Thursday, May 21, 2009

Motel Freebies

Sometimes, when I walk into a hotel bathroom and spy the little bottles of free stuff all lined up, I am reminded of my family’s car trips decades ago when we stayed at motels.

Even more appealing than the promise of “Free TV,” something we didn’t yet have at home, were the complimentary items found in our room. I was mad for them.

As soon as Dad opened the door, I rushed in, throwing open dresser drawers, running in to the bathroom, shouting out the results: “Three bars – no, four! Four bars of soap! A post card!”

Never mind that my parents and sisters were struggling to bring in enough suitcases to see us through Armageddon. I simply had to know what this particular motel room had to offer.

Not only did I conduct a survey, I saved as much as I could for my souvenir collection. Once, my dad yelled from the shower, “Where’s the soap?” and the entire rest of the family had the nerve to turn to me.

“But—“I said.

My mother called out my name in that certain tone. I reached into my suitcase and took my dad one of my precious bars.

I solemnly believed that when a sign said, “Take one,” there was a moral obligation to do so. One motel clerk snarled at me when I reached once too often for a postcard of a cactus. “Look, kid,” he said, “with a tone of voice I thought only my mother had mastered. “If you take one more of these free cards, I’m gonna add a surcharge to your dad’s bill.”

On the same trip, my mother spied me trying hard to fasten my suitcase and got suspicious.

“Why are you sitting on your suitcase?“ she asked.

“It won’t fasten right,” I answered, jumping off and letting it pop back open.

“What’s that blanket doing in there?” she demanded.

“It was in the drawer!” I protested.

Just then, one of my sisters came back into the room carrying a pillow I had carefully placed in the car. “You can’t take these,” she said, in a voice that sounded suspiciously familiar.

Later, when we were barreling down the road far from the motel, my mother spied what I was reading. “Oh, good heavens,” she said. Turning to my father, she announced, “Your son now owns the Kansas City telephone directory.”

I decided that it was probably not a good time to brag about being the proud new owner of my very own Gideon Bible.

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