Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why the Banned Should Stay Banned

For those of you that have kept up with this blog over the past few years, you know that I have run into my fair share of crazy situations, especially when I have worked at hotels. Well last night I found myself in the midst of a situation that I feel may have topped all of my past crazy-hotel-stories -- it even tops that time a couple was having sex on the break-wall by my Mackinac hotel.

For the past two days, an ex-employee of the Elk Inn has been staying at the hotel. Before I go any further, let me tell you about this individual. His nickname is RT*. If I were to list his real name and you were to type it into Google, you would find an arrest record in which RT was banned from Colorado State University's campus for sending his ex-girlfriend over 200 text messages in one day. Here's a little snippet from the article: "according to police, [RT] said he was planning to take money out of the bank, buy a gun at a pawnshop, and then kill her if she didn't call him back. 'Either you call me right now or I'm ending your life,' reads one message included in police arrest report. 'If you're at the library I'm going to find you, what do you think is gonna happen, someone there gonna protect you.'"

When I first heard RT was coming to stay at the hotel, all of the other front desk agents groaned and rolled their eyes. They showed me the article about his arrest, recounted stories of his quick temper and blatant sexism towards women, how he threatened "to put a woman in a body bag" while working at the Elk Inn's front desk, and how he was fired shortly after that. RT has also sent my roommate, who he has never met before and randomly found on Facebook, text messages asking to see naked photos and continually asks if she'd like to come to his cabin. After being fired from the Elk Inn, RT was hired by another hotel, attempted to woo a female guest and when she declined his advances he "kicked down her door" (this was relayed to me by someone who worked at that hotel with him at the time). After kicking down this woman's door, RT was kicked out of that hotel, came to the bar at the Elk Inn, started a fight with someone, and was thrown out of the Elk Inn and told he was no longer allowed on the property.

Why then, you may ask, was he staying at the Elk Inn the past two nights? Because the Rooms Manager of the hotel, Hans, thinks RT is awesome and made a "secret" reservation for him.

And thus brings us to what happened yesterday:

After already staying in the hotel/visiting Estes for an unknown reason the day before, Hans gave RT another super discounted room last night. Around 4pm, RT checked-in with a very petite girl, who Apple and I could immediately tell was drugged out. We had RT's credit card information for incidentals from the previous stay (he paid cash on the room) and he had the obviously twitching girl put her debit card down to pay for this new room. They then went off and weren't seen again except for a brief moment when I walked by them during my break.

Around 9:30pm a guest on the fourth floor called the front desk asking for new batteries for his TV remote. I called our maintenance department and asked Doug to bring up some batteries. About ten minutes later Doug radioed the front desk and said that the Manager on Duty, Cookie, needed to come to the fourth floor right away. Before he even made it up there, Doug told Cookie that they needed to call 911. Apple and I stayed at the front desk wondering what was happening. We hypothesized that the man who wanted the new batteries was either throwing a fit or he was having a heart attack. A few minutes later, Doug came down to the front desk and asked who was in Room 410. I pulled up the record in the computer: RT.

"RT?!" Doug said (he was the one who worked with RT when he kicked down the door), "what the fuck is he doing here?"

"Hans let him in," Apple said.

"He's not allowed in this hotel," Doug said. Elk Inn's bartender was walking through the lobby and asked what the commotion was about. "RT is in the hotel and he and his friend our tripping on acid and just beat the shit out of each other," Doug explained. The bartender also exclaimed his disgust and shock that RT was in the hotel. Apple told him that Hans had been letting RT stay at the hotel for a super discounted rate.

"So what's going on?" the bartender asked.

"They've destroyed that room," Doug said, "there's blood everywhere, there's a hole in the wall, the other guy's face is all bashed in."

"Where's RT?"

"He ran."

"Probably because he knows he's going to get arrested," Apple chimed in.

Doug said Cookie had already called the cops. He and the bartender went back up to the fourth floor to see what they should do before the cops arrived.

