She Who Must Be Obeyed and I arrived in Los Angeles last Thursday evening to begin a four-day, five-night sojourn in Santa Monica, guests for a weekend wedding. What with the fact that we had not been in L.A. in years, and the length of the trip, we tacked on a couple of days before and after the weekend in order to squeeze a mini-vacation out of the trip.
And it started out with a bang.
A little background is in order here, and it has to do with one of my Great Character Defects. You see, I have a tendency to procrastinate.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Everybody procrastinates. Never do today what you can do tomorrow, and all that.
But I’m really good at it, and this time it bit me in the ass.
I go to make hotel reservations at the place where everyone from the wedding is staying, the Parents of the Groom (our friends Sid and Debbie M-.) having blocked a number of rooms at a favorable rate. “Favorable Rate” means something different in California than it does everywhere else: “North of Reasonable.” But, to my horror, I found that I had waited too long to get the Favorable Rate. What was left was the “Way North of Reasonable” rate...and I did not want to pay it.
So Mr. Smart-Brains got on the Information Stupidhighway and secured what appeared to be a suitable lodging via Orbitz. Close to the hotel where everyone else was. Reasonably priced. Near the beach. Wireless Internet access! What could possibly go wrong?
So, here we are, arriving at LAX with our friends Deborah and Dennis. We rented a car and headed off on the 405 towards Santa Monica. No problem finding the Doubletree, where Deborah and Dennis were booked in. We dropped them off and went in search of our hotel.
I pulled up near the corner of Broadway and Ocean, right about where the hotel should have been. There was a Best Western hotel there, and at ground level, a nightclub – Club Maka’i – crowded with noisy, happy, dancing young people, moving to a pulsating beat. And there was a parking attendant, who explained that our place did not have its own parking, but that the Best Western people had an arrangement with them. I needed to talk to the people at the desk there.
Right about now is when SWMBO shot me The Look. You know the one. The “You fucked it up, didn’t you, Mr. Smart-Brains?” look.
I went inside to the Best Western. The two guys at the front desk also gave me The Look. It was a slight variation on the theme, one that I would later define as the “Here comes another schmuck” look.
Yes, these guys handled parking for the property where I had my reservations. They suggested that I look at the room before paying for parking. And that’s when I started to get that “Oh, Shit” feeling deep, deep in my bones.
I went around the corner, leaving SWMBO with the car and bags, following the parking attendant who showed me where the entrance to the “hotel” was: a doorway with a keypad and buzzer. I punched in a code, and moments later, a California Dude (with the obligatory frosted hair) showed up to escort me to our lodgings. A series of mailboxes on the left as we went in. Up two flights of stairs. Carpet that is best described as “well-used,” complete with Mysterious Stain. To the room, which at first blush didn’t look too horrible. Ocean view, nice size bed.
I took the keys and went down to get the Missus and the luggage. “How’s the room?” she asked, and with my best Shit Eatin’ Grin I replied “It’s...a room. It’s fine.”
So up we go with the luggage (punch in code, open door, schlep up two flights of stairs) and into the room. And it was evident that She Who Must Be Obeyed was...not happy.
It was fairly stuffy in the room, and she asked a perfectly reasonable question: “How do you turn on the air conditioning?’
There was, as it turns out, no perfectly reasonable answer. This became more and more evident as I surveyed the room and discovered that there was a wall heater, a tiny gas stove, a mini-fridge, a sink, a coffeepot, a television, a fax machine...and a huge, dust-encrusted fan.
I turned on the fan, which provided limited relief. It also had the Extremely Useful Function of covering up the throbbing sound of the nightclub immediately below us.
It became all too apparent that there was Absolutely No Way In Hell that we would spend more than one night here in this Retrofitted Efficiency Apartment. The wedding we were to attend on Saturday was a formal affair, and I was going to have to put on a Monkey-Suit. Normally, I sweat bullets when I put on a Monkey-Suit, even in the coolest of climes. Here, in this humid Hell-Hole, I would be soaked to the skin before even getting the tie on. Screw that. So, tomorrow, I would get out the books and start hunting for new lodgings...at whatever cost.
But right now it was late, at least by our metabolic clocks, still on Eastern Daylight Time three hours ahead. Too late to find another place...and besides, the room was already paid for. We would have to endure what would turn out to be – for me, at least – an uncomfortable, sweaty night, punctuated by quiet bursts of rage- and angst-fueled sleeplessness.
We got up, the two of us, at the Butt-Crack of Dawn™, and, having nothing to do right away, took a walk down to the Santa Monica Pier. It was cool and misty, perfect for gathering the thoughts and reflecting on Where I Went Wrong.
Procrastination: my fatal error. Never again, at least as far as hotel rooms are concerned. Fatal error two: using Orbitz. It’s pretty clear that, while you can get the occasional good deal by using sites like Hotels.com and Orbitz, there are considerable risks. Here, the property was definitely not as advertised. It was not a hotel at all, merely an apartment building with a “creative” manager. Rather than a three-star property, it looked like the kind of place you always see at the beginning of a Law and Order episode, where Dennis Farina goes into some cheesy apartment building and finds a dead body. So: Fuck Orbitz to death. Can you say, “Disputed Charge,” kids?
After that night, “Way North of Reasonable” seemed pretty reasonable to me.