“When I go out dining with a coworker, I get an appetizer, entree, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink and dessert. Then you know what I do? I pretend I left my wallet at work. Then you know what Miss Tasha? They always offer to cover my bill. Haha. It’s like people feel obligated to pay for someone who’s having a misfortune event. Am I completely capable of paying? Yes! My job pays well. But do I want to pay? That’s a hard no!
“When I’m at the grocery store, I make sure I have my coupon stack. Pay full price for a pack of sodas? Oh no, I think not. I rather die honestly.
“And you know what I did Miss Tasha? This is a real kicker. Get this. I had a beautiful dog, right? She was my best friend. A pit bull. Sweet and brave as can be. Went with me everywhere. Even saved me when I was asleep and my house caught on fire. One day I got attacked by another pit at the dog park. The bitch saved me. She survived but needed surgery. That surgery would have cost me eighteen thousand buckaroos. I had the money, but you know what I did Miss Tasha? Hell, I drove that dog straight from the vet to the dog park and left.
“You know Miss Tasha, I feel horrible about it all. Truly, I do. It’s like it physically hurts me to pay for stuff. Eighteen thousand buckaroos over my dead body.
“I bargain on anything and everything. I assure you of that. I’m only here at these sessions with you now because my job pays for them, haha. Don’t get me wrong. I love your sessions. The real honest fact is that I love them even more because they’re free.”
I stop ranting just a few seconds to look at my therapist, Miss Tasha. I want to see if I can tell what she’s thinking. I never can. This time wasn’t different. I continue to speak the truth about myself to her.
“I went to my usual liquor store for a pack of cigarettes. Overtime, the owner has become my pal. Lately, he’s been acting as if he can’t give me a break once in a while, but anyway. I sometimes lie and say my wallet has been stolen or that child support has taken all of my money for the month. I don’t have kids. You know what he does Miss Tasha? He just lets me walk out of the store with that pack of cigarettes or whatever I’m buying. Haha, life is better when it’s free. What do you think?”
“I think that eventually being cheap to the point of deceitfulness will have its consequences. When’s the last time you been on a vacation Greg?”
“My coworkers kid had an overnight birthday camping trip. Does that count?”
“That’s nice Greg. And did you get the kid a gift?”
“Come on Miss Tasha. That’s a bit extreme, haha. My presence alone was the gift.” The timer on her smart watch chimed sweetly.
“Okay, our time is up. Your assignment this weekend is to go on a vacation. I know you mentioned you have the weekend off from work. I want you to book a weekend vacation. You will have no budget. Not low budget Greg. No budget - Meaning treat yourself to whatever you’d like and pay for it yourself. I want you to go alone so that you are not tempted to get over on anyone. Buy your own food, cigarettes, hotel room and at full price may I add. No coupons Greg! Do not be cheap with yourself during this entire trip, okay? You think you can do that and report to me next week?”
“I can do that.”
I left Miss Tashas office feeling like the cheap, dishonest bastard that I am yet, I like this weekend’s assignment. Im up for such a challenge.
As soon as I got home I searched up “bargain vacations near me.” I know that I told Miss Tasha that I would not be low budget, but hey! At least I’m doing the assignment.
A few search results popped up and I scrolled down to the fourth one. It read:
“The Ultimate Bargain Vacation For The Ultimate Cheapo. Just A Price Of $99.98! FREE Food, Drink, Hotel Room Included! Book Now.”
Sounds good to me. The first step to recovery is realizing you have a problem and I am the “Ultimate Cheapo.” I book it for the next day.
I wake up to my cell alarm blaring. It’s time to go on my self-paid for vacation. No buddy pass, no coupons, all me. Perhaps I’ll leave a lucky someone a small tip during my stay. Perhaps.
The plane ride was about two hours long. That’s far and long enough for me. If something happened I can still make it home for just about $65 on the bus. When I got off the plane I noticed the very poor air quality. There was smoke bellowing out of every industrial building in proximity. I wasn’t sure if it was foggy or if the smoke had taken over the atmosphere.
Instead of a dozen gorgeous women greeting me off the plane, I was greeted by a tall, ghastly pale, Adams-Family looking, type of man. He was a slender man in an old looking butler suit, bow tie and top hat. Oh, geez!
“Mr. Shiner?” His accent let me know he was from Europe. Probably Britain.
“Just Greg is fine.” He reached out for my belongings and without hesitation, I hand it over. I expect being treated with royalty this vacation. I mean, it was a whole whopping $99 buckaroos.
“I will be taking you to your room Mr. Shiner. The car is right this way.”