Apple and I knew that this was not only Hans's fault for letting RT into the hotel, but we also knew that Hans was currently living in the hotel because he recently sold his house and doesn't have a new one yet. Apple texted Hans to let him know what was going on. I answered the desk phone and found a very annoyed Room 408 saying that someone was banging on their door, trying to get inside. I told him that there was a fight in Rm 410, we were aware of the situation, and that the cops were on the way. As soon as I hung up the phone, three cops strolled into the lobby. I showed them how to get to the fourth floor and they went separate directions to try to head off anyone who may try to flee the scene.

Radio-less, Apple and I stood at the front desk and waited for some news. An ambulance arrived and I told the EMTs how to get to the fourth floor. Following the protocol of the Front Desk Test Apple and I recently had to take, we decided to call the General Manager and let him know what was going on. While Apple called him, I took another front desk call, this time from Room 419. The woman sounded panicked and asked if the people that were causing the disturbance were going to stay in the hotel. She said that she and her husband had a baby with them and were worried about their safety. I told them that I was fairly sure that the people in 410 were all going to be escorted off the property, but that I would call them back once I knew for sure. No sooner had I hung up the phone than it rang again and this time it was one of the servers from our restaurant. She was in the employee housing behind the hotel and said that RT was there and was trying to hide in one of the rooms. "He's covered in blood," she said. Apple called Cookie and told him to send the cops to our dorms ASAP.

Guests continued to come to the front desk and ask if everything was okay. One couple said that there was blood on the outside of 410's door and said they hoped everyone was well. "They sort of brought this on themselves," Apple said.

By 10:30pm, RT's "friend" had been loaded into an ambulance and the twitchy girl had been sent to the police station to detox. Apple walked one of the officers back up to the room so that he could take photos of the damage. While she was gone, I watched another officer walk RT to the front of the building and sit him down on a bench right outside our automatic doors. I tried to see he if he was handcuffed, but couldn't tell. Doug came back to the front desk and said that RT was getting off with a warning. The cops were making him wait outside for a friend to pick him up.

Let's just take a moment to point out that RT, although a psychotic, messed-up individual with an arrest record, is an attractive white man. He drops acid, beats a guy with a hotel lamp (yes - he did not just hit his "friend" with his fists, but actually took a lamp to the guy's face), destroys a hotel room, trespasses on private property (he's not allowed in the employee housing), and walks off with just a warning. Do you think a Black or Hispanic man would have walked off sans handcuffs? Doubtful. 

Also, Hans never responded to Apple's text message. Cookie called Hans from the fourth floor before the cops arrived and Hans said, "I'm not dealing with this." Hans, the only person out of 20+ employees to let an ex-felon/ex-fired employee - a man with a history of violent acts - back into the hotel, did not want to deal with the mess he had created...

Right before 11pm, the Night Auditor arrived and we filled her in and everything that had happened. Cookie encouraged her and I, the only two people who had not seen 410's damage, to go up to the room to see what had happened.

Maybe I should have worked for the hotel that inspired The Shining. Evil spirits and REDRUM aren't looking half bad right now.

*Name is changed because this boy is psychotic.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Where's Norman Bates When I Need Him?

The Elk Inn is a drug-free workplace. Before I could start my first day of work I had to be tested and was told that I couldn't work until the results came back. Right before I arrived in Colorado, three housekeepers were let-go for testing positive for marijuana. Now, I get that companies do not want their employees showing up stoned to work, but I think testing positive for pot in a state where weed is legal is just ridiculous. First off, weed is different than alcohol in that you do not have to be actively high to test positive. You don't even need to have smoked in the past 24 hours! In order to test positive for marijuana on a drug test you have to have smoked sometime in the past week or two (depending on the type of test they administer). As someone who does not smoke (because every time I do I think I'm going to die -- yep, I'm one of those people), I think this is grossly unfair to the workers here because they are not breaking any laws by smoking and they are not necessarily smoking before coming into work. Maybe they have a joint before bed! What's the harm in that? Hell, weed is safer than alcohol and yet I could drink 3 bottles of wine today and be tested next week and nothing would happen. If I smoke one joint today, however, and am tested next week then I am out of a job.

