Sweeping back through the south, we’ve crossed Tennessee and made it to North Carolina, this time without the benefit of what, back in the summer, was our favorite form of highway entertainment — looking for dogs in the kudzu.
The Vine That Ate the South is naked now, having lost its leaves for winter, leaving behind only long strands of clumped-together, spindly, bare vines. I can no longer see big green animals in the leaves, only stick figures, spider webs, spaghetti and road maps.
The kudzu will be back, though, in spring — and ready to spread as quickly as “adult superstores” have through Tennessee. There are a lot of “adult superstores” in the Volunteer State. Going down I-40, it seems like every other billboard is either touting an “adult superstore” or the fact that Jesus Saves.
After crossing the Mississippi River, we stopped outside of Memphis for a quick visit with my son, checking into a Best Western, where I had reserved a room online, after seeing it touted itself as dog-friendly.
Not until I arrived did I see that there were pet fees, according to a posting at the front desk — $15 for a dog between 5 and 20 pounds, $25 for dogs 20 to 40 pounds, and $35 for dogs 40 pounds and up.
I immediately squawked — I’ve become a bit more of a squawker in recent months — pointing out that I’d be paying almost as much for the dog as for me.
“How much does your dog weigh?” asked the desk clerk.
I thought about lying, but, having seen too many God billboards, couldn’t. Over 100 pounds, I said, adding that he’s much better behaved than a lot of 10 pound dogs, and pointing out that the whole charging by weight concept was ludicrous.
The desk clerk made a face like he’d swallowed something yukky and excused himself. Ten minutes later he was back, with a room assignment and news that they’d only charge me $25 for the dog.
Too tired to have any principles, and wanting to get off the road on New Year’s Eve, I accepted the discount and took the room. Then I seethed about the whole thing — especially the weight part — for a couple more hours.
Charging fees for dogs is not dog-friendly; its dog-greedy. I wonder how much damage dogs do to motel rooms across America, compared to that done by people.
Rather than pet fees, maybe motels should be looking at rock star fees — for they, if we’re going to stereotype, are famous for trashing rooms. Why not a fraternity boy fee? A student on spring break fee? A crying baby fee? A loud sex fee?
Only twice in our travels have we experienced loud sex — both times from the room next door. Ace and I did the only thing we could. We tilted our heads and looked at the wall the sounds were coming from, then turned up the TV.
Is that constitutional? Even prisons allow visitors.
Depite all the control being exercised in motels, or at least the one we stayed at, Tennessee, as a state, seems less successful at reining in kudzu, or adult superstores. (Not that I have anything against adult superstores; it’s a free country, except at the particular Best Western we stayed in.)
As we passed through Tennessee, I stopped at several huge thickets of kudzu (and at no adult superstores, though I was wondering what exactly made them “super”).
I searched the bare vines for dog shapes, which some some of you may recall became a bit of an obsession for me over the summer, but I could find none.
Instead, all I could see in the withered and weepy vines were hunched over old witches, overworked peasants and evil motel desk clerks who charged exorbitant pet fees.