This is Why I Hate Ole People

..so first i should define "old": of the elderly group; generally, but not always, between the ages of 70 and 90 (after 90, old people become sort of like furniture and tend to go unnoticed unless they have a broken leg)

...next, let me define "hate": i don't usually use this word to describe my feelings about something...okay, maybe a little (as in, "i hate my hair today," but not in the "i want you dead" sort of way); as this word pertains to the title of this post: i wanted some partying geriatrics to drop dead...

...and now for the "this is why": some good writer pals and i spent this past weekend at a writers retreat onJanisse Ray's Red Earth Farm...Janisse and her husband Raven have 49 acres where they grow nearly everything they eat, and live in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse complete with detached kitchen/oh-my-god-i-want-this-room-in-my-house-is-that-a-trapese-bar-overhead?

my time there was magical...not like "magical: i now fart rainbows" but as in something has been awakened...i think i can finally finish the memoir...

so there we were, enjoying our solitude, when by chance we ran into town for a break...everyone else was up for another hike, but we decided some more writing would suit us...as we pulled into our quiet B & B (a victorian home that had been converted) the small manager met us on the back porch with some news...


"Y'all," Caroline said, the words whistling through the gaps in her teeth. "I need to ask you a big favor." The three of us stopped on the brick steps, like girls caught coming in four hours after curfew. We'd spent the previous two nights at the Nelson B & B out on the veranda Tracie and I were sharing, drinking wine with the other guests and mocking the high school children hanging out in the pizzaria parking lot across the street. Had the little girl in the Passat heard me mocking her as she drove by blasting 50 Cent from her speakers. "Oh you're so disenfranchised!" I'd yelled. "Oh, his plight is yours, I'm sure!"

"Y'all," Caroline said again, "I just can't believe this. I am really in a terrible situation." She smoothed her platinum bangs, tucked a two-foot-long strand of her permed hair behind her ear.

The three of us glanced at each other, then put our heads down, ready for punishment. We were going to be kicked out of our plush rooms, put out on the street for mocking the locals. I'd been warned about small-town Georgia. I'd been rash and hadn't listened. Lorraine and Tracie would share my fate and hate me for the rest of my life. In one slick moment I'd taken away their comfortable beds, their own bedrooms, the only connection to television and Wi-Fi for the entire trip.

"Y'all," Caroline sighed, "We've got a problem with scheduling. And Billy, the man who checked you in, he put y'all in the wrong rooms and now I've got the whole place booked. I've got to ask you two ladies to move from your rooms," she looked at me and Tracie, "and if it's alright with Ms. Lorraine, I can put you in her room. There's a single bed in there already and I can put in another." I looked at my companions, so relieved we weren't out on the street that I didn't think twice before agreeing, didn't even ask Lorraine if it would bother her.

It came as no surprise to any of us that the man in question, Billy, had screwed up. When we'd arrived on Thursday afternoon, he seemed to be unable to locate our keys, our reservations, or our names anywhere in the register. He stood for a minute on the back porch, looking us up and down, his eyes half-hidden beneath a Budweiser cap. Then he welcomed us with a handshake and took us into the confines of the manager's apartment. If I'd had to judge the entire B & B on just that apartment I would've turned tail and run to the Happy Camper Econo-motel we'd passed on our way into town. One of those sad buildings with the rooms all facing the parking lot. Some previous owner who'd thought neon purple was a good color for stucco had gone crazy on the place.

The floor in the manager's apartment tilted inward. The furniture was sparse--a daybed that doubled as a couch, a recliner, a small television playing Fox News. Everything smelled of cigarette smoke. From where I stood, in a tiny room that was made up like an office simply by adding a filing cabinet and desk, I could read the calendar clearly enough with my name and room number marked. I produced a slip of paper with my room rate and number written on it--the information I was given when I'd called two months earlier. He looked at it, then to me--as if my face would somehow be recognizable--smiled (and, yes, he was sans a few teeth) and handed me my key. He did the same with Lorraine. Tracie hadn't been so lucky. She had to wait another hour for Caroline to show and give her the keys to a room adjacent to mine.

