I am not meant to go on a mission trip.
Yesterday made that perfectly clear.
My husband and I are in Rhode Island this weekend for a wedding. I have known the groom since he was nine years old. He is the son of one of my very dearest friends, Ida Mae. (I wrote about our friendship here). He is marrying his high school sweetheart, who a beautiful young lady. I love weddings and have been looking forward to this for a long time.
Doug and I lived in Rhode Island for five years. Both our children were born here and it is a beautiful state. We had plans to visit familiar places and enjoy some time away together.
Our trip began with so much promise.
We stayed at a new hotel, which was a converted mill. All the rooms were lofts. There were polished concrete floors, concrete walls and exposed pipes. It was all very industrial, yet somehow still warm and welcoming.
We awoke very early on Saturday morning and had a marvelous day that began with a trip to The Breakfast Nook, a little hole-in-the-wall type of place that offers delicious food. When Josh and Julia were little, Doug took them there every Saturday morning, which gave me some much-needed quiet and the welcome opportunity to sleep in. To this day, the three of them have sweet memories of that place.
We then visited the beach town of Narragansett, the charming and artsy waterfront town of Wickford, and tony Newport.
We had lunch at the famous Newport Creamery, home of the “Awful Awful” milkshake (meaning “awful big and awful good). And they are!
After a full day of sightseeing and taking many trips down memory lane, we were starving and headed to one of our favorite Italian restaurants for dinner before checking into our new hotel, which was much closer to the wedding location.
(Check in time was 3:00 and at that point it was 6:30. I had an uneasy feeling that we should have called to let them know we would be checking in later than usual, but we felt that a quick call to them after dinner would suffice).
The delicious aromas that greeted us when we entered the restaurant made our mouths water.
If only the delicious aromas meant a delicious meal.
The food was tasteless. No amount of salt could salvage it.
We choked down what we could and finally gave up, paid our bill and headed for our next hotel, which advertised itself as a charming New England inn near the ocean. The website boasted enchanting photos of delightful guest rooms, each with expansive views. Before leaving the restaurant parking lot, Doug called to make sure they were holding our reservations. He was assured that they were anxiously awaiting our arrival.
As we drove the twenty minutes south, our busy day of sightseeing in the sun began to take its toll. We were really looking forward to getting settled and possibly visiting with Ida Mae and her husband, who were at the inn for their son’s rehearsal dinner.
We pulled into the parking lot and were cheered by the sight of a rambling white building with blue shutters. Mature trees dotted the lawn and the parking lot was full. Lights glowed warmly from the wall of windows as dusk descended and we could see several people milling about inside, obviously enjoying the delights of the inn’s celebrated restaurant.
Maybe we could order something from room service, I thought to myself, envisioning a snack delivered on a cute little tray adorned with a flower in a bud vase.
My first inkling that there would be no such luxury came when Doug came back to the car and said, “I’ll have to drive us to the barn.”
Excuse me. What?!
I watched in dismay as we drove away from the lovely main building with all the lovely people inside enjoying delicious food.
I’m sure it’s fine, I told myself as we drove down a small hill toward several other smaller buildings, remembering the adorable photos from the website.
It. was. not. fine.
We pulled up to a building that was indeed a converted barn. On the left was a door that said, “Rooms 11-18.” On the right was a screen door that didn’t quite look like all the hinges lined up right.
With growing trepidation but wearing a brave smile, I helped Doug lug our bags from the car through the screen door.
Have you seen the movie The Shining?
Remember that long, dimly lit hallway where the little boy appears on his bike, ominously chanting “Redrum?” (which is ‘murder’ backwards?).
Room 11 was directly to the left of the front door…and when I say directly to the left, I mean that the open door to our room collided with the screen door. We were literally right next to the front door and as the next few minutes would attest, we would hear that door slam every time someone entered or exited…which was apparently going to be often, as Saturday night in a beach town was in full swing.
We tentatively entered our room. Visions from the website continued to fill my head…only to be dashed to pieces as reality hit.
The room was so small our bags barely fit.
Now, I do not mind cozy. When you are on a romantic weekend get away with your man, cozy can be good.
What is not good is battered wicker furniture from the early 80s. Or slipcovers covering one sad little (seemingly precarious) chair that is ripped and torn in several pieces. Or a carpet that must have looked fabulous when it was new...in 1960. Or cracked tile in the bathroom and a mirror so old that there was rust around the edges.
The charming photos from the cheerful website seemed like a cruel joke.
