Two and a Half Months in a Hotel... With a Cat

Closing Comments by Nicki Lynch

If you've never spent long periods of your life living in one room with one bathroom and one cat, you might consider trying it. It's not as bad as you might think. But then again, it might be.

We had the opportunity to do just that when we moved to Maryland last fall. I'm not sure how people expected us to sell and find a home in two and a half weeks before the move, but to a person they all asked if we were moving into a house. Naturally not, but it never seemed like a stupid question to them.

The drive north took two days due to starting late on the first day and having two cars and one cat. Dick brought our eight-year-old Siamese cat, Sesame, in his car, while I brought the houseplants. Both cars were stuffed with what we would need for two months of living in a hotel. That included: clothes for work and play, coats (fall coats and we should have had winter coats as well), shoes, radio, microwave oven, VCR, video tapes, plants, cat litter box and cat carrier. Oh, and books and fanzines too.

We only got as far as Bristol, Virginia, the first day before it started getting dark. We managed to find the last hotel room in town, since the whole town was booked up due to a bit drag racing weekend in progress. It was the first hotel room our cat had ever stayed in and I think she liked it. She kept looking at herself in the full-length mirror and peeking out of the full-length window into the courtyard.

The final leg of the trip was memorable for Dick in that Sesame decided he needed some diversion. So, she spent most of the trip yowling and roaming the car. At one point, Dick said she sang a duet with Mick Jagger on the radio. But we did make Maryland and Germantown without incident.

We settled in the same hotel we stayed at when Dick was interviewed forhis new job. It was a standard Quality Inn/Holiday Inn type of hotel, but with an unusual assortment of clientele. When we had checked in that first trip, most of the people weran into that evening were business people. But the next morning in the lobby, they seemed to have transformed into biker-types, complete with tattoos and leather jackets. We eventually discovered that rather than transforming during the night, both lifestyle-types stayed there in apparent complete peaceful coexistence. And both turned out to be nice enough neighbors.

Dick and Sesame at the hotel Since small, well-behaved pets were welcome in the hotel, we happily shared the room with Sesame. She wasn't much trouble, or at least any more than usual. She did seem confused that the front door didn't open to the outside any more, but that didn't stop her from continually asking to go out. I have no idea what she thought about looking out a window five floors up, but she occasionally got up there to sun herself. She also gained a fan club of sorts with the two women who were at the front desk most weekdays.

Since Sesame was an indoor/outdoor cat, I took her out on good days for some exercise and fresh air. We soon developed a ritual where we would stand at the front desk, Sesame on top of it, me standing beside her, for a chat with "her" friends.

After a while there, it had become obvious that we were not the only people living there long-term. The local school bus stopped there each morning to pick up a number of children, and there were other children that hung around the hotel all day as well.

Since I had the advantage of being Sesame's owner (which offered a chance for gossip with the woman at the hotel desk), I casually mentioned this observation one afternoon. It turned out that the hotel we were staying in had about 50% long-term occupancy, with the majority of long-termers being construction workers and their families. A smaller group were homeless people who either worked ro didn't, had also been placed there by the local government. We were unusual in that we fit into neither category. She (who was one of Sesame's biggest fans) also confided to me that she liked us the best as we caused the least amount of trouble.

I wish I could have said that about the hotel. It had a "disco" and restaurant, but neither were actually run by the hotel. While the restaurant was very good, five nights a week we had to listen to loud thumping from five floors below, until about 1AM. Not to mention the rowdy drunks and their cars.

But what really set apart this hotel experience from the usual fan experience of hotel living was the number of fire alarms that we had while there -- 11 in all, usually at odd hours of the night.

The first one happened just after midnight. We got up and dressed while Sesame tucked tight in the covers. She seemed surprised when we shook her awake to snap her leash on, and was not happy to be carried into a hall where there was some horrible noise blasting. After we were allowed to return to our room, though, she seemed annoyed that we didn't want to stay up after that.

The reason for the early-hours alarms was that drunks in the disco were accidentally pulling the alarm boxes. Later, we were told it was due to a fault in the heating system, cold weather having begun. Whatever the reason, about once a week, we had to get up in the dead of night, and leave our room. We got so used to them that we joked, when we were at a party, that we had to leave so we could get back in time for the fire alarm.

I was also there for one of the rare daytime fire alarms, but it wasn't very exciting. Sesame had a great time, because not only did she have several people fawning over her, we were allowed to walk back through the kitchen, rather than walk all the way around the hotel to get back to our rooms. I don't think Sesame had ever seen so much meat in her life.

Several times we were audience to interesting displays of temper by temporary guests as well as some of the long-term people. One very pregnant woman with four small children in tow gave the night manager a great deal of verbal abuse before declaring she would never come back down for another fire alarm.

She was as good as her word and most of the residents seemed to have followed suit. The next fire alarm, just us, Sesame and one guy (who must have been a first-timer to all this) went down to the lobby. Even the local firefighters didn't seem very enthusiastic and didn't spend the usual length of time checking the hotel out.

I was also looking for a job while we lived in the hotel. Several of the people who returned my calls thought I worked at the hotel. I had to explain each time that my husband had a job here, I was with him, and we were still house hunting. I guess it isn't unusual to move from one place to another in under three weeks in Maryland.

After living out of suitcases and restaurants for weeks, we finally found a house we could afford. About the same time< I got a semi-firm job offer. So after two-and-a-half months there, we finally moved out in December.

I don't know if they ever did solve their problems with the fire alarms. I thought about having a monthly fire drill at our new place, but Dick vetoed the idea.

I guess men just aren't very nostalgic.

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