I’ve traveled a lot in my life.
I did the whole backpack-thru-Europe thing. I took three planes to Yellowknife, Canada, where the temperature was negative 40. I’ve had terrifying flights and tranquil flights.
I’ve never had a night like tonight.
As I write this I’m sitting in a Birmingham, Alabama Quality Inn. The door handle was sticky, the shower is drip-drip-dripping—and I’m sooooooo fucking happy to be here.
Here’s why …
I flew from Los Angeles to Atlanta, and rented—more than three weeks ago—a car from Thrifty. Upon arriving in Georgia, I walked up to the Thrifty counter, only to be told there were no more cars.
“No more cars?” I said. “I have a reservation.”
“Sorry,” the guy replied. “We have none here.”
“How is that ev—” I started to say. But then I looked at the rep. He had nothing.
I tried different agencies. There were, literally, zero cars. Anywhere. So I took the shuttle to a nearby hotel and ordered an Uber (nearly $200) to take me from Atlanta to Birmingham. After waiting 15 minutes, the guy arrived. I threw my suitcase in the trunk and jumped in.
“You drive to Alabama a lot?” I asked.
“Alabama?” he said. “Nah, man—I can’t do that.”
Holy fuck. I grabbed my backpack. He popped the trunk.
I ordered another Uber. He arrived 30 minutes later—in a pickup truck that smelled of menthol.
We made the journey—two hours. About $200. I arrived at the La Quinta, armed with my Travelocity reservation code and tired eyes. I handed the man my ID. My credit card.
He looked at me. “We have no reservation,” he said. “Sorry.”
“No,” I replied. “I have a confirmation number. From Travelocity.”
“Maybe,” he said, “something was wrong with your credit card.”
“No,” I said. “No. Nothing is wrong with my credit—”
I looked at his face. Like the Thrifty dude, nothing was changing. But this time I was in the middle of nowhere Alabama, sans vehicle. And it was raining. I screamed (and I don’t do this often)—”FUUUUUUUUUCK!” Then, again, as I walked thru the rain, bag dragging, in the parking lot. Loudly. “FUUUUUCK!” I had a bottle in my hand and actually threw it at the ground. I was furious. And lost.
There was a Quality Inn sign glowing.
Christa answered. They had a room. One room. She said the price and the number of beds—and it was all a blur. I began to walk toward the hotel, and a man in a pickup truck actually stopped. “You need a ride somewhere?” he said.
I will never forget that moment of kindness.
I walked to the Quality Inn. Christa was there. She’s about, oh, 62ish—with dangling cross earrings and a matching crucifix around her neck.
“I am so happy to see you,” I said.
She wasn’t wearing a mask. I didn’t care.
She was Christa.
And her smile was exactly what I needed.