Someone from down the hall sneezed and it sounded as if she were sitting right next to me. Another guest was watching the Olympics and I could hear the play-by-play word for word. Yet another guest was calling the front desk to complain that the air conditioner unit was too loud.
The walls were paper thin.
I sat down on the edge of the bed and made an announcement.
“I can’t stay here.”
My eyes met my husband’s. We were both exhausted and the thought of looking for another hotel at 8:00 at night was not appealing. The day had been incredibly humid and we both needed a shower. We were still hungry due to the fact that our dinner was tasteless and dry. Yet the thought of staying in this tiny room that time forgot for two days made me want to cry.
He told me that when he had made the reservation months ago, he had asked for their best room, anticipating a romantic time away for the two of us. Clearly, they had given our room away to another guest because we had checked in so late.
So, he began to surf the web on his phone to locate another hotel.
Have I mentioned that southern Rhode Island is a resort area and it was a Saturday night in August?
There were no vacancies in the entire state.
Finally, he struck gold…a Days Inn in Groton, CT had a vacancy!
As fast as we could, we re-loaded the car, checked out of the inn and drove twenty minutes down 95 to our new hotel. I texted Ida Mae to tell her that we wouldn’t be able to see them because we were going to a new place.
Things were looking up!
We took the correct exit and saw the Days Inn sign. Except there appeared no clear way into the hotel. We saw that there was a Walmart on the left so we pulled in there, thinking we could just turn around.
It was not to be.
Walmart led us to a very long ramp…right back onto Rt. 95.
Deep breath. Okay, we will just get off at the next exit and go back around and find the correct entrance this time.
The next exit was ten minutes away.
By this time, we were laughing hysterically to keep from crying.
When we finally made it back to the hotel, once again, we could not find the entrance. Doug pulled into the Five Guys parking lot next door to the Days Inn and said he was going to walk over to the Days Inn and ask them how in the world a guest can find the entrance!
No wonder they had a vacancy…no one can get in!
At long last, we had our keys in hand and headed up to the third floor.
The instant the elevator doors opened, the acrid stench of cigarette smoke hit us full force.
The last vacancy was on the smoking floor.
I had held off the tears until that moment, but couldn’t do it any longer.
We had no choice at this point. It was late, we were tired and smelly, and there were no other available rooms within a 40 mile radius. This was it.
We opened the door and walked into our room…only to see a giant room with a small desk, a chest of drawers with a TV on top, a refrigerator… and a sofa.
“There’s no bed!” I wailed to my husband. Hysteria was beginning to set in.
I heard movement behind me as Doug walked down a small hallway within our room and he said, “Here it is.”
Apparently, we had been given a “suite”. Oh happy day.
I followed him into a bedroom with a double bed covered in a bedspread that was torn and sported burn holes. The door (painted a hideous brown and yellow) had been kicked in at three separate places. The walls had a discolored, yellowish hue, the accumulation of years of smoking guests. It reeked of smoke and hopelessness and made me gag.
I took a much needed shower (after a careful search for any critters that might be lurking…fortunately the room was at least clean). I climbed into bed and pulled the thin sheet and blanket over me (praying that there would be no bed bugs). Between the sound of the air conditioner that sounded like a freight train was roaring through our room and my husband’s snores, I probably got a total of two hours of sleep. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, so heavy was the smoke smell.
As I finally gave up and decided to venture into the next room to watch TV, I realized anew what a failure I would be on the mission field.
I am a girly girl.
I like pretty things and surroundings.
I scream when I see bugs.
How in the world would I survive jungles or third world countries when a smoke infested hotel room in America can make me cry?
I am tough in many ways. I am a survivor.
So how can I be so wimpy when it comes to stuff like this?
It is now nearly 6 a.m. Michael Phelps and the other Olympic athletes have kept me company through this long night. I also read my Bible and prayed.
In a short while, Doug and I will attend our old church and see dear friends before heading to the wedding.
Unfortunately, I will have bags under my eyes the size of Texas.
And the humidity for the day is said to be the highest in years, assuring that my carefully straightened hair will be a frizzy mess when the wedding begins at 4:00.
Although no one will probably notice the hair . When I turned on the bathroom light this morning, I was delighted to discover that since I had worn my sunglasses all day long yesterday, I now possess that lovely raccoon effect…meaning that one can clearly see the size of my sunglasses due to the fact that my entire face got sun except where I was wearing the glasses.
I can assure you that it is a charming look.
I only hope that the two of us do not reek of smoke as a result of tonight’s hotel stay.
Did I mention that it is an outdoor wedding?
Thunderstorms and strong winds are expected.
It will be a long time before I visit Rhode Island again.