The Best Laid Schemes
My favorite vacation spot is Asheville, North Carolina, only 91 miles away. It is a haven of sanity a short drive from my hectic life. Sometimes. Almost every time we go to Asheville, we stay at the same place, The Princess Anne Hotel, a small historic inn that makes guests feel like long-lost family members arrived home for a visit. The last time we went to Asheville, though, hotel rooms were as scarce as snowflakes in July. When we made our reservations, they had rooms for Tuesday and Thursday, but not Wednesday; reluctantly, we decided to look elsewhere. Even a week’s shift earlier or later would not get us into the Princess Anne. Since the Princess Anne was out, we thought we might save some money by looking into some less expensive options. We eventually made our reservations for The Country Inn and Suites near Tunnel Road, while not as close to downtown, it was in an area we knew well, so we felt safe with our choice.
o Mice an’ Men
Finally our longed-for vacation arrived, and we set off for Asheville, Caro Emerald and Postmodern Jukebox playing to enhance our merry mood. As soon as we walked into the lobby of the CI&S, we sensed something amiss. This was not the Asheville ambiance we expected. A surly desk jockey was chatting on the phone as we practiced our newly discovered powers of invisibility. In our invisibly state, we had time to notice the oddly unfinished state of the wall behind the desk. Hmmm, they must be in the process of re-decorating, we think. We finally figure out how to turn off our super invisibility, so LeRoy (not his real name) can see us. Letting us know that we are inconveniencing him, he checks us in, making sure to give us a poorly xeroxed copy of a room-check form. When Carl asks about getting someone to validate the state of the room with us, LeRoy is outraged and tells us that the maids “already done it.” His critical thinking skills are support for indictments of the American school system as we are not worried about protecting the hotel, but ourselves. We would have left right then and there, but we had already found out that Asheville was pretty much at capacity, so still with hopes high, we went up to our room.
Gang Aft Agley
It was pretty enough in a basic chain way, but the strong chemical scent of a recent paint job was not going to work with my migraine condition. I hate to always make Carl jump to the tune of my migraine, though, so I thought, Maybe the smell won’t seem so bad after a few minutes. Carl, meanwhile, is documenting the conditions of the room at check-in because we were suspicious of LeRoy’s defensive attitude about the condition of the room. Carl found that the refrigerator had been repaired with duct tape, the television stand was warped, and the paint seemed to be covering some kind of flaw on the wall. As an added bonus, the room came with a live beetle on the bed. Ick!
While Carl had been documenting the rooms many flaws, I had been looking on the iPad to see if anyone had available rooms. Mostly the answer was no. Next, Carl wanted to use the iPad. I looked at him, “Are you wanting to get out of here?”
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
“Oh, yes,” came his certain reply. I warned him that I had already been looking for rooms to which he replied, “I don’t care if we have to just drive home between days. I’m not staying in this smelly room. And something is just not right here.” With that, we lugged our things back to the desk and asked if we might have a room that did not reek of paint.
We were quick to point out that while the room was pretty, I have a health condition that made the strong chemical odor impossible to endure. LeRoy unconcernedly tells us every room will smell the same, so we tell him that we can’t stay. He then tells us that we will have to pay for the night! Oh, yes! The whole night! Realizing that LeRoy is probably not the decision maker, we ask the see the manager “On Duty” (as indicated by the sign). We are informed that there is no manager “on duty.” LeRoy “texts” him. Or not. I then ask how long it generally takes for the manager to get back to him.
For promis’d joy!
I was rudely informed, “He’s the owner. He shows up when he feels like it. He doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t have to do.” So, they don’t have a manager “On Duty.” They don’t have a manager “On Call.” In fact, they don’t even have a manager. I could not resist pointing out that they had up a sign that said they did have a manager on duty, and then I took a picture. We told him we would not be paying for a night we did not stay, and that our daughter–the lawyer– would be very interested in our story. (While we don’t have a biological daughter, Chelsea, one of my former students is as close to us as any child; I’m her Mama, and Carl is who she sees on Father’s Day–and yes, she is a lawyer.)
Yes, We’re Finally There.
After a few phone calls, we found that we could still have The Princess Anne for Tuesday and Thursday, but not Wednesday. The only Wednesday we could find was at the Grand Bohemian. My neurologist had told me how beautiful the hotel was, so I decided to call them on a bit of a lark. It would normally have been waaay out of our price range, but it was just one night, and we took it. And We had a lovely time. The people at The Grand Bohemian and The Princess Anne treated us like family. This trip that started out so badly ended up being a wonderful experience because we got to see the Grand Bohemian, where we never would have stayed otherwise. I’d like to add that their breakfast is out of this world, and the waiter we had was so enthusiastic about the food that it made the meal even more fun.
So, we didn’t end up where we started, or even where we wanted to go, but we did end up in a good place, and we had fun. We went I found out the making plans is not always the key to success… an important lesson for me, since I’m a wee bit of a control freak.
Have you had a trip that ended up somewhere or some way other than you planned?
Epilogue: The hotel did charge us, and the “manager” never did get it touch, but I tattled on them. I called the chain main office, and they sent us a refund and started an investigation into that hotel. It seems that they, too, were unable to get in touch with “the manager.” An on-call manager with whom one can actually get in touch is required to keep the franchise. This is in no way meant to be taken as typical of Country Inn and Suites. In fact, I live in a tourist area where there are many nice CI&S. But this is my absolutely true account of what happened to me and Carl at their location in Asheville, North Carolina, this year. (Of course, I rated them on Trip Advisor!)
The lines of poetry I used as section headers are from Robert Burns “To a Mouse.”