So here we are, day three and I’m already leaving this until the end of the day. I’m confident that at some point I will submit a journal entry at 11:59pm and dammit that will still count! Just stating the rules up front so everyone is clear.
Now let’s get this December saga started. There were so many ridiculous and stressful events that occurred in the final month of last year that it’s going to take at least three posts to cover them all.
The month began with the scent of hope in the air. Our son was booked for surgery in the first week of December in order to remove his enormous tonsils and adenoids that were blocking his airway. He struggled to breathe during exercise but struggled even more when he slept. He frequently woke through the night and had also started throwing up at night whenever he had milk during the day. The crazy in my head was growing like a snowball rolling downhill due to chronic sleep depravation. I was dangling at the end of a very thin thread. Surgery couldn’t come soon enough,
Because the demand for ENT specialists (ear, nose and throat) is so high we had to wait months to see a doctor and then months for a surgery date. We went with the doctor who could see us the soonest and that meant driving over an hour to see a surgeon on the other side of the city. Because our little guy is only two years old, he was required to stay overnight in the hospital for observation.
I won’t bore you with the surgery details but try to imagine a toddler; confused, in pain, on morphine and tethered to an IV machine for 24 hours straight. Also try to imagine that this same child, unlike other normal children who have just undergone surgery, does not want to sleep.
The part of this experience that was most memorable, and disturbing, was not the hospital, the surgery or his recovery but rather the horrible HoJo we stayed in before and during the whole hospital ordeal.
The Horrible HoJo
Because we were so far away from home and surgery was early in the morning, we had to book a hotel close to the hospital. Only one of us was allowed to stay with him overnight so the other one (me) had to stay at the hotel that night. I know it’s complex but just nod your head, smile and keep going…
The neighbourhood around the hospital isn’t exactly… upscale. The only places we could find nearby were motels. Motels. I don’t know what hospitality ratings are like where you live but around here a motel is one or two stars (out of five) at most. Considering my nearly non-existent patience, my current lack of sleep and how exhausting I predicted this surgery experience to be, I figured we needed at least three stars for sanity. Plus, we required a clean place to stay the night before so my son didn’t pick up anything that might give him an infection.
Finally, we found a Howard Johnson. The only place in the area that wasn’t a motel. I told my husband to book it.
The afternoon before his surgery we pulled into the parking lot of the HoJo and this is what we saw. I know we got a good price on the room but…
You could tell right away it was a classy joint.
We walked into the cramped front entrance after climbing several steep steps to get to the front door. There was a ramp, but it only led to a door that was locked to the outside. That meant it was easy to get out of the hotel, but hard to get in. I should have taken that as a sign. The woman at the desk checked us in quite quickly and my husband asked her if there were any restaurants nearby for dinner.
Well… there was a McDonalds just down the street and a Tim Hortons close by. Oh, and there was a Dominos Pizza right across the street. Hmmmm.
My husband replied, “Um, is there anything… nicer? Like, a real restaurant? We wanted to have a nice dinner.”
The woman behind the desk stared at my husband blankly for a while, deep in thought, or maybe meditating? Or perhaps she was trying to comprehend the phrase, “nice restaurant”. She then pointed to some takeout brochures on her far left. I walked over, glanced at a few of them and took one for a Canadian/Chinese restaurant for my son to colour on. He likes to draw on paper with words on it. The more important the words, the better. Like cheques we haven’t used yet or a letter from the government, those are golden.
Already deflated, we grabbed our bags and headed toward our room. On the way, just outside the reception area, was this:
I can’t even really explain this in words so I’m glad I grabbed a picture. It looks like there was once an elevator here but most of it was removed, except for the electrical of course, because not only would that be a pain-in-the-ass, it would look better. At some point the following conversation must have occurred:
“Where are we gonna put this rack of brochures?”
And someone else replied, “Oh, just put it where the elevator used to be.”
Then the first guy said, “Hey, I found this ugly picture in the basement, should we throw it out?”
And the other guy said, “Heck no, get a nail and hang it in there too.”
“Should I hang it above the rack?”
“Nah, just put it in the middle of the wall. That way no one will notice we didn’t finish painting.”
When we got to the room it was dark and ugly, which was to be expected at this point. It was also really cold. To heat up the room we had to turn on a heater/AC unit on the wall that was right next to one of the beds. A loud fan came on so at least it was working. In the bathroom it seems they removed the bathtub and turned the space into a large standup shower instead. To this day I can’t figure out why they would do that. If you have any insights feel free to share them in the comments.
We used the free hotel WiFi (one small consolation) to do some research to find a place to eat and got the hell out of the HoJo as soon as possible. After a delicious dinner we hung out at a nearby mall and watched children scream in horror as they were forced into Santa’s lap. It was far more fun than our hotel room.
Later that evening we got ready for bed and tried to settle in. I shoved my trusty earplugs in to block out the harrowing sound of my son snoring and occasionally gasping for air. I eventually fell asleep only to be woken by two loud banging noises. They were coming from outside the room, but I couldn’t tell where. Every few minutes there was more banging, like someone slapping the bar on a metal emergency door and letting it slam shut. But who the hell would open and shut a door twenty times in the middle of the night? Is there a fire we don’t know about?
Around 2 am the banging subsided and I realized it was a fire of sorts. The smokers, which must have been everyone else in the hotel besides us, were going out the emergency exit, conveniently located right across from the door to our room. It was too late to move and I was too tired to care so I went back to sleep.
As usual, I woke up in a panic before my alarm went off. It was about 6:30 am. I got myself ready and left the other two sleeping while I snuck off to the complimentary continental breakfast that was located in… the basement.
It’s about as dreadful as it sounds. I went down the stairway the woman at the desk had told me about but when I got to the bottom of the stairs I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. To my left was a dimly lit hallway and straight in front was a dirty, banged up door with the handle missing. It had a little sign that said “laundry”. A mop and bucket sat next to bags of garbage and the old linoleum was peeling. I stood near the bottom of the stairs wondering if I had maybe gone down the wrong staircase. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. Despite the strange feeling in my chest, I kept going and went down the hallway where a doorway emit a welcoming glow. That must be the breakfast room.
Inside was a plain room with food and coffee. It led to another, larger room with tables and chairs that were likely bought at a fire sale when another hotel went out of business in the eighties. Both rooms were empty. I mean, empty of people. It was just me and two huge TVs.
I eyed the offerings and opted for whole wheat bread which I popped in the toaster. While I waited for my toast I grabbed two styrofoam cups that were about half the size of a Starbucks shorty and filled them with coffee. I added cream and sugar to both tasting as I went along. They were both just shy of vile so I added more cream and sugar. That didn’t help much. Oh well, there’s a Tim Hortons at the hospital. I only wanted a shot of caffeine to get me that far anyway.
When my bread was toasty I put it on a styrofoam plate and opened a packet of butter:
Oh gee, that’s shocking. The bread is mouldy. I looked at the plastic container that held the baked goods and sure enough the entire loaf of whole wheat had a nice streak of mould running the length of it. I grabbed a bagel, checked it for any offences and toasted that instead.
I couldn’t even finish the cup of coffee. I’ve had instant that tasted better, much better.
When my husband woke he said, “I bet you wish you were sleeping at the hospital tonight.”
I laughed, but inside I was crying.
[End of Part I – stay tuned for more! Even better – subscribe on the right.]