After we left Portland, it was the first time on the trip that T and I got to spend time with just ourselves. I had subjected her to all my friends and family and she was patient the whole time, even claiming that she was having a good time. Normally, we would be on a beach somewhere for our summer vacation, but instead we were careening through miles of dry oak shrubs. Instead of perusing colorful silks in Indochina, we were combing the aisles at Ross, Dress for Less. Plates of spicy green mangoes by the pool gave way to breakfast slams at Denny’s.
Yet it was all as exotically interesting to her as it was common to me.
Before the trip, there were two things T wanted to experience that she considered archetypal American experiences. One was to stay at motels and the other was to eat out of those Chinese take-out boxes. Done and done.
We had a nice range of motels we stayed at. There was the very new and well-kept Day’s Inn. And one was the prototypical motel you see in the movies, with the manager or owner wandering into the lobby with his shirt unbuttoned exposing a big pot belly. But he was kind and the room was clean and well-maintained. Two motels had pools. Three had a sauna or hot tub.
All the motels had free wireless internet. That combined with the fact that nearly all cafes in the Northwest have free wireless internet, it’s one of the best wired places in the world.
Wind’s Quick and Easy Deconstruction of the Socio-economic Division of Labor in the Hospitality Industry
Of course, I tried to deconstruct the experience. Throughout our motel stays, the socio-economic division of labor appeared to be race-based. Half the motels (of our sample size of 4) were owned by South Asians. They usually operated the front desk themselves or they hired white women in their 30’s. The other motels were owned by whites and they hired college kids to work the front. The housekeeping consisted of only Hispanic women.
The people who stayed at the motels were almost all white. Most appeared to be retired couples. There were few kids, even though it was the middle of summer vacation. Every now and then, I heard French or German or Swedish being spoken. T and I were a complete anomaly.
That is until we reached the last motel. As I was filling out the motel registration in the lobby, four intimidating men in typical LA gangbanger clothes filed in. My guard went up immediately. And my city instincts went into- appear as unintimidated as possible while not being so cocky that they try to start a fight mode.
As I coolly tried to check out the scene from the corner of my eyes, I noticed that something wasn’t quite right. First of all, no gang would have two middle-aged guys. And second, no gang that I know of consists of blacks, whites and Latinos. Except maybe the police. And eventually, I came to the conclusion that that’s what they were. It was confirmed when I checked out their car and it was an unmarked white Crown Victoria (the most common model for police cars) with official plates. They must have been undercover agents of some sort. Was some bust going down in Crescent City? Whatever it was, it probably already happened since they seemed pretty tired.
And Now Back to Wind’s Usual Semi-sarcastic Light-hearted Blog Banter
As for the Chinese take-out. We went to the only Chinese restaurant in town, chit-chatted with the pretty Chinese lady who took our order, and did our part to bring the Beijing Olympics experience, and the “typical” American experience, closer, all in one wax-lined box.