It is time to move. My neighbors have been great, but living next door to my burnt house is too intense for me. Also, I’ve gotten used to living alone or with just one adult child most of the time. I don’t want to be anti-social, but I need a quiet place to retreat after work. That’s where the Temporary Accommodations people come in.
“Do you need a hotel?” The Temp Accommodations people ask me this every time we talk. The first few days I just say no. I can hardly think about my living situation while worrying about my son’s welfare. Today, though, I’ve endured an hours-long survey of the damage with the insurance appraiser and contractor. I’m already exhausted from too little sleep the last few days; now I’m emotionally exhausted. I call the TA people and ask them to find me a place, preferably not just around the corner. By 5:00, they let me know they’ve arranged a room for me at one of the extended-stay hotels. Tired, sweaty, and smelly, I don’t even take time for a shower. I know I’ll want to get into PJs after a shower, so I plan to go straight over and settle into my room. I thank my neighbors –they were truly a godsend – and make my way to my new ‘home’ for the next 10 days.
The idea of living in a hotel for a week or so sounds nice at first, but an extended-stay hotel does not have room service or daily room cleaning, at least not the kind the TA folks were willing to book. At the front desk, a young man in his 20s takes down my information all the while continuing his conversation with a buddy leaning on the counter. He wants my credit card, and I patiently explain to him my situation and that the insurance is paying. He says “Sure, sure, no problem.” The buddy looks sympathetic when he hears my brief tale and asks if everyone is ok. A few minutes later, the clerk asks for my card again, insisting he needs it for incidentals. I’m not very willing to give him the number. Money is pretty tight the last week, especially coming on top of a business trip. I had to pay for meals and taxis on the trip, and though the company will reimburse me, there’s no telling when. The clerk says the hold is only $50, so I relent. “Are you here for business? How long are you staying?” he asks. His buddy shoots him a look. No, there was a fire at my house. I’m here until the insurance finds me a rental house. “Oh, right.” This was the first sign that my stay would not be blessed with good service.
As soon as I get into my room, I unpack the few clean clothes I have. It’s only 6:00 and I have no food in the room, so once again I get into the car and run to the grocery store for some supplies: comfort cereal, milk, OJ, tea, fruit, some frozen meals, bad-for-you soda, and of course, some chocolate. Now I can shower, put on my nightie, and relax. For some reason, the firefighters had thrown a few odds and ends into my car in the garage during their battle with the fire, including some DVDs of one of my favorite shows. Ironically, it is ‘Burn Notice,’ but I take no notice of the title and its unwitting connection to my current situation. The fires, explosions, and adventures of Michael, Fiona, and Sam bring me the comfort of familiarity. I make some tea, choose some chocolate, and settle in comfortably for the evening.