Once I was driving home late at night from Bakersfield where I had just dropped Darla off at a friend’s house. Harry was asleep in the backseat. I could barely keep my eyes open.
We were in some town, I forget what it was called, but the main attraction was a State Penitentiary. When I got off the highway there were two signs pointing down separate unlit roads: Blahdeblah State Facility and Visitors. I chose Visitors. Somehow, in my delirious state, this seemed to make the most sense.
I pulled in to the first motel and parked up close to the manager’s office so I wouldn’t have to wake Harry. I walked in to a small office divided in half by a wall of plexi-glass.
The smell of fruity incense was overwhelming.
On my side of the plexi there was nothing but worn carpet. On the other side was some crazy fantastic Indian diorama with colorful statues of elephants, women with six arms and Hindus in unfathomable sexual positions.
I pushed a buzzer and waited. I think I yawned the kind of yawn where it feels like you can’t stop.
After a full minute an Indian guy walked out from a door behind the diorama side of the plexi-glass. He wore an orange silk shirt unbuttoned to the waist, a plastic gem ring on every single finger and had bulgy eyes like a pug (one of which was focused steadily at something to his extreme right).
He pushed an intercom button and said Good Ev-en-ing.
He told me a room would cost 59.99. I gave him my card and license which he made photocopies of. I signed the paperwork and he gave me a key-card.
I noticed when I went back out to the car that there was only one other car in the parking lot, all the way down at the other end, and that the rear door was open.
I walked up the outdoor stairs carrying Harry on my shoulder like a bag of rocks, found the room number and tried to slide the card into the slot.
It wouldn't work. (push play to hear the sound in my head at that moment)
By this time I was fully awake. I looked around and had a sudden fast-speed reverse flashback of everything that had happened between the time I got off the exit to right this very second and I turned around, walked down the stairs, drove back to the office, waited another full minute and asked for a refund.
I always wonder what would have happened if the key-card had worked.