One of the problems with all the Groupon-like things I tend to buy is that then they pile up in my inbox, expiring, taking my savings and cash with them. In the new year, along with my commitment to continue flossing every day—haven’t missed a day since Jan. 1, 2012—and drinking at least 64 ounces of water, I’ve committed to being mindful of whether or not I will actually use the Groupon I have purchased. Sure, half off two hours of jumping at the new trampoline palace out in Eldersburg sounds awesome, but I don’t have a car or the sway to convince someone to go jumping with me between now and Feb. 28. New year, new me kept her finger off the buy button with a reminder that if I have a sudden need for trampolining in the next six weeks, I could surely just pay the price of admission and jump.
Typing that sentence has me thinking I should go see if the coupon’s still available—I mean, why wouldn’t I go trampolining next week? This is going to be a hard resolution to keep, but hey, new year, new me. This past week’s field trip found me pilfering through my drawer of expired vouchers left by the old 2014 me, this one for a romantical two night stay at a bed-and-breakfast in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for the ladyfriend and me. My compulsion to not let money already spent go down the drain meant facing the terrifying reality of two nights in a bed-and-breakfast.
I’d never stayed at a bed-and-breakfast, and neither had the ladyfriend. We used Airbnb once, for a trip to Pittsburgh, but I don’t know if that counts as a “bed-and-breakfast,” since we totally didn’t get breakfast. We ended up in the spare room of a very nice couple who apologized for not having time to go out to dinner with us (um, you kind of weren’t invited) and seemed eager to spend the weekend drinking our beer on their balcony. It was bad, so bad that the ladyfriend, who will talk to pretty much anybody about anything anywhere, refused to exit the room until I explained to our hosts that we weren’t going to hang out with them, at all, all weekend. We discovered that weekend that we’re really more motel people—make it cheap and dirty, and leave us alone. But here was this voucher, and there we were, checking into a B&B in Akron, Pennsylvania.
Aaron, the proprietor, greeted us at the front door with a warm hello, putting his hand on my shoulder and leaving it there just too long enough to know that this was all a terrible mistake. I told him I had a voucher, and he gave me the heavy-lidded nod I recognized from my pot smoking days that signaled a vague understanding accompanied by not really giving a shit. He took us upstairs to check out the rooms—we got our pick—and though it took him a few minutes to remember which rooms were actually empty, we ended up in a nice one—big bed, surprise TV for the Ravens game, semi-private balcony, view of our car. And then I was afraid to go out, because what if they made me play a board game or something.
I didn’t leave the room until the appointed time in the morning for breakfast, because we all had to eat together because this was a bed-and-breakfast nightmare. It was us, the couple from New Jersey that regularly comes to Lancaster County to shop at the outlet malls and hang out with Aaron, the Pittsburgh couple that told us about each brewery they visited in their two nights with Aaron, and the super-shy bearded dude and his therapist wife, there on a weekend escape from their 3-year old. They were so quiet we couldn’t get a read on them, but they let slip that they let their kid pick his own middle name—he went with Danger. If I’d met them on the bus or waiting at the train station or in an elevator or at a bar, I would have pressed them for more, but the requirement to make nice while Aaron groggily brought us plates of waffles, potatoes, and bagels made my skin crawl. After we all got our breakfasts, he sat on the windowsill to chat, and oh god make it stop get me out of here was all I could think.
And that got me thinking. Why was I finding the intimacy of the B&B so icky? I mean, when I stay at the Holiday Inn, it’s not like there aren’t people enabling my stay, checking me in, setting up that waffle bar, making the bed, doing the laundry, but I have been trained not to see them. It is all so much invisible labor, visible only if some expectation isn’t met. Aaron, on the other hand, was relentlessly visible, telling us about his personal life—his girlfriend didn’t come down Friday night, so he expected to spend much of his Saturday apologizing for something. He’s in the midst of a custody battle. He gently complained about all the laundry he had to do—our laundry. And there I sat, finding it all just a wee bit distasteful. I mean, I paid full price for this experience of someone else taking care of everything while I lazed about, enjoying a getaway, and nothing ruins a getaway like having to look at the alienated labor undergirding it, know what I mean? But I guess that’s the thing with capitalism; there’s no outside to it, no voucher for a half-priced weekend away from it. Then again, it’s not like forced conversation with people I’ll never see again is resistance, so next time I think we’ll stick to the Hampton Inn. Their breakfast bar really is the best in the business.