For those who live and work in Whistler, the term ‘holidays’ can be a paradox. Many of Whistler’s service-based careers become the busiest during the Christmas, Spring Break and Easter seasons. For the Whistlerites who diligently dedicate themselves to hosting guests, the ‘holidays’ are anything but a holiday.
So, after two straight weeks of clearing bottomless in-box this Christmas, my wife Melinda and I resolved early in the New Year to make a quick getaway to Whistler’s cross-border neighbour, Mt. Baker. Leaving the luxury and familiarity of our home resort however, means dealing with unaccustomed accommodations.
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but from the moment we pull into the parking lot at Sumas Washington’s Border Inn, I immediately begin to understand the hotel’s ‘no pets’ policy; there are laws against animal cruelty. But, the night is getting late, so Melinda and I push beyond the orange exterior lights and venture inside. In the dimly lit lobby, we’re issued our room key and informed that check-out is 11am tomorrow morning. From what I’ve seen so far, dawn can’t come soon enough.
It’s not until we witness our room however that the text of this book truly outdoes its cover. Our door opens with a creek revealing an interior decorating scheme somewhere between hideous and unhygienic. A once red carpet, now more of a muddy maroon coats the floor, insisting we keep our shoes on. Against the wall sits a King-sized bed barely fit for an Earl. Its concave mattress droops so much in its middle that if I had corn flakes, milk and a death-wish I could eat my morning cereal out of its bowl shape. Beneath the stained comforter lies a Swiss-cheese, cigarette burned blanket. Beneath that lies a once white bedspread now a sullen shade of ivory. Looking for a little creature comfort, I reach for the TV’s remote control only to realize that the dead device controls nothing remotely. I poke my head into the bathroom. Paint is flaking off the walls like a shedding cat, hair lines the bottom of the tub and the towel rack scores a perfect zero-for-six in providing even slightly unsoiled wares.
Melinda and I stand speechless in silence…or what would be silence were it not for the audibly porous walls surrounding us. Sounds of neighbouring televisions and conversations flood our room as if we weren’t alone. Footsteps from the second floor above creak like shifting tectonic plates. The mini-fridge hums like it’s diesel powered and the heater roars like a fire-breathing dragon.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m no ‘Princess and the Pea’ patron. I’ve spent nights crowded into international hostels, shared a leaky tent on the wet West Coast Trail and camped in the Australian Outback while being stalked by nocturnal dingos. On each of those occasions, I slept more soundly than I did here.
When morning arrives, Melinda and I forgo the shower for our own sanitary sanity. We quickly pack our bags, which we hadn’t really unpacked to begin with. It’s only upon our escape to the parking lot that our day begins to brighten. Bluebird skies and a dusting of fresh snow greet us, signaling our baptism by filth may lead to sweet skiing conditions only a few miles away.
I look at Melinda through black-circled and bloodshot eyes. “Let’s NEVER tell anyone about this place.” I self-consciously suggest.