Seedy Motels

“It would take us hours and hours to wash and dry every comforter, every day,” my partner explained.

Such was the type of room we hoped for.

But there were other kinds of rooms, the ones my partner warned me about. Walking into these rooms was like walking onto a battlefield where the primary instrument of warfare was an erect penis. DNA was everywhere—you could smell it. Bleach and grease and cheap body spray clogged your nostrils. Used condoms, occasionally streaked with blood or excrement, littered the carpet, looking like dead jellyfish.

If I was in charge of making the bed, I’d have to peel away bed sheets and pillowcases still moist with semen. If I was in charge of cleaning the bathroom, I’d find rogue pubic hairs in the tub, along the seat of the toilet, and even—I kid you not—stuck to the surface of the mirror. In the wastebasket I’d see condom wrappers and empty vials of lube. One time, I found a porn stash geared towards every conceivable fetish stuffed in a drawer—almost as though it been left in lieu of an actual tip.

To this day, whenever I pass a motel, the cellar door of my imagination swings open. At this very moment, I think, seediness is happening. Seediness is happening between two strangers, between a man and a woman, between two men, between two women, between a prostitute and a john, between a businessman and a cocktail waitress, between a businesswoman and a masseuse, between a young man and an older leather daddy, between a young woman and her professor, between two people so high on meth they’re fucking each other senseless.

Indeed, the possibilities are endless, but the relics of such raptures generally end up in the same place: on the floor, in the trash, on the sheets, in the toilet.

My point? When seediness happens at a motel, tidy up. And tip.

I once held down a housekeeping gig at a motel. We worked in pairs. One person turned the linens and vacuumed; the other person scrubbed the bathroom and emptied the waste baskets. The morning I started, my housekeeping partner told me, “Don’t ever remove your gloves.” She described herself as a veteran housekeeper; she’d seen things laying around that would turn my stomach.

Ah, I shooed her off. I figured I could handle dust and dirt. I could handle empty beer bottles and banana peels. I could handle the sight and stench of half-eaten Big Macs.

Less than a week later, I thought differently. I was convinced that our supervisor should be bound by federal law to give us more than latex gloves to protect ourselves. We needed gas masks and rubber suits.

It’s true that most of the rooms were in decent shape, the bathrooms spotless and the sheets so crisp you’d never guess that a person had slept between them. In fact, if the comforter was relatively clean, as was often the case, we tossed it aside until we were finished changing the sheets—then we threw it back over the bed, merely brushing off a few visible strands of hair.

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