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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Not just another roadside attraction

A Motel 6 motel is seen Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
A Motel 6 motel is seen Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

There used to be two kinds of families.

Well, that’s not exactly true. If you factor in racial discrimination and disparities in household incomes, it gets more complicated. So let’s start over.

There used to be two kinds of white middle-class families.

One kind went on road-trip summer vacations to Wally World that involved staying at motels with swimming pools. The other kind went to stay with relatives after driving all night to get there.

For those who grew up in drive-all-night families, the idea of staying at motels could be mysteriously alluring.

This was not because of the prospect of bath towels that felt like sandpaper, soft-drink machines stocked with beverages new to you and coin-operated bed vibration.

It was, of course, because of the swimming pools.

Those pools were not just another roadside attraction. They seemed to hold the glimmering promise of summer euphoria and youthful fulfillment.

They would beckon from the side of the highway. Kids stuffed in the backseat with cranky siblings would search the look-at-me motel signs for the two magic words: “swimming pool.”

Oh, it wasn’t like those children had never been in a pool before. Back home, they went all the time. Splish splash. They smelled like chlorine half the summer.

But there was something almost exotic about motel pools. Like an oasis in the pavement desert, they shimmered and enticed with their aquamarine hint of a traveler’s delight.

And then there was the thought of being liberated from the confines of the family car, which had smelled like decaying tuna sandwiches for 300 miles.

For kids in drive-all-night families, though, the pools were forever out of reach.

Highway exit after highway exit slipped into the rear view. Neon motel signs rose up, offered their bright invitations and then faded out of sight.

“That one said, ‘Vacancy,’ Dad. And it was triple-A approved.”

“What? Are you kidding? We’re making good time. Another six hours and we’ll almost be there.”

For little kids in families that seldom, if ever, stayed at motels, the vision of diving into an out-of-state pool was an intoxicating prospect. Especially after hours spent adhering to older siblings’ astonishingly uncompromising rules about the invisible line o’doom marking their lion’s share portion of the back seat, an inviolate territory not to be trifled with.

If you got to go to a pool, maybe you would make friends with some kid from Indiana or California. Then perhaps you would get to watch your shows that night.

For older children, the mirage of the motel pool suggested unlikely social possibilities such as the kind that might explode out of a Beach Boys fantasy. Wouldn’t it be nice.

Sure, the stay-at-motels families actually got to take advantage of the diving board at the deep end.

But for the kids who grew up in families that didn’t stop for the night, those come-hither motel pools would always have a place in nostalgic reveries about summers gone by.

Speaking of summer

It’s one of Spokane’s classic debates.

Does one need air conditioning here?

Economic and environmental considerations aside, here are a few things to keep in mind before weighing in.

Lewis and Clark survived without air conditioning.

It has long been suspected that Lewis and Clark didn’t always smell springtime fresh.

Natural fibers, open windows, fans, light salads and cool jazz are a match for any heat wave – assuming you are totally delusional.

It’s a dry heat.

If you start addressing everyone as “Big Daddy” and using the word “mendacity” in every third sentence, you might be overheated.

If you keep saying, “It’s Africa hot,” and you are not even a fan of Neil Simon, you might be overheated.

Sometimes that fourth shower is all you need to get through the day feeling minty clean.

You might ask, just what is Grand Coulee Dam for if not to keep you comfortable?

Last thing

Among the many things that amuse and entertain me about millennials and whatever you call those who came after them is their penchant for saying, “You all,” or “Y’all.” A few of them anyway.

I have a question. Assuming they have no real connection to the South, why do they do that? It’s sort of a free country, but I just don’t get it.

Is that hipster folksy? Is it naturally evolved casual speech or pure affectation?

You tell me.

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