I follow the pale, skinny, foreign man to the old rinky-dink car. I mean damn. The wheels looked like they were about to fall clean off. The road was like something I’ve seen in old foreign movies. Nothing but pebbles and a red clay-like dirt. This is only two hours of a plane ride from home?
“There. The hotel where you are staying, sir.” The Adams-Family man talked like a robot. A British one! I thank him as he swiftly gets out of the car and grabs my bags. He walks me and my bags to the front desk, introduces the hotel clerk and I, then bids me a farewell with the tip of his hat.
At that very moment I turn to speak to the hotel clerk and was utterly shocked by his appearance! Even more so than the driver!
I was so thrown off by his appearance that I forgot what the driver said his name was. Oh, well. I just want to go up to my room.
“In case you forgot what the driver, Humphrey, said my name was, it’s Felix.”
What in the hell. It’s like he read my mind or something.
“Cool, can I get checked in please. I booked online.” I thought to myself that I should probably mention that I booked their special deal of a whooping $99 buckaroos.
“Mr.Shiner, I see that you booked our special deal for $99 dollars?” The creepy clerk looked up at me but seemed to never stop typing. And besides that, did he just say what I was thinking again? It must be a coincidence.
I kept my responses brief. “Mm hmm. Yes.”
As he typed ferociously, my eyes glanced over the hotel. Barren. Brown. Burgundy. Broke. Buggy. It smells of moth balls. The music is playing low and I think it’s classical music. Every now and again I hear a deep piano note come through the speaker. I look at the counter I’m leaning on. Cracked. Cold. Concrete. Compact. The computer looks 10 years outdated and slow.
I look up at Felix. Such a freaky, confusing, poor sight to see. White guy. Has to be, at the minimum, 300 pounds heavy. His button-up shirt is way too small and his stomach protrudes from the bottom. One eye is definitely bigger than the other - unless his glasses make them appear so. He has a witch-like nose. With teeth that looks like Nanny Mcfee. His teeth are so yellow that they’re turning brown and rotting. His thickly arched eyebrows make him look angry and he breathes extremely loud. Kind of sounds like a hibernating bear. I smell him from where I am too. He smells like a mixture of horse stable and a boatload of old spice together.
“Okay, Mr.Shiner.” His nerdy comic-book, voice broke my trance.
“You will be room 1, across from room 2. Just take the elevator all the way to the top floor and use this key. Breakfast will be served at 7 a.m. and dinner at 8 pm. Since you booked our VIP deal, everything here is free for you. This includes spa services, fitness and pool room, the meals and drinks will be free as well. Take this VIP pass to show our staff whenever you’d like to do something. Thank you so much for choosing to stay with us.”
That took forever. Must mean I have a nice room. I think this assignment actually worked in my favor. Everything free for the price of $99. That’s not too bad. Should I tell Miss Tasha about the Ultimate Cheapo Deal? Nah, I’ll just say I had grand expenses.
Before I get to my room I decide to look around the hotel for just a little bit. I head in the direction that reads pool and fitness. I figure that there has to be people in the pool or gym, but as I get closer, I don’t see a soul around. Then I glance at the grey cement pool. Water-less. Empty. Motionless. I may have figured out the reason why no one is in the pool area. The fitness area has to be better. Either way I’m here for the weekend. I would jump off a cliff before I waste $99 bucks.
For the fitness area I needed the room key to enter. It is quite bigger than I expected. A nice, spacious room and I think the only room here with air conditioning. The walls are painted white with blue trim top and bottom. The only problem with the room is that there is literally only a treadmill that reads “Year 2003 Model” and a exercise ball that looks like a bean bag - in other words; flat. My room has to be better for sure.
I exit and go back through the lobby. I didn’t see Felix at the front desk and didn’t need to. I head straight to the only elevator, press the up button impatiently consecutively four times, then I glance at the stairs entrance. I need to make it to my room before Felix gets back behind the desk so I contemplated using the stairs. Then Felixs’ voice entered my head.
“Top Floor.” I better use the elevator. The elevator doors blended in with the dated wallpaper. It’s paint was peeling off in huge clumps. I heard a faint bell then suddenly the doors rumbled open and let out a overwhelming scent of more moth balls and old, wet cabinet. I walked into the tiny elevator only to see two floor levels. What the hell! I guess technically this is the top floor, but I imagined floor number 25 or something. I wonder why this hotel is built as if it were 7 stories high if it only goes up two floors.
Finally, I manage to get out of the small elevator with all my belongings and when I look around the hallway, I could not believe my eyes! There were only two rooms. Room 1, which is mine, located on one side of the hallway and then room 2, at the opposite end. Again, Felixs’ voice popped in my head; “Okay, Mr.Shiner you will be room 1, across from room 2.”
