A Night at the Bates Motel

by Candy Harrington


Sometimes you should really just go with your gut instinct when you’re on the road. Such was the case when we motored up to a rural Indiana motel late last fall. Granted it was only 3:45 P.M. and check-in wasn’t until 4 :00, but since there were only six rooms I figured it really wouldn’t be a problem. Well, I figured wrong.

To be honest, just walking into the motel office gave me the creeps. It was small and dingy and covered in dust; but to be fair, everything in that part of the country was covered in dust. And then there was the manager, who at first wouldn’t take her eyes off the mini television in front of her, or even acknowledge that another person had entered the room. I cleared my throat a few times. No response. I made some noise and shuffled my feet a bit. Still no response. Finally, I awkwardly blurted out, Hello, I’m here to check-in. That at least elicited a stony cold look.

”Check-in isn’t until 4:00,” she muttered, as she pointed to the clock above her head. Obviously she wasn’t budging from her roost. “Well, then,” I suggested, “if we could just drop our bags in our room, that would be great.” She glared at me, as if I had just committed a mortal sin. “That would be checking- in,” she growled “And check-in isn’t until 4:00.” And again she pointed up at the clock.

I felt like I was in the middle of an Abbott and Costello bit; however, I also realized that I was fighting a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. In the end we gave in and decided to go off and explore the nearby town and have a bite to eat. In retrospect, we should have kept on driving.

We returned a little after 7:00 p.m., and unfortunately the manager’s disposition hadn’t improved. “I didn’t realize you’d be gone all night,” she quipped. “You know, check-in is at 4:00.” I apologized -- for what I’m really not sure -- and eventually got the key to Room 4. As I was leaving the office, I turned around to ask if there was an ice machine on the property; however the manager had already locked the door and closed the blinds. I never saw her again, which in retrospect was a good thing.

We settled in for the night -- or so we thought -- as we had a long drive ahead of us the next day. It was very warm that evening, so we kept the back window open. Just as I started to doze off I heard people whispering and laughing outside our window, but when I got up to investigate, there was nobody to be found. At first I thought I was dreaming, but then Charles heard it too. And it continued well into the night. I finally drifted off to sleep, until about 3:00 a.m., when I was jolted awake by a banshee-like wail coming from out back. It continued for another 5-10 minutes, and let’s just say neither of us got back to sleep after that.

I subsequently learned that our room was along the route to the favorite nighttime swimming hole, but that still doesn’t explain why I heard voices  but never saw any people. As for the wailing, I don’t even want to speculate what that was.

And although it would have been interesting to try the shower in this Bates-like motel, I never had the opportunity. After a night of fitful slumber, we awoke to no water. Of course the manager was nowhere to be found -- I still think she was a figment of my imagination. Even better, the emergency phone number rolled over to voice mail. So it was no shower for us.

On the plus side, we did have one bottle of water, which we unanimously decided to use for coffee. Sure, rational folks would have used it to brush their teeth, but died-in-the wool caffeine junkies like we are have different priorities. That’s just the way it is.

The best thing I can say about the whole experience is that it’s over. I did however take a few life lessons away from it all.

First and foremost, I learned that you should just go with your gut instinct when you're on the road. If just talking to the manager and looking at a property gives you the heebie-jeebies and makes you want to run the other way, then do it. You’ll never see those people again, and at least you’ll get a good nights sleep.

Second-- and equally important -- always carry a good supply of bottled water with you, because no matter how bad your morning goes, at least you'll have coffee. And when you’re staying at Motel Hell, that’s really something to hold on to!

Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy Harrington is the author of several accessible travel guides including her newest release, 22 Accessible Road Trips; Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers


photo by Jeremy Brooks via Flickr.com creative commons license. 

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