I get that this company is trying to maintain a professional workplace and that this is a corporate policy, but this is also Colorado. This is a summer seasonal workplace in Colorado. Pot is legal here. I pass a dispensary every time I drive up and down the mountain! This company needs to make some accommodations or else they are going to be hiring and firing staff every single week. (Also, pot isn't legal in Michigan and yet more than half of my Mackinac hotel's staff smoked daily. Did the management drug test everyone? No, because then they would have lost their entire restaurant staff.)

So this little tirade brings me to yesterday: the Elk Inn is hosting a three-day Letter Carriers conference (yes -- postal workers) and had 100+ check-outs and 100+ check-ins...and four housekeepers...Needless to say, it was mass chaos. Most of the letter carriers arrived between 1 and 4pm. Everyone who has ever stayed at a hotel knows that your room will not technically be ready until check-in time, but more often than not it is ready earlier than that. However, the rooms at the Elk Inn were not finished until 5pm. 5 P.M. Even I will admit that this is unacceptable. I get that there were only four housekeepers and I am not blaming them. Those poor people were completely overworked yesterday! However, had the drug test policy not been in place, the Elk Inn would have had 7 housekeepers, plus one manager helping out, and that would have doubled the speed.

I got to work at 2:30pm and was met with a crowded lobby and grumpy guests. It was my second day on the job. Thankfully I am already familiar with the hotel's reservation system, but I am two-years out of practice so there is still a learning curve. For example, my Mackinac hotel preassigned every room. The Elk Inn does that for certain rooms, but not others ( I have no idea why). When a room would finally be marked as 'clean' I would try to put a guest in there, but the system would tell me it was reserved for someone else. Another new guy was working with me and not only was this his second day on the job as well, but it was his second day working for any hotel in general. My roommate, who we will call Apple, was also checking people in, but basically all the three of us could do was apologize to guests, get their cellphone number, and tell them we would call as soon as their room was ready.

Now, these Letter Carriers were here for a conference. The conference starts today, but there was a little reception for everyone who checked in yesterday. We had a conference room full of goodies and a hotel room reserved for everyone to relax in, leave their stuff, and eat and drink. I understood that everyone checking in was unhappy not to have a room ready, but it also wasn't like they had no where to go. There were also certain reservations that were being held under one name and paid for by a company credit card. This was a tad confusing because Group A was being held under the name Batman (not really) and Batman's card was paying for everything, but we still needed a credit card from each guest for incidentals. Group B was being held under Superman, but Superman was not paying for the rooms so we needed to swipe each person's card and charge it.

This brings us to Mrs. Bitch (I know I usually make up a more clever name, but this is more accurate). Mrs. Bitch was with Group A. Mrs. Bitch showed up sometime around 2:30pm and was told we did not have a room ready for her. At 4:45pm I was FINALLY able to get Mrs. Bitch and her husband into a room. Mrs. Bitch was clearly unhappy and I understood her frustration. I asked for a credit card for incidentals. She was a bit taken aback and I explained that the card would not be charged (I wasn't even swiping it into the computer for god's sake -- I was simply copying the numbers into her reservation) unless she and her husband ordered something, put something on their room bill, etc etc. I gave them their keys and sent them on their way. I forgot to click "check-in" until they were gone and when I did, Batman's credit card (the card that was paying for the room) declined. Oh shit. I told my supervisor, Cookie, and we found that Batman's card was only authorizing on 3 of his 10 reservations. The other 7 were declining. Cookie told me to go ahead and authorize Mrs. Bitch's card until Batman arrived and could provide a new form of payment. I went back into the reservation and found, to my horror, that, when the card declined, I had closed out the screen without saving my changes. Thus, Mrs. Bitch's credit card was not saved in her reservation and there was no payment for the room. Cookie told me we would deal with it whenever Batman arrived.

