A Hotel of Last Resort

Note: This article is not intended to criticize Traveller’s Inn as a whole, nor to criticize the hotel I stayed at as it exists presently. This story is simply meant to relay an experience I had four years ago that I felt was amusing.

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of family. Not only am I close to my parents and spend a great deal of time with them, but as a group we strive to visit our relatives whenever possible. On my few plane rides to Victoria on the west coast of Canada,  the purpose has always been for family. With my mother’s brother having settled down with three children, it is now the Lehmann’s family obligation to travel to Victoria, as there was no way in hell that my uncle was taking three spastic toddlers half-way across the country.

Hence, my flight out in December of 2007  to Victoria was a combination of trepidation and enthusiasm. I had never spent Christmas outside of Manitoba, but the concept of spending it in a land where the greenery grows year-round, freezing rain is the closest thing to snow, and that the holidays would be spent with three screaming children generated a lot of mixed feelings in me. Being an only child and a quiet one at that, hearing toddlers scream repeatedly in my ears was a shock to the system.

These feelings quickly spread to my parents, as soon after landing we spent lunch with our extended family. Observing the maelstrom that is mealtime with toddlers; where the act of eating is quickly discarded by children in favour of engaging in mortal combat with your siblings, my parents decided that we would stay in a hotel and my relatives quickly agreed. I being an only child.

My family now faced the challenge of finding a hotel on such short notice. Thankfully, Victoria is littered with a hotel chain called Travellers Inn and driving downtown, having spotted at least four on the way to our uncle’s house. Retracing our footsteps, we quickly came to what was considered the most “affordable” Traveller’s Inn in Victoria. My first tip-off that this may not be the ideal location came from the Christmas lights. Given that it was near Christmas, the idea of decorative lighting was not an issue in itself; the concern was with the location. Most hotels chose to line their roofs, signs and parking lot with lights to attract customers. This Traveller’s Inn chose to line their outdoor pool’s water slide with lights. Back in Manitoba, this wouldn’t be a concern as the frigid weather means that outdoor pools are closed during the winter months. In Victoria however, the warm weather meant the pool remained open and a deathtrap to anyone foolish enough to go swimming around live electrical wires. To give the patrons of Traveller’s Inn credit however, I did not see one person use that pool throughout my stay in Victoria.

Stepping out of the car, I recalled a silly public service announcement from my childhood about a cartoon firefly that constantly sang about “playing it safe around electricity”. Good advice, perhaps the owners of the Traveller’s Inn should have listened to it. Upon entering the lobby, the negative image I had conjured up regarding the type of staff that install live wiring next to a recreational pool was not alleviated. The air was thick with the sweet smell of marijuana and a bleary-eyed clerk looked up from behind the desk. To the clerk’s credit he did pre-empt service, opening with “Hey man, can I park your car for you?”

“Not on your life”, my father responded.

On the opposite side of the room was a complimentary computer from the early 90’s. A stumpy 10” CRT monitor proudly radiated a Windows 95 desktop colors and staggeringly dated features. I would never have a chance to experience these features however, as a man who looked to be in his early 50’s with wispy grey hair and sunken facial features would hoard the machine all hours of the day and night. By the end of my stay, I began to wonder if the man came with the computer.

Once we signed in and entered our room, we were greeted by a mosaic of discoloring cracks running across walls. Opening the cupboard, my mother noticed a portion of the wall completely torn out, giving the impression that the typical patrons of this hotel are the type that hide things in the walls. Remembering that the alternative was my uncle’s house packed with defiant toddlers, I accepted the room as a suitable alternative.

After settling in, we walked over to my grandparents’ room to see if smugglers also frequented their room. Opening the door, I was greeted first by my grandmother and then by the sight of small blood specks highlighted against the white walls.

“Grandma, is this blood on the wall”, I half-shouted in a horrified tone?

“Maybe a little” she replied, her voice taking on a fretful tone. “I cleaned up most it though, but your old grandmother must have missed a spot”.

Upon later reflection, I have come to realize that my grandmother was more agitated at the thought of being a sub-par cleaner than she was at cleaning up a crime scene. At the time however, I was focused on the idea that there was blood stains in the hotel room and that my grandparents were sleeping in crime scene; though depending on what was in that hole in the wall, potentially so were we.

The next few days were comparatively quiet. Once you got used to the holes in the wall, omnipresent marijuana cloud in the front lobby, and deathtrap of an outdoor pool, the hotel was like any other. The image I held of the hotel being a hotbed of criminal activity was reinforced however, by one final incident shortly before the end of our stay.

On the last night, sleep alluded me and I tossed and turned for several hours. At about 1:00 A.M. I finally drifted off to sleep, only to be awoken by a banging at the door. “Police”, the voice announced. “Open up or we are going to kick down the door!”

I sprinted to the door wearing all the protection afforded by a runner’s underwear. “Wait, we can talk about this”, I shouted at the inside of the door! Being half-asleep, I somehow reasoned that it would be preferable to keep the door shut so that the police could not see me in my state of undress.

“Not for you”, came the response, before further pounding on a door made realize that the police raid was being conducted on an adjacent room.

At this point, still being in a catatonic state, I stumbled back to my bed and collapsed, falling asleep to the sound of someone running down the hall, followed shortly by the sounds of a scuffle and then a crashing crescendo as I heard and felt a man being thrown into the hallway wall. So that’s where the cracks in the wall came from I thought as I fell asleep amidst the police raid.

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