I love road stories. THE FALL GUY is a road story. The book’s hero, Todd, goes on the run to escape a mobster but he keeps running into trouble. There’s a certain vulnerability when you’re traveling as Todd aptly illustrates. You’re invariability somewhere you don’t know. Which means you’re unlikely to have a support system in the form of friends and family you can turn to and you’ll be unfamiliar with the way a new place works. So in essence road stories are scary. I travel a lot promoting my books, so I’m forever traveling to places for the first time. Most times nothing happens, but on occasion something does. A few years ago, I was in southern California for a book signing. I didn’t know California as well as I do now, so I wasn’t really aware that book signing wasn’t in the nicest part of the state. I got my first inkling when I pulled into the motel, which boasted armed security on duty. Something that sounded both comforting as well as disturbing. Although despite the boast, I never saw anyone armed. Well, not working for the motel, that is. Money was a little tight and I wasn’t in a position to find somewhere nicer so I checked in. I let the desk clerk behind the bulletproof glass know that I had a reservation. He pulled out my reservation and told me, “It’s $60 a night for credit, $75 for cash.” He let the terms of his offer hang in the air. And there was a pretty good reason for that. The cash rate was more expensive than the credit rate. One, there shouldn’t have been a difference credit and cash. And two, the cash rate was more expensive than the credit rate, which was a little odd seeing as cash deals are usually cheaper. Always one for a bargain, I paid with my credit card. I was tempted to test the cash rate alternative. If I’d paid cash, would my stay gone on the register? Would I have been asked for a valid form of ID? Would I have been given extra towels and told not to leave any DNA behind? It’s hard to say, but it would have been interesting to find out. You could argue that I simply misunderstood the situation but an hour with my fellow motel roommates said otherwise. There were a couple of rooms where the medium of shouting was used to communicate. My arrival seemed to unsettle one customer who never left his room and just watched the comings and goings from his window. One person seemed to be using his stay to fix his pickup and used his room to work on the various parts he removed. One of the rooms was filled from floor to ceiling with TVs, stereos and other electronic goods still in their boxes. The guy “staying there” was forever removing or replacing stock. The vibe was so uncomfortable that I found myself in that awkward position of not knowing whether it was safer to leave my valuables in the room or in the car. The best solution seemed to keep everything vital on me and let fate decide the rest. I was happy to put some miles between me and the motel when I checked out the following day. So what’s the conclusion to this tale? Will I be returning to this motel? No. Will I be using this in a story some time? You betcha. As road stories go, a pretty good one. That’s one of mine. Now tell me one of yours.
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