Meandering from motel to motel one can’t help but see them as marvellous monuments to the endeavour of human travel. They come in all shapes and sizes but the one in the popular imagination endures. It’s a one story with rooms fronting onto car bays with an open corridor running outside, in sunnier climes hosting chairs for occupants to relax into and take in the shared community living, partaking of conversations with passing strangers. They are long and narrow, some straight and others arranged in an L-shape or parallel to each other, so as to afford views of neighbours across the parking lot. There is usually a small hut like office with an iconic neon electric sign signalling a welcome ‘’open’’. There are the occasional two story motels with an upper open corridor that forms a veranda with views, down into the parking lot. Sometimes, you strike lucky and have one that’s positioned to give a finer view, as in Kamloops, where we enjoy the vista of the mountains. There are also those that come with a pool.
You could be forgiven for believing that motels are a business venture reserved for Indians (mainly it seems from the Punjab). On the whole we experience them as friendly and kind and always helpful.
With motels comes an assortment of life. One assumes they were designed and destined for the intrepid traveller. To accommodate the various needs of passing holidaymakers and business people on the lower end of a budget, or the construction workers taking a few days’ work away from home. Rooms equipped for a minimal stay but sufficient for small doses of self-catering. A fridge, maybe a microwave, the coffee maker and occasionally, always to our excitement, a mini kitchenette. However, on many of an occasion, a motel brings with it the long-stayer. In Kingston, the French man working in construction. In Westport there was the rusty old car permanently parked outside number 112, never moving. Looking discreetly in through the window you could see a makeshift office or maybe not so makeshift. The occupant mysteriously never seen, maybe he was on vacation somewhere. At St. Catherine’s the couple who had sold up in Nova Scotia and were now looking to move to the Niagara area for the climate. They had been in the motel for 3 months and took in take away deliveries, and smoked on the outside stairwell.
So we meander from motel to motel making moments with neighbours that we have snatched from across parking lots. As I do so I become curious about frozen moments I observe, people coming to a standstill. For them life goes on, yet in the context of a motel, life is surely moving on.
Sitting in the morning sun in Kamloops with the mountains surrounding me I ponder about who lives behind the shut curtains at the end of the lower corridor, room 101. Their room beside the pool. In the window a sign. ‘’Oxygen in use. Please no naked flames or smoking’’.
Life in a motel can be perfect or precarious.
I retired about 5 years ago. I had been in the Mental health industry for my whole working life. I put my spare time into art, writing and photography with mixed success. I found that I had a great capacity to be idle and I would love to teach this to other people. The opportunity to spend this amount of time together as family in these modern times is rare. I will miss my older kids and Buddy and my close friends.