If I didn’t remember those good old days of business travel, when the price of lodging and eating was covered by a reasonable expense account, my current situation would not be so disappointing. I used to be able to take the forty bucks allotted for the evening meal and consume nothing more than tiny liquor bottles from the hotel room fridge and cans of macadamia nuts in the pantry.
Sure, I’d wake up feeling sick to my stomach with hunger, but sometimes that’s the price to be paid for debauchery and stupidity. Plus I’d have a few bucks left over, and after scarfing down more than my share at the continental breakfast I could buy a carton of smokes. What a life!
Now when I travel I don’t get to stay at the posh suite places. Or I choose not to, because otherwise I blow my entire budget on the roof over my head. I don't have to eat a lot of expensive Hawaiian nuts, but I do need at least a few bucks to buy myself a burger. And the four teenaged girls in the next room want to eat as well.
What’s that, you say? What unpleasantness are you talking about, you freaky old man? Who are these girls and do their parents know you have squirreled them away in a dingy hotel room?
First of all, don’t insult my friends at Travelodge. It is a lovely place to stay! Second, the foursome was my high school senior daughter and three of her friends. Kelsey wanted to visit a couple of colleges, so we planned a trip to San Diego and Long Beach. It would be a one-nighter since sixteen hours driving in one day would be more moronic than surviving on liquor and snack foods.
One friend wanted to join us because she hadn’t gone on many college tours. That seemed fine. She’s a nice girl, and hasn’t caused me a lot of problems. Then another friend was interested in going, even though she hadn’t even applied at one of the two schools and didn’t think she’d choose the other even if she were accepted.
Kyle wanted to take the last seat in the car, which makes perfect sense. I remember being a junior in high school, and even though there was no chance I would ever be able to date any of my older sister’s friends, they smelled nice and while sitting near them I could pretend they liked me.
Kyle lost his chance to go, and not just because Kelsey forbade it. A third friend, one who had recently visited the same two universities, was in the mood for another road trip. In a moment of weakness I agreed to the entire gaggle, and off we set.
For a while I listened to a little talk radio. Nothing like some rabid conservative puffery in the morning for a good laugh. The girls hated it, and spent the time texting each other from their magical telephonic devices. They’d giggle and shush each other and refused to look me in the eye because they were so obviously guilty of something.
The phones went away when they gained control of the radio. Kelsey connected a variety of iPods, none of which apparently contained a single song I wanted to listen to, even though they hold, like, a gazillion. There was hip hop (ugh) and John Mayer (uninteresting) and plenty of show tunes (jazz hands!). An hour later, exhausted from their screeching—I mean singing—and our early departure, they fell asleep.
I kept the car nice and warm to encourage deeper slumber. A little more talk radio and the kids were nicely comatose, though they did wake briefly for a potty break and a burger.
At San Diego State we found hundreds of students camped out in line, waiting for basketball tickets to go on sale. Some had been there for three days. Good role models. At Long Beach State the girls were astounded with the amount of brick. The older buildings were all brick, the newer ones had brick accents and brick features, and even the sidewalks included bricks occasionally in different patterns and designs.
It was all they could talk about. Brick, brick, brick. As though the construction material is what really makes a good college. I pointed out that a much better way to determine if a university provides a quality demonstration was whether the students were willing to sleep outside in record cold temperatures for the privilege of buying tickets to a basketball game.
At the hotel I tried to get a room at the opposite end of the building from theirs, but we had already been assigned adjoining quarters. I asked the girls to either be quiet in their room, or take their loud party attitude out to the pool or any all-night diner or city park they could walk to. I don’t honestly know what they did during the evening, but I assume they were quietly resting in their room.
Really, they were super quiet. Either that or they weren’t there. I didn’t hear them come in late, but my heavy drinking might have deadened my senses.
As far as traveling with four female high school seniors, it wasn’t the worst two days of my life. But I think it might have been a whole lot more thrilling if I had done it thirty years ago.