I stopped in Los Alamos trying to find a hamburger place and wound up booking into the cheapest motel in town … The Alamo. A shower. A bed. After sleeping in my car at a music festival campsite I needed that.
I also still needed a hamburger. So I crossed the street to one of the town’s three bars – the only place apart from Subway that seemed to be serving food. You can see the lights of it to the left of the motel sign.
A basic American Motel. $55 a night. Comfy and relatively quiet except that it’s next door to a party with live tuba music tonight. Not complaining – I don’t mind noise so long as it’s not a lawn mower or a car alarm.
It’s a classic old place, called 1860, run by two very nice people. The woman is called Ana. The guy’s name escapes me. The Barman, Manny, is awesome. It’s a genuine old saloon and the hamburger was amazing. They have local craft beer on tap, and fast internet. After 36 hours offline during a time when I can’t really afford to be, it was incredible to be clean, showered, fed, sheltered and drinking cold brew.
Local people at the bar were friendly and through my travel-tired haze I managed to carry on a kind of conversation about whatever… you know. Touch typing. South Africa. The World Cup. Music Festivals. Motels. Beer. I was pretty happy talking to strangers and catching up with friends on facebook.
That is, until the town drunkard decided to take a seat next to me. He was drinking something bright red and seemed to have nothing better to do than ask me inane questions.
I shake my head and smile.
“No, facebook,” I say, ruefully, guiltily.
“Having fun, sweetie?”
His breath smelled of 20 toasted cigarettes and stale booze.
I smile nervously, and turn back to the screen, hoping he’ll go away.
He leans in, reading past my shoulder, one of the posts on my page.
“Why do you have it at that angle. Can you see better?”
His nose is packed with popping veins from what appeared to be his primary social activity: Drinking heavily.
I realise I have to answer him, or seem rude.
“No, it’s just to keep the light off other people, and for privacy.”
He scowls at me and almost shouts: “I wouldn’t want to look at that stuff. Why would I?”
So why do you? I want to say. Instead I just say “Okay.”
He keeps going, with one dumb comment after another, touching me sometimes as he speaks, and is really beginning to remind me of one of those old men who stare at your tits when you’re jogging and call out: “Having fun?”. I always want to stop, and say “No, but I’m glad YOU are!” And then smash their testicles with a rock.
I realise he’s not going to quit, so I wave at Manny for the check and shoot my boyfriend a quick message: Being harassed by a guy here, so going to go back to my motel. Will reconnect there. Small towns… ha.”
Distracted by another (very nice) old guy to my right, I lose track of Red-Nose Redneck for a bit. Next thing I know I catch his hand on my keyboard. He’s pulling a maniacal face and miming banging on my keyboard. I slam it shut. “Stop it!” I say.
“You stop it. Sitting here playing games and talking to someone in FRANCE. That’s not real life” he shouts.
His equally booze addled old buddy joins in: “This is a bar, not a coffeeshop”.
“I don’t think that means I have to talk to you,” I say. “Just leave me alone.”
“That’s not life,” the guy keeps shouting.
“So what is? Alcoholism?” I ask.
And that sends them both over the edge.
Manny tells me to take it easy, and them to leave me alone.
They ask for the check and say they’re never coming back. I ask for the check.
They keep shouting at me. I keep telling them to leave me alone. Assholes.
Manny brings me the check.
I pay and find myself suddenly in tears as Red-Nose Redneck leaves and his creepy old friend stays and keeps hurling comments at me. I shout back, calling them assholes. Why didn’t I just laugh it off? Don’t know. Overtired, I guess. And surprised. I know the type, you see, the type who’d call you rude for refusing to talk to a smelly old stranger in a bar one minute, then accuse you of being a slut for speaking to him at all the next.
Ana the host and the owner tried to persuade me to stay – and drink a beer alone in a lounge. Last thing I felt like… sitting in bright light alone. They’re sweet people though. Not their fault who drinks there.
Instead of staying to please them, I walked back to the motel, calming down realizing that tonight’s drama had brought me full circle. I needed really badly to get away from technology for a while. But the thing is, there’s only one thing worse than the constant assault of information, the noise of constant communication signifying nothing, the gaggle and the disconnect, and that, unfortunately, is being around people who use it as an excuse for their inability to function, who never WERE ON the grid, who haven’t liked a new song since they turned 30 – who’ve become their grandparents.
I hope that when I get really old I’m not old that way. I hope I don’t simply reject whatever I don’t understand.