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Categorized | Articles, Ethan Meleg

Out of Focus – The Dirt Squirrel Motel (full story)

Story and photography by Ethan Meleg

A good night’s sleep is a fundamental need of an outdoor photographer. This can be hard to get when you’re on a photo trip, away from the comfort of your own bed. You can have all the best lenses plus a map to a secret waterfall where wolverines skinny dip, but if you toss and turn all night, fat chance of unleashing your inner Darwin Wiggett and bagging great shots. Decent lodgings can make or break your adventure.

The importance of sleep can't be understated for a nature photographer.

The importance of sleep can’t be understated for a nature photographer.

I’ve stayed in all manners of accommodations, from obscenely posh five-star hotels (with drinking fountains called “bidets” in the bathroom) to charming cedar cabins to decrepit motels that rent by the hour. This column is about a recent stay in the low end of that spectrum.

My girlfriend Tammy had one simple request for our trip — pick an upscale place so she could enjoy a rejuvenating vacation while I was out shooting. I browsed the small selection of motels and B&Bs and settled on a place I recalled (from 20 years ago) as being quite good. The price was reasonable, they had availability and it was close to where I needed to shoot. Perfect, booked! For reasons I can’t understand, I — an avid TripAdvisor user — did not check the reviews first.

Fast forward to our trip; we arrived full of enthusiasm and walked hand-in-hand up the stairs to our room. Within an instant of opening the door, I watched every bit of happiness and romance drain from Tammy’s face and be replaced with sullen despair and utter disappointment. My heart sank and I figured she’d immediately start mentally drafting an online dating profile, since she certainly wasn’t going to stay with the dimwit who picked this place. The room was horrible. To call it a dump is insulting to actual dumps. It was much worse that that. I won’t elaborate on the wretched odour, forensically intriguing stains or the condition of the bathroom fixtures. I’m trying to repress those memories. Bedbugs would never lower their standards and stay there! [Note to self: That joke did not help the situation in any conceivable way when I said it in the moment.]

Stuck without other accommodation options, we had to stay at “The Dirt Squirrel Motel,” as we dubbed it. Many bottles of wine helped transform our perspective of the room from horrible to just really bad. The bed was too lumpy to sleep, which quickly depleted any enthusiasm I’d had to take my camera out of the pack. It was a photographic bust.

Ironically, we had a great time. Adversity can create humorous situations! We spent hours belly laughing about how bad the place was. We didn’t get bedbugs. Tammy didn’t dump me. She is, however, planning to pick the hotel next time. I think this is good for our relationship and a good night’s sleep so I can shoot photos.

This column is presented as a humorous piece and is intended as such. Please enjoy responsibly.

Ethan Meleg is a professional photographer based in Ontario. To see more of his work visit his website at ethanmeleg.com.

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