I am one of the protagonists in this story – a guy who checked into a Budget Motel in Waynesboro VA a few days ago. The manager, a man with obvious Indian heritage (but not the fellow pictured above) welcomed me and showed me to my room. I pegged him for a sharp operator from the beginning – “the only room left in town” etc. I knew this to be untrue as I had just come from another more expensive motel which had several vacancies. He then proceeded to charge me a different rate than the one offered over the phone, for a room that was in appalling condition. The weather was terrible, which is a multiplier if you are on a bike, so I checked in. A bed of nails will do in all honesty, as I am usually beat. I went online during the evening to write a review, and noticed a preponderance of lousy comments; “bad service” and “bed bugs” to name two. One in particular stood out, but for style, not substance. The reviewer referred to the Hindu owner as a dothead. I remember feeling a smug sense of superiority. The room might be crap, the owner dishonest, but I would never stoop to such naked, unabashed bigotry.
Fast forward to Covington VA. I checked into a Budget Motel late in the evening, dog tired, and was greeted by Pratap, pictured above. I instinctively started to stiffen. He was friendly and we chatted a bit about my trip. He ran my card and I checked the stub. It was $10 more than the rate I was quoted online. I did a brief double-take before I realized that it was room tax. Pratap showed me to my accommodations, which were clean, orderly, and everything you would expect from a budget motel.
Then, somewhat diffidently, Pratap asked whether I was paying for the room out of my own pocket. Nonplussed, I said yes. Without going into details, I stayed the night in Pratap’s excellent motel for free, ate breakfast the following morning for free (not sure whether this was Pratap’s or the restaurant owners doing), declined an offer of a ride to my next destination, and departed with Pratap’s card and an exhortation to call if I needed anything at all. I am immensely grateful that I didn’t listen to my inner voice telling me to decline the arduous trek to Hanging Rock Tower Hawkwatch, which took me through Covington. I am also immensely grateful for the opportunity to meet such a wonderful man, an immigrant from India, who landed in the US in 1976, and who helped me gain a little bit more self awareness of my own subtle facility for prejudice.
If you pass through Covington VA and need a motel, check out Joyners Budget Inn. They might not need your business, but they definitely deserve it. Now off to Hanging Tower Rock to watch some hawks!