March 9, 2020 – a Monday
Budget Inn – Canajoharie, New York
Just after 5p – Room 108
A grey striped cat walks across the parking lot. It stops behind our rental car, a Buick, and lounges in the shade below the bumper.
The man who owns this place is middle-aged and from India. Chris walks into the lobby only shortly before me but by the time I join them they are deep in conversation about the economy. The owner’s elderly mother sits on a couch. She is wearing all white and has nice jewelry. She is vibrating high in all white. There is a tv playing the news on high volume. The owner is overweight and wearing a suit shirt with a tie and slacks. He’s dressed as a man who takes himself seriously as the proprietor of Canajoharie’s Budget Inn. There is a photo of him shaking hands with our former President, Barack Obama, just behind the desk. He sees me seeing it. He gives me a look that begs a question. I smile awkwardly.
Some assorted candies are in a jar on the desk and I think about taking one but then think about how long they may have been there, so don’t.
The owner talks about how the prices for things in the area are still in the ’80s. He says we can find cheap property and sell it for a lot more money down the line. I only sort of believe him. Things were better before the Beach Nut packaging factory shut down, he says. They gave the school district an endowment before closing though, so the schools are rich compared to the people, he says. Your kids could get a good education here. He has mistaken us for people who want to live here as permanent residents. It’s okay.
Our room is number 108, a “new” room. It has two double beds and smells very, very musty, which is to say it doesn’t smell new. There is an old tv blocking the mirror and a microwave on top of a mini fridge. The mini fridge is making a loud humming noise and I unplug it. There is also a small, round table tucked into the back corner near the bathroom. There are no chairs for the table. The ceiling in the bathroom is leaking, but it isn’t raining. I don’t ask about it. Chris says something about the toilet bowl. I look into the bathroom and it is kind of dirty.
This Budget Inn is exactly what I like. A long, single-story building with bad paint and cheap decorations. America! It has bright yellow trim and orange doors and sits high above the river. The highway can be seen and heard just across said river. It is a nice location. I write this story from the step separating our room from the parking lot that looks out over the river and the highway and my heart is warm. The air too, is warm. More than 60 degrees and sunny. I am comfortable in jeans and a blouse. A beer would be a perfect addition to the moment. Speaking of which, a white two-door Ford truck just pulled up and gave a pack of beer to a woman who lives in the room a few doors down from ours. This is the kind of motel where people live. It’s part of the charm.
The water moves down the river in no particular hurry. A freight train rolls by, blowing its horn.
“Love you dad,” the beer woman says to the truck man. A dog barks. Time passes at about the same speed as the water moving down the river. It could be days and I’m not sure I would notice any difference. There’s a lawnmower in the parking lot, but no real lawn. Two shopping carts, too. Not a store in sight.
I wish the cat would come over here so I could pet it, but it is completely indifferent to my interest. I don’t blame the cat.
“There’s a cat” says Chris, who is now sitting next to me and smoking a cigarette. “I know,” I say. “It’s cute.”