How to Leave a Motel Room

Motel room

Motel rooms can be hard to leave behind ...     Photo: Laurelville Mennonite Church Center/Flickr

The act touches on mortality. It offers a small dose of the autobiographical sadness you feel after the moving van has gone and you take a last look around the place where you used to live. Travelers who must face this experience on a daily basis should brace for it with stoutness of heart and the comfort of ritual.

First, shower. Then put on all the clothes you expect to wear that day. (Your coat may be left until right before departure.) Fill your pockets with everything you normally carry, except for the room key. Place that in a prominent spot on top of a few singles or a five, for the cleaning people or THE DEMONS OF THE ROOM.

Pack your briefcase. Pack all other gear, and then your clothes. Take the suitcase out to the car first, leaving the room door ajar. (I flick the little metal-bar thing across the frame to keep it open.) Come back for your other gear. Leave your briefcase with the most important stuff last.

The slamming of car doors in the morning is the unwelcome rooster crow of the motel world, so I make it a point of honor to avoid slamming anything. Ideally, in good weather, I like to load up and leave without closing any car door more than twice. When the car is loaded, it's time for a final look around the room. Check the closet and always remember the little hook behind the bathroom door. (I've left a lot of pajamas on those hooks.) For the very last, I always get down and look under the bed. I have never once found any forgotten object there, but I always check just the same. On family trips when I was little, my father always used to do that last of all. He has been dead now for 20 years; I like to imprint on my mind the same under-motel-room-bed vista that he saw. At this moment of transience, it gives me a reassuring sense of eternity.

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