“Unbelievable” I said, just above a whisper. I motion to put my key in the keyhole - it was literally an old school key instead of one of those key cards. Before I can even get the key in the door, it swings open and I immediately recognize the smell before I recognize who it is! Mothballs and old spice. Felix!
“Mr.Shiner! Good to see you. Please come in. Let me show you our room.” He pulled me in with little effort and somehow grabbed my bags from my arms and my coat from my body before I had time to realize it. Mysteriously, I was ushered to the middle of this stuffy hotel room. With a huge arm around my neck, Felix “showed me around” the room by pointing to each thing as he announced it.
“That is where the bathroom is. There is the fridge and microwave. That is the window for air, there is the fan, but I need to call the hotel mechanic in a second to come fix it. That right there is the kings bed or my bed. The one right there is your bed. There’s the telephone. There’s the lamp and there’s the door from which you came. Haha. Any questions?”
“Yes, why the hell are you in my room!Don’t you work the front desk?”
He replied joyfully, “I do, however I got off early today. You see, there are only two rooms in the entire hotel. Since we are all booked now, I can relax.” All three-hundred-and-something pounds of him flopped on the narrow twin bed with food stained sheets. His smiling, gleeful eyes never left me as he did this. I would have thought it was funny but I’m in a state of shock at the moment.
“Okay, look. It’s fine to relax on your off hours, but can you do it in the comfort of your own room? Or your own house maybe?”
“This is my house and this actually is my room. I live here.”
“So, if this is your room why didn’t you book me room 2?”
“This is the only room we have that houses 2 people. Room 2 only houses 1.” At this point Felix is on his stomach with his hands supporting his head and his feet kicked up like a school photo. His facial expression says that he’s super excited to have someone here. I wonder if they give refunds.
“We don’t give back refunds once the VIP guest is checked-in. Just to let you know.”
I cannot believe this! There is no way in hell I’m leaving without getting my money’s worth. I just have to stick it out for a day.
“Well, I’m going to check out the spa room.” I never walked out a room so fast in my life. I go to the spa room and to my surprise it’s actually nice. I can tell this room has been renovated like the fitness room. Except that the spa room has everything that a spa room would have in it - Unlike the fitness room. I figured that since there was nobody in the entire hotel that I could skinny dip. And I did. I relaxed in the hot tub for about a hour and I noticed that there were no towels! How could I miss that? I look around and see a “Press For Spa Room Attendant” button near the fire extinguisher. Soaking wet, covering my man-parts, I slip and slide to the button, press it twice and scurry back to the safety of the water.
Literally what seemed like two seconds later, Felix trudges in, sets his towel on the bench and as he gets in the hot tub the water rises from my nipples to my collarbone.
“What’s up roomie. Fancy meeting you here.”
“Actually I was just leaving. There’s no towels in here so I’m just waiting on the attendant.” I look desperately to the door hoping the attendant will walk in any moment.
Felix clears this throat, “Well, you’re looking at him bud. Didn’t you see me put the towels there.” He pointed to what looked like one towel. “They just run small.”
I did a facepalm. “Close your eyes Felix and count to ten.” I braced myself to run.
“Ooo, a game! Ok. Eyes closed. 1 Mississippi. 2 Mississippi. 3 Mississ...”
I darted to the towel and sprinted out of the spa room, still hearing Felix count as I ran. I flung through the open elevator doors, frantically pressing for the second floor also known as the “top floor.” Then on my way up I realized that I forgot my clothes. Facepalm.
Showered and dressed I finally see Felix walk in the room and he was carrying my clothes.
“You forgot these roomie.” He heavily shoved my clothes into my arms and they were soaked! “What do you want for dinner roomie? Everything is free for you.”
“Let me guess. You’re the chef too?”
“Oh thank God!”
“Haha, yes! He’s my brother. We own and operate this beauty together. We want to make sure that every Ultimate Cheapo gets what they deserve.” Felix said this with the most proud, innocent smile that his ugly face can muster.
“Damn. Makes sense. I really do need to change. I’m getting what I deserve after all this time, huh?” I said to myself. It finally hit home. Then there was a light knock at the door.
Felix answered it and there stood Humphrey in his butler suit and bow tie but his top hat changed into a chef hat.
“Three orders of Rat-tail soup and salt crackers. Dinner is now served.”
Back home from my disastrous vacation, I’ve come clean and repaid all of my coworkers, my liquor store pal and everyone else I’ve bamboozled. Life isn’t about what others can do for you, but what you can do for yourself. Thanks Humphrey and Felix!