We were set. Spaces of our own, with separate showers. Rooms furnished in antiques, linens that smelled of detergent, towels so small I'd need three of them to wrap my ass. This was actually better than we'd planned.

But now, on the final night of our retreat, Tracie and I were losing our rooms--our own private fortresses of solitude--and bunking with Lorraine. Ideal if we'd all been pre-teens at summer camp.

"I'm so sorry, y'all," Caroline said, as she opened a storage room door off the front hall of the B & B and began to wrestle with a twin bed frame. "These folks are relatives of the people who built this place. And they're in town for a family reunion. The woman who owns the house told them they could have those rooms and didn't even check with me first. They're hot shots around here." She pulled at the frame, dislodging it, then began to move it into the room and against the only free wall.

"Thank god I actually like you both," Lorraine joked as Tracie and I moved in. We tucked our things away, made room for one another, and decided we'd make the best of it. It was, after all, only for one night. One free night, since Caroline had comped us for our trouble. Satisfied we'd be happy with the porch off of Lorraine's room for a late-night glass of wine and a redux of our day on the farm, we wrote a little then packed up and headed out again.

***

At 11:30pm we pulled into the parking lot opposite the hotel. The space where we'd parked for the last few days was taken by a Ford Explorer with a Hoverround strapped to the back. A good sign--there was no elevator at the hotel so anyone who needed the pod on wheels would be on ground level. No winding and grinding of gears on ancient hardwoods.  As we walked across the street we couldn't help but look up at our former abode. Clearly, what was going on in the rooms above us was a casting call for a reunion episode of The Golden Girls. Except these women--and a few men--looked pre-make up and wardrobe. Along the low banister stood dozens of empty Budweiser tall-boys.  I spied an oxygen tank and smelled cigar and cigarette smoke. Clearly, the dozen-odd old folks had been living it up and their next plan was to blow the joint.

We changed, mentioned how our own grandparents would've already been asleep, and retired the porch for our own glasses of wine.

***

At 1am we went to bed.

At 1:30am, I was still awake. The screams from the elderly folks upstairs had not quit. Apparently they were all deaf and couldn't be bothered to use their hearing aids. I sat up, needing to pee, and just as my feet hit the floor, Lorraine was up and out of her bed. "Oh, you had the same idea I did," she said. 

I know that women living in close proximity to one another eventually end up on the same menstrual cycle, but I didn't know there was a pee cycle too. I dragged myself into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. It was then I heard Lorraine open the door to the porch. It didn't register exactly what she was doing until I heard her voice: "Ladies and Gentlemen! We had to give up our rooms to you today! We are tired and are going to sleep now! You need to go inside and quit making noise!"

It was the first time I've ever heard Lorraine not address someone older than her by ma'am or sir. The first time I'd ever heard her give a direct order to someone other than her eight year old. It was the first time I'd ever known her to be completely ignored.

Okay, maybe not completely. They went inside alright. Then the banjo started.

The last time I looked at the clock it was 2:37am. We'd need to be up at 6.

***

We moved slowly, stuffing our things into our suitcases. Our only solace was the television, blaring at top volume and tilted toward the ceiling. As we left the room to pack the car, we pushed the screen door completely open, then let it slam back into place. We took one thing out at a time. We screamed at each other from two feet away. "I sure would've slept better if Mee-Maw and Pee-Paw hadn't decided to be complete assholes!" Lorraine yelled.

"I hope no one hurt their hip dancing to the banjo!" I screamed.

As we packed the car, we met up with another writer staying at the B & B. Her room was on the other side of the house and she'd managed not to hear a thing all night. "Why don't you come upstairs and help me with my luggage?" she said.

So the three of us followed her. We stomped the stairs, the hallway outside of Mee-Maw and Pee-Paw's rooms. We yelled, "So glad we could help you with your luggage!" and "Wow! Your room is really great! Look at that bed!"  We banged the one suitcase our pal had against every door frame possible, dropping it onto each stair as we descended. 

When we left, I leaned all my weight on the car horn and we screamed, "Bye Nelson Hotel!"

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