April 1, 2021
First night out on a recent college visit road trip to Sewanee (University of the South) where our daughter may go to school next year, we stayed in Chattanooga. We chose the Best Western Royal Inn because it was dog-friendly and close to Rock City on Lookout Mountain, a dramatic overlook of Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee which my wife and daughter wanted to see. Despite the regal appellation, however, the property seemed anything but “royal.”
Yeah, it’s called the Best Western ROYAL Inn, but my doubts blossomed while waiting to register inside the claustrophobic, phone booth-sized “front desk” area, as this wide angle photo memorialized:
Royal, my butt, I thought, as I viewed the formal attire hanging on the slouching frame of the haggard Alabama smoker checking in ahead of me. Nothing royal about it, and situated in what looked like a high crime area next to a Wal-Mart literally on the wrong side of the tracks (CSX trains run day and night nearby). Lots of empty Jack Daniels and cheaper liquor bottles strewn along the connecting muddy driveway to the Wal-Mart. Gutters smell like a Marseille pissoir.
Check-in in broad daylight was behind a security window with bulletproof glass. The old lady on duty claimed it was due to the pandemic.
“You installed this inner city, bank-style security screen just in response to Covid?” I asked, raising my eyebrows (the only facial expression visible with my mask on).
“Well, you know,” she said resignedly, and shrugged.
I didn’t know, actually, but something insincere about the woman’s overly-pleasant demeanor stopped me from badgering her about it. I could tell it would do no good. I figured she was used to dealing with all kinds and probably had an emergency call button just under the counter to summon the police for whiners like me. Only AFTER she had charged my Amex card, naturally.
Still, it stuck in my craw that room and tax came to $147.12 + $20 pet fee (we brought our dog because our dog-sitter was unavailable). So I couldn’t help asking her what justified that premium price for such a low-class place in a rundown neighborhood.
“SPRING BREAK!” came her quick reply with a toothy grin (the old lady was maskless behind the thick glass).
“Yeah,” she went on, “That no-name place across the street is charging $308 a night this weekend, AND THEY ARE NO BETTER THAN WE ARE! Heck, YOU got a discount!”
(I provided my AAA number for the unquantified discount.)
No better than we are?? Quite the accolade, I thought.
And Spring Break? I’m pretty sure Chattanooga doesn’t have a sunny beach on the ocean, though maybe the Tennessee riverfront attracts some.
But I decided not to push my luck further. I just smiled and gave her my credit card through the security slot at the bottom of the bulletproof glass.
Pet-friendly rooms, it turns out, have no carpet. The shiny fake hardwood floor made our room even more sterile than the threadbare dive it already was.
Oddly, the room wasn’t supplied with hand towels, either.
But our dog liked it, and, hey, it was ROYAL!