We didn’t actually pay $600 a night, the rate stated on the inside of the bathroom door. We only paid $259, which was made possible by the brilliant folks at Living Social, and even with the deep discount, it is still the most we have ever paid for a room anywhere in the world. In Thailand, $259 would have gotten us forty-three nights at our favorite spot, a little tree house cottage a few steps from the Andaman Sea. But here, in the small village of Ojai, best known for hippies and meditation, we paid two hundred and fifty-nine dollars for twenty-hours of resort luxury.
That’s $12.95 an hour, which somehow seemed worth it in the moment, considering Stella would be with Grandma and kid three is still in utero.
The nicest place I ever stayed at as a kid was the President’s Inn of Grand Rapids. For a couple of years running, my entire family packed our suitcases in early April and headed to the next town over for a vacation. It could have been on the other side of the planet as far as I was concerned. It was magical. It had arcade games. It was three stories high. It had a television in the room, and it was in color. It had an indoor pool, a fact that I could base my entire magical argument on. It was a pool that was inside, that you could swim in while it snowed outside, because that’s what it does in Michigan in early April. My twelve year old self could barely fathom such excitement.
We follow a Lexus into the registration area to find the valet guys prancing around the entrance like they have pockets full of rambunctious dollar bills. They wear khaki shirts and corporate grins and we drive right by them and the long line of the cars that are waiting for their services. If you’re willing to walk thirty to ninety arduous feet, parking is free.
The room contains lots of bulky furniture, laced with veneer and drenched in maroon stain. There’s a table, desk, armoire, end table, dresser, couch, frames, ottoman, four lamps and a headboard that comes way too close to the ceiling. The carpet looks imported from the middle east and the towels could have passed as sheets. The bathroom features Spanish tiles, a scale and vanity mirror. It’s fabricated luxury at it’s best.
After settling in, we make our way over to the spa, which has separate areas for men and women and features hot tubs and pools, all varying in temperature, size and depth.
I find out rather quickly that the men’s spa is clothing optional. There are penis's coming at me from every direction, dangling and unashamed. In a throwback to my junior high days, I whisper to myself as I walk from the plush locker room to the jacuzzi, keeping my head up and avoiding eye contact.
Be cool man. Be. Cool.
Unfortunately, my bathing suit might as well have flashers and neon lights on it, with rap music coming from the pocket and gold chains for laces. I stick out like someone fully clothed at a nudist beach. I feel the men's glares in every annoying swishing sound my ridiculous suit makes as I walk from jacuzzi to jacuzzi.
There are workers everywhere, too many to keep track of. They greet you at the entrances, open doors for you, drive around in golf carts, clean up trash, check you in, explain the spa facilities, offer towels and come fold the corners of your toilet paper into a symmetrical triangle while you’re out for dinner. And I feel the need to identify with each one of them.
I’m like you, I want to whisper. I’m not like the other guests with their entitlement. I actually can't afford this place and I have no business being here. I want to start conversations and ask about their lives and buddy up with them. I want to make fun at other guests and hopelessly pretend like I’m one of them, like they aren’t serving me, like I’m not the guy who just spent $259 on a hotel room.
The room tag that hangs from the door knob offers two options for the cleaning staff. One side reads “please refresh,” which is certainly a nice way of saying, “please pick up the shit that I have managed to spread out around the room since arriving three hours ago.” The other side features a calming image of a droplet of water with the words, “seeking serenity.”
If the truth was on that room tag, if it revealed what we are really doing here at a luxury resort, spending $259 for a night, the room tag might say, “passing the time.”
Barring an unexpected early entrance, or an unforeseen calamity, we are exactly eleven weeks away from kid three arriving on the scene, one way or another. Seventy-eight days. There is hope. There is fear. There is grief. There is this intense longing, a desperation for what I can’t have and what may be coming. And if $259 can buy us a day or two, if it can buy us a moment of respite, it’s worth every penny.