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The Nevada Motel MAG
“Welcome to the Nevada Motel, where we aim to impress the average low-life tourist. Here is your plastic key, sir. If you or your astoundingly obese wife have any questions, please hesitate to ask. Breakfast is served only at eight, and the food is adequate at best. I hope you enjoy your stay at our run-of-the-mill establishment. Check-out time is noon.”
I say this with a gratuitously toothy smile and point to the elevator. Mr. and Mrs. Winnipegger, high-paying guests but dim bulbs, stand befuddled in the shag-carpeted lobby. They appear struck with the realization that the Nevada Motel isn't quite the “pristine getaway” depicted in the travel pamphlets.
Indeed, the ླྀs mauve exterior needs a decent paint job, and both the second-floor water damage and rodent infestation are quite disconcerting. But the town of Popswitch, Maine, is charming: a seaside community ritualistically stuck in a “live and let live” existence.
In the course of their unnatural holiday, Mr. and Mrs. Winnipegger will both acquire third-degree sunburns and be bitten by sand fleas. Mrs. Winnipegger will suffer from a severe reaction to Red Tide shellfish, and Mr. Winnipegger will chip a tooth on our complimentary continental breakfast. Upon returning their key, however, they will smile and say they “enjoyed the vacation.”
It is a characteristically American instinct to delight in a bleak reprieve from the average. Take Joseph P. Brooks from Boston, who checks in at a quarter to three. He wears horn-rimmed glasses, a rigid tie, and a suit that's stiffer than a wooden spoon. When he demands pillow mints and softer towels, I tell him to go back to “Assachusetts.” He doesn't appreciate my comment, yet he stays two nights and thanks the maid regularly. He cares not that the maid neither makes his bed nor cleans his tub.
Joseph is akin to the Waltons, who arrive at half past five. Mr. Walton is a stocky man with a smoker's mustache and is, ironically, more feminine than his wife. I give him a good look-over: a definite tourist. His nose is a deep combination of chartreuse and magenta, but his legs are whiter than cotton swabs. He wears ྂs style aviator sunglasses and a once-white T-shirt graced with the words “Who's your daddy?” He carries a burlap sack fit for a three-month hike across the European countryside.
Mr. Walton motions to his wife, who tells me in a very deep Southern drawl that she and her “darling” are from Hill City, Alabama, and this is their first time out of state. With her weight, Mrs. Walton could capsize the Queen Elizabeth 2. She carries a flamingo-feathered suitcase that coordinates with her boots and wears one of those cheap rubber bracelets that say, “I'm on a mission from God.” When she smiles, she reveals a rouge lipstick-speckled snaggletooth.
I give my ritual “Welcome to the Nevada Motel” performance, and the Waltons avoid my gaze thereafter. They nevertheless take their plastic key and spend five days in Popswitch, living as tourists do and “getting away from it all.” However, while gallivanting in the frigid Atlantic waters, Mr. Walton loses his left pinky toe to a feisty sea crab. And while shrieking for medical help, Mrs. Walton steps forcefully into a fellow tourist's sand castle moat, shattering her ankle in 11 places.
For the five days prior, Mr. Walton disregarded his humdrum, nine-to-five life of stacking inventory at the Hill City Walmart. He no longer lived for Michelob Ultra and WWF Fridays, but relished the sweet aroma of vocational freedom. For five luminous days, he made no attempts to “stick it to the man,” for this is Mr. Walton's vacation: he is the man.
Until the unfortunate sea crab incident, Mrs. Walton comfortably strutted the beach in a rainbow-striped, g-string bikini. For 57 minutes, she was Cleopatra and Mr. Walton was Mark Anthony. In her mind, she wasn't the weight of a Burmese elephant, but was a black-and-white movie star fresh from “Breakfast at Tiffany's.”
The Waltons were overly eager to escape their mundane lives; they braved mutilating injuries and substandard motel conditions to “get away from it all,” and in the end, returned to normalcy with nauseating ease. They will remember the Nevada Motel as a symbol of the American vacation, an enticing facade and a bleak escape.
After the Walton's noontime departure, the Emerson family arrives. I greet them with, “Welcome to the Nevada Motel, where we aim to impress tourists in search of reprieve from their monotonous lives. I offer you advice: pack up, go home. Take three days to sit in your suburban backyard and bake your white, fleshy skin. Sip lemonade from a curly straw, and paint your toenails some obscene color … Just get out of Popswitch before it sucks you in.”