Recently I had to make a last-minute trip to York, Pennsylvania. Because of a big trade show going on at the Fairgrounds, every hotel was booked solid (who would have thought?).  Even looking as distant as Harrisburg, hotel rooms were scarce, and the demand had sent even modest places sky-high.

In desperation I checked the hotel option at Kayak.com, and sure enough, a few rooms were showing up at reasonable prices not far from where I needed to be.  But a Rodeway Inn?  Hmm, well, ah, it seemed all right online, if somewhat modest and Spartan. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I booked it. I lowered my expectations accordingly; it was only for one night, after all.

Arriving there by car after a harrowing drive through Washington and the Baltimore area this past Thursday, I was exhausted.  My first impression of the property was that I hadn’t lowered my expectations enough.  It sure wasn’t the Ritz-Carlton.

Okay, It’s a plain-Jane Rodeway Inn in downtown York. But does it have to be so utterly charmless?  Imagine a minimalist concrete cell block-style box with outside balconies to the rooms in the seedy-looking CBD of a rundown, has-been 19th century town that 21st century prosperity has mostly passed by. They must have gotten a special price on the hideous mustard yellow paint adorning the concrete blocks:

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Normal room price was $44/night but because of the trade show I was charged $79.

A handwritten sign in the tiny lobby says: “Keep the noise down. You have been warned!”

Another says: “No refunds 15 minutes after check-in.”

That one really had me concerned.

The guy who checked me in behind the front desk was wearing a tee shirt with holes in it. He and other lobby denizens unabashedly stared at me dressed in a coat and a tie like I was from another planet, or maybe had escaped from a loony bin, or perhaps taken a wrong turn on the DC Mall.

Walking to my second floor room I jealously observed that those lucky enough to be assigned a room on the ground floor would not have to walk far to empty their trash and that they enjoyed some outdoor furniture absent from my upstairs balcony:

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But the room was well-equipped with an extra roll of toilet paper, two bars of soap, plenty of towels, and appeared reasonably clean and well-kept.  The lights all worked and didn’t flicker.

The TV was an old CRT model (no fancy flatscreens!) with lots of cable channels to choose from, and the beds were firm. I wondered about bedbugs, though, at a place like that.  I should not have been worried.

Most amazingly modern thing in the room was a knockoff Herman Miller Aeron chair like the one at my desk. Pretty comfy, too.

A closer inspection of the bathroom revealed a real treat: Rodeway Inn shampoo:

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Pretty fancy accoutrement!  I had to admit that it was looking more and more like the Ritz all the time.  The place even had an elevator, albeit on the building’s exterior.

That night I could hear TVs blaring in both adjoining rooms on competing channels through the paper-thin walls, but they went quiet by 11:00 PM, and I settled in for a good night’s sleep.  Well, except for some drunk pounding on my door after midnight pleading for “Jackie!” in a raspy, longing voice.

“Sorry, friend, no Jackie here,” I answered through the locked door. Poor guy moaned in disappointment and shuffled off.  I went back to sleep.

Local color like that never happened to me in the Waldorf Towers. You gotta love small town America.

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