The rest of the afternoon remained this chaotic. People tried to check-in, we tried to get them into rooms, and it was just all very sloppy and made me miss the efficiency of my old hotel. Around 6pm Mrs. Bitch came up to the front desk, making a beeline for me. Her eyebrows were pinched together, her mouth was tight, and you could feel the hatred pouring out of her.

She motioned to a group of Letter Carriers sitting in the lobby. "That woman says you didn't take her card at check-in and I want to know why you took mine."

"That was just for incidentals," I said, "your card will not actually be charged unless you put something on the room."

"But why was mine taken and hers wasn't?"

"Every reservation is different. I promise that your card is not going to be charged. I didn't even swipe it into the computer."


Now, I'm just going to take a moment and say that my tolerance for being bullied is at an all time low. The shit I have gone through at graduate school this past year has made me very sensitive and a bit bitter at feeling like I'm being jerked around or walked on and, let's face it, I don't need this summer job. Thus, I was a bit more casual (and in the end: snippy) with Mrs. Bitch than I ever would have been at my Mackinac hotel (Cindy, if you're reading this, I'm sorry).

I leaned over the counter to look at the group of Letter Carriers. "What woman are you talking about?" I asked.

"That woman." She pointed to a lady with red hair.

"Honestly," I said, feeling a bit fed-up, "I did not check her in. Out of the people under Batman's name I only checked you in so no, I did not take her card because I did not check her in. We are supposed to take a credit card for incidentals and I cannot help it if whoever checked her in did not do that."

"Well that's just really bad management. You should all be doing the same thing!"

"I absolutely agree. We should all be doing the same thing and I am really sorry that we aren't. Two of us are brand new -- it's our second day -- and we're still learning. I am really sorry that it's all been so chaotic."

"I just want to let you know how angry I am," No shit, Sherlock. "I have never seen a place so disorganized."

"I agree with you. This has been really awful."

"You shouldn't take my card unless you're taking EVERYONE'S card."

I leaned towards her. "Look," I said, "I am going to be honest with you. I messed up. Batman's card declined while I was trying to check you in and when it did that, I should have hit 'save,' but I didn't, and your card was wiped from our system. You card is not in our computer at all."

"And yet you took MY card and not her's?!"

"Again, I did not check her in. And your card is not in our computer whatsoever."

"I am really angry about this. ALL OF THIS."

"I totally get that and I think you should be because the way everything was handled today just sucks. I can offer you a voucher for two free drinks in our restaurant -- actual alcohol, not just like a coke or something. I am really sorry, but this is literally all I can give you and we're actually not even supposed to give these out."

The woman took the drink ticket and stared at me. It was clear she was calculating something behind her beady little eyes, but I couldn't figure out what. I had just told her that her card information wasn't saved so there was no way she was getting charged for the room. Even if she was charged (which she couldn't be without handing over a credit card again), her company would obviously pay her back so it wasn't like she was losing any money on this. I was giving her coveted free drink tickets and sincerely agreeing with her in her anger. What more did she want??

She studied the drink tickets. "If it were up to me," she said, "I wouldn't stay here."

"I don't blame you," I replied.

"I am going to recommend that we never stay here again."

"As you should."

"The check-in process was awful."

"I agree with you 120%."

"If it were up to me, I would leave tonight."

At this point, my tolerance meter exploded and I just wanted her gone before my anger began to match hers. "I get that," I said, "and again, I am really sorry, but I have done everything in my power to make you happy. Obviously nothing is going to work so I have nothing else to say to you." And then I turned away from her and waited on another guest.

I was shaking at this point. This woman's anger had gotten under my skin so much that all I could think was Screw this. I don't need this job. I can just leave and have an actual summer break. I don't need this. I don't need to be treated like this. I'm unhappy at grad school, so why be unhappy even when I'm not there? Screw these people.

Luckily, I didn't exactly abandon ship immediately and felt a bit better as I hung out with my coworkers and met some nicer guests (although, I won't lie, the ratio was about 70:30 for cranky vs nice). Cookie told me that the craziness of today -- being short staffed in housekeeping, not having rooms ready on time, and having disgruntled guests -- is not unusual for this property or for Estes Park in general. So that's...not encouraging.

