by cockroaches. I was on the second floor, and as such was cockroach-free. However, the entire first floor was over-run with the buggers - one night I sat in the lobby (the internet connection in my room had gone out) and watched as a group of cockroaches seemed to migrate from hiding places inside of a wall on one side of the lobby to hiding places inside of the wall on the other side of the lobby.

Note: The people of Lancaster do not wish to admit that their town has been infested with la cuca rocha, and so they refer to the little buggers as "Japanese water beetles." do not be fooled, my friends, these are the same little coprophagous sewer dwellers known to every other North American city.

An aspect of being located on the Sierra Highway was that we were very close to the 7-11 in which Lancaster's "ladies of the night" waited for their clientele. If I walked by there at night, there was a 75% chance that I would be propositioned by a prostitute. One particular evening, I was out walking while on the phone with my my girlfriend when a prostitute asked if I was interested in "a good time". I declined and continued on my way. Kaylia asked who I had been speaking with, and when I answered, she was rather shocked.

Shaver Lake, CA
For a small town, Shaver Lake has a suprising number of lodging options. One of the hotels featured green shag carpeting - we kept expecting a leisure-suit wearing John Travolta to wander into the room - which appears to have never been cleaned. The water from the taps has an unwholsome brown color with a strange aroma. It didn't appear to be rust, which would have been expected from an old hotel, but neither did it appear to be sewage. All in all, not the worst hotel on the planet, but far from the best.

Bakersfield, CA
Bakersfield is a fairly large side, with a population approaching 1/2 a million counting the unincorporated subburbs. There are many hotels here, and many of them are quite nice. We don't get to stay in any of the nice ones, however. This otel, the Americas Best Value Inn, is far from the worst. The management is friendly and professional enough and the rooms are clean (more or less). However, there is a weird, schizophrenic mix of what is present/working and what isn't. For example - there is a very nice, well-maintained indoor pool, very nice. On the other hand, the heaters in several of the rooms are on the fritz, the driers in the laundry facility don't quite work, and there is a prostitute who keeps coming to the building looking for business. Also, we're next to a truck stop (which probably explains the prostitute), and as such we get to hear the sounds of air brakes and clanging trailer parts all night long.

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