"You have five minutes after checking in to ask for a refund. Requests after five minutes will not be granted."
Blinking, I read the sign again as the motel cashier charged my credit card. Well, this doesn't bode well. How many people had demanded a refund within the first 10 minutes of seeing their room before the place decided that this five-minute limit had to be implemented?
"Smoking or non?" the motel cashier asked me through the bulletproof window.
"You still have smoking rooms?" I asked.
She laughed. Then cackled. Then rolled her eyes. Then harrumphed.
Oh, jeez, she's totally going to give me the room with the dead body inside.
We had pulled over for the night in Nowheresville, USA, stopping our 10-hour drive to see family for Thanksgiving.
The night had gotten off to a rocky start. Last-minute work had gotten us off to a late start. Fast food had gotten us off to unsettled stomachs. The DVD player for my young kids had broken. There had been traffic and bad weather. The fighting had been at a fever pitch. My husband had been falling asleep at the wheel when he had finally conceded to stopping at a motel.
We had pulled over at the first exit. I had gone inside and asked whether the motel had any rooms. The motel worker had laughed. Of course they had rooms.
The laugh itself had been unsettling. Is this the Bates Motel?
I asked the cost. "It'll be $50," she said. But she said it in a way that made me wonder whether I was expected to haggle. I said the cost was fine. The worker almost looked disappointed. I'm definitely getting the room with the bodies.
"One adult?" she asked.
"Two," I replied.
"And no kids," she said.
"Two," I replied again.
The worker turned to me and screamed, "You can't get a single for four people! Are you cheating me?!"
"I, uh, didn't ask for a single," I stammered.
"You're getting a double," she said. "That's $54."
"OK," I said.
She harrumphed again.
When I was finally handed the receipt through a rotating window, it was time-stamped two minutes prior. I had three minutes to get to the room, search under the bed for the boogeyman and the closet for murderers, and get back to the front office to demand my refund within the five-minute time limit.
I ran to my car, hopped in and yelled to my husband, "Room 42, second building on the right! Go, go, go!"
He didn't look up from his phone. I looked at the clock.
"What are you doing?" I screamed.
"Checking my Twitter," he responded nonchalantly.
"Babe, we gotta go! There could be bedbugs! Creepy stains! Dirty linens! Chalk body outlines!"
"OK, just let me finish this tweet."
My husband looked at me and drove to our room. I jumped out and ran inside. I flipped over the blankets. I turned on the bathroom light. Closet light. The only dead body I saw was a cockroach. The five minutes was up.
My husband carried our sleeping daughter into the room and put her on one bed. My son crawled into bed with his sister.
My husband got into the other bed and instantly fell asleep. I lay awake wondering when the five-minute rule was implemented. What did the people who asked for a refund find within these walls?
My son couldn't sleep. He was uncomfortable. I told him to get in bed with my husband. He did, and within seconds he was snoring. I got into bed with my daughter and instantly knew why my son couldn't sleep. There was no support. The center of the mattress dropped so deep it nearly touched the floor. My daughter and I rolled into each other. I struggled to crawl out. The bed couldn't hold my weight.
I decided to get a blanket from the car; I'd sleep on the floor.
When I left the room, there was a truck parked outside. It looked as if it had survived Armageddon. A layer of crusted dirt coated the entire vehicle in a crystalized white. The bed of the truck held chain saws and unrecognizable machinery.
I hurried back into my room and lay with my eyes open all night, slapping at the bugs crawling on my body, unsure whether they were real or imagined.
What am I thankful for this year? Surviving.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.