Nomads

My phone lit up briefly as I entered the room.

"Is that a baby or a rooster?" read the message.

I glanced up at my wife.

"I didn't hear anything."

"It's the A/C; you were right."

"It's friggin' annoying."

"Watch the wall," she said.

"I know. I just saw it."

"It's making me nauseous."

The air conditioner kicked off again. 5 seconds later, the sound of air escaping from a dying balloon floated from the unit. The red light on the wall flashes. The air conditioner kicks on. The light flashes. The air conditioner kicks off. The light flashes. The balloon dies yet again.

Maybe it isn't a balloon; maybe it's more like someone trying to be stealthy about their flatulence.

If I switch the thermostat up a degree, we roast.

If I leave it where it is, we're stuck listening to the rooster every few minutes.

I kick it down a degree.

The A/C in the other room kicks on.

I hear Bill Bryson's voice in my head, describing the room he and Katz shared in Haiwassee, Georgia, in A Walk In The Woods. How ecstatic he was at staying in a room with cigarette burns on the door lintels, and horrific stains on the rug suggesting a fight to the death involving lots of hot coffee. I wish I could capture some of that ecstasy, to make tonight's stay anything other than the hell it will be.

"There are other ways to do that. What if someone was epileptic?"

"Do we have any tape? I could put a piece of tape over it."

"How would you get up there?"

I look up. It's probably out of my reach. I don't have anything left other than acquiescence.

"You're right."

"Anyway, we don't have tape."

Thing 2 shifts.

"Would you look at your daughter?"

I snicker. Thing 2 has her leg draped across my wife's side. "I see it."

The balloon dies.

I wish I could laugh this off.

The straw that had broke my back earlier was when I pulled out the couch in the living room and found that someone else's sheets were smushed in there. I tried to be rational, that perhaps that was how the hotel stored it, but the top sheet was a crumpled mess, and I lacked the proper hazmat gear to dig in deeper.

I knew what I would find.

Worse, there was a white packet of something near the head of the bed.

I looked closer.

Salt.

Clearly someone was trying to ward off the screams of the damned that were emitting from the A/C.

The balloon dies.

"Make that a dying loon."

I debate kicking the A/C back up 2 degrees. The futility of it all is beyond me. I kick it up, we roast. I leave it where it is, we get a weather report from the seventh circle of hell every 2 minutes.

My wife had decided she was done with this place hours ago.

It was the gigantic television in the lobby was the straw that broke her back.

Every time you step off the elevator, every time you step foot in the lobby, it dominates your view. We're not anti-television, but when the top story of the day is how we're locked a war of wits ... no, not wits ... there's no wit in this. We're locked in a war of rhetoric and fear-mongering between the sadistic dictator who rules the land just north of where my eldest was born, and the reality-TV-host-in-chief, who does anything for ratings, including, apparently, offering up one of our territories as bait. I know that war tends to have a temporary buff on a president's ratings, but I'm not sure how well that will work if you've actively incited the enemy to attack American soil.

Needless to say, we're all fairly sensitive to this.

Stepping off the elevator to massive pictures of the gears of war spinning up, with our daughters in tow, was more than my wife could take. I'm surprised my eldest hasn't had a breakdown over this latest escalation, honestly. She internalizes everything, and this hits home in many ways. She's already been on edge since the racist/misogynist/bigot took office on his platform of hate. She wouldn't talk about it, but from what we could gather, one or more of the kids in her school felt safe enough to bully her about being Korean, possibly about being deported. Never mind the fact that she's a citizen.

Tell me again how a wall will make us safe? Which "us"?

The balloon dies.

I turn the thermostat up two degrees.

Tomorrow we're packing up the caravan and moving on to a different hotel.

I had chosen this hotel specifically because it had 2 beds plus a pull-out couch.

Did we stop calling them futons? All of the hotels avoid that word in their listings.

I spent a while this afternoon trying to convince my wife that despite all of our problems with this place, it was wonderful to have a room to ourselves. We don't even have a room to ourselves at our own house.

We had a room to ourselves for 30 minutes, tops. There was no way in hell we were letting Thing 2 sleep on that nasty futon, and we were past the point of complaining.

Pay up and get out.

Tomorrow I restart my training. Like an idiot I agreed to run with my Ragnar team again this year, even though I haven't run more than a few miles in months. Our captain broke his foot, and I even though I had already made peace with the fact that I wasn't going to do it this year, I said I was in.

I think I'd rather be sleeping at the fairgrounds tonight, with the genny kicking off every 15 minutes, than in here, with the sounds of despair kicking off every 2.

Seriously, we've done this two years in a row, and both years, we were stuck under a portable light at the fairgrounds. And both years a few of us decided that there was no way in hell we were sleeping on the floor of a chicken coop with 100 of our closest strangers.

Tomorrow I run.