Back in 2003, I and about 83% of my friends worked at a hotel in the middle of Nowhere, CT. A Minnesota based chain had thrown a franchise out in the woods in hopes of catching some of casino cast-offs on their search for reasonably priced accommodations. I was young and this was my first full-time job, so I learned a lot about how the working world works. I also learned that I can do 7 revolutions in an industrial dryer, but that’s a story for another time.
This story is the Ballad of Bayou Rick.
One night I came into work around 11pm and I was greeted with cries of “Oh my god, you missed it! Bayou Rick brought down seafood pie!” I was unperturbed by this, because not taking seafood pie from strange men named Bayou Rick is one of the first items on my Self Care Action plan.
Bayou Rick soon became a fixture of the front desk as he had a rolling weekly reservation, which is a nice way of saying he lived at the hotel. Usually, when a guest doesn’t have a credit card on file, we’d take cash payment for the room upfront, but the manager let Rick slide a little, because she was easily duped by free seafood. Plus, it’s not like we could throw his wife and mother out on the street. They seemed so nice!
There was something off about Bayou Rick, but I couldn’t quite place it. He was pleasant and gave everyone free food, but I didn’t trust him. Neither did my buddy Andy, who hated seafood, making him immune to aquatic bribery.
More importantly, Andy worked second shift, making him privy to the fact that the reason Rick’s family “seemed” nice is because no one ever saw them. Ever. No one saw them check in, no one saw them get coffee, no one saw them leave. The manager of the hotel was content to think that this was because Rick’s mother couldn’t walk well and his wife had some kind of chronic fatigue, but that doesn’t explain why they never used the one elevator in the place—the elevator that puts you right next to the front desk.
Everyone—management excluded—caught onto this fairly quickly, though Rick kept up the façade even when he wasn’t keeping up with his payments. But a hunch will only take you so far; we needed proof that Rick was full of shit.
One night, he literally handed it to us. Andy and I were at the desk, the transition from second shift to third shift marked by the front desk appearance of a boombox playing Darkthrone, my preferred method of announcing that my reign as Night Auditor had begun. Rick came down to chat, heard “Kathaarian Life Code” and said something to the effect of “Oh man, my wife likes all this shit too. You should see her artwork, it’s like this crazy, sick shit. I’ll go print some of it.” With that, Bayou Rick ventured over to the computer in the lobby, printed out two pieces of artwork and brought them over to the desk. They were impressive, but they were also the covers of the first Danzig album and Slayer’s Divine Intervention. They were skilled recreations, sure, but they weren’t original. Rick was a little taken aback that the long haired kid at the front desk listening to Darkthrone would recognize a Slayer album cover, so he quickly wrapped up the conversation and went upstairs.
This is when Andy made the killing blow.
“He tore the URL off of these sheets.” Andy said, pointing to the frayed edges of the papers “What are the chances that he just threw them in the garbage over there?”
The chances were very good. Rick hadn’t even crumpled them, just folded them once and threw them in an empty wastepaper basket. Following this discovery to its logical conclusion, we were led to the website of a bright and cheery college student who had drawn some metal album covers for her boyfriend. A boyfriend that—unless the pictures of him were taken 200 pounds and 20 years ago—was not Rick.
The important thing about knowledge is how you put it to use. In this case, we decided to put it to use by making this woman’s website the first thing that popped up when you opened the web browser. I was not there when Rick opened it, but I know it was still the homepage when I came in the next night and I know that Rick left the front desk before I came because if he saw me, he’d “break my scrawny neck and throw him through the window.” I have no idea why he didn’t hate Andy too, but I assume it’s because my body is very throwable and I sign my work like a Batman villain.
This threat eventually riddled its way to my manager, who assured me that she would give Rick a stern talking to and maybe even ask for the $500 he owed the hotel. She must’ve really did a number on him too, because I got a half-hearted apology in which my transgression was never acknowledged (I was hoping for “I’m sorry I said I was going to kill you because you and your friend proved that I don’t actually have a wife.”) and Bayou Rick skipped out on the bill. He’s not welcome back to an AmericInn until he settles up.