Later that night, Cookie took me on a tour of the property. We walked through the kitchen, the storage area, accounting, the conference center, etc. The Elk Inn is made up of three buildings: two buildings of rooms and the conference center. Cookie and I entered on the first floor of Building 2 and started to walk down the hallway towards a group of people when suddenly I heard, "And she took MY card for incidentals, but not anyone else's." I froze and whispered to Cookie, "That's the bitch." We both stood there for a moment, unseen by Mrs. Bitch as she repeated, "She took MY card, but no one else's!" I struggled between wanting to turn around and run or walk up and say, "Hey! That's a lie, just FYI, and you know it. Also, it was your husband's credit card, not your own, because you're one of those women whose only identity is through their husband, which I know because when I asked for your name at check-in you said 'Mrs. Kenneth Rotolo*,' which is clearly not your name. So, if you have a problem, let's do this RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. SO HELP ME I WILL PUSH YOU INTO A HERD OF ELK."

Instead, Cookie and I turned around and went out the back door. We went to Building 3 and entered on the basement level. He showed me the hotel rooms where a few employees had to live last summer when the dorms became too crowded. We started to go up a set of stairs when we heard voices. It was Mrs. Bitch again. She was still complaining about me, about the hotel, and just about life in general because she is clearly a sorry, bitter woman who has nothing better to do. I know that may make me sound bitter, but it's just true. Any sane human being knows that the person behind a desk is usually not the one with the power, or the one who is making your day harder than it should be. Instead, that person behind the desk is doing their job, they are trying to appease you as much as possible, and, basically, they are a face for you to yell at. Also, this woman was easily 50 years old. Grow up and find something else to talk about.

Cookie and I stayed at the bottom of the stairs and listened to Mrs. Bitch say how we gave her the "round around," how we had "manipulated" her, and then she said she was going to break something inside the hotel room and "just say that I found it that way. How would they know?" The person who was with her said, "Yeah, but they have your credit card on file so I wouldn't risk it," and Mrs. Bitch responded sadly, "Damn. I know. I forgot about that." Yeah -- and you also forgot that I told you I didn't save your card information. MAYBE IF YOU WOULD LISTEN TO OTHER PEOPLE INSTEAD OF ONLY LISTENING TO YOURSELF YOU WOULD REMEMBER THAT.

After listening to this woman for about five minutes, my anger subsided slightly. Hearing that woman fabricate my conversation with her (she claims that she asked to check into her room and I said, "Absolutely not!") and bitch over and over about the hotel and the front desk staff -- I began to feel sorry for her. What a horrible and lonely life she must have to get so angry about a sloppy check-in process. No one got hurt. Her bank account wasn't drained. She wasn't sent outside to wait in the cold for hours. In fact, she was offered a room with her "friends" and given free booze and a fruit parfait. She was even given two vouchers for free drinks AND she wasn't even paying for her hotel room (also, she's from Colorado Springs, so it's not like she flew here or traveled a great distance). And yet, a sloppy check-in process ruined her entire day and I am going to go ahead and assume her entire week. In fact, I bet she will talk about this for the next year or any time someone mentions Estes Park. What a truly sad and angry life she must lead. On top of all of that, her face looks like an angry emu. 

Sorry. I couldn't resist! 

By the end of the night, everyone had felt Mrs. Bitch's wrath. Before Cookie and I ran into her in the hallway/stairwell, Mrs. Bitch had been in the lobby yelling to her friends, "Fuck this hotel! This hotel is the worst! I will never stay here again!" Batman, who had finally showed up, told her to calm down and that everything would be fixed in the morning. He explained that he had forgotten to up the credit limit on their company card and that that was why his card declined. According to Apple, Batman said, "You won't be charged for the room. I will fix it all in the morning and the front desk staff has been helping me out." Mrs. Bitch responded, "Fuck. This. Hotel. We will never stay here again!" That's fine with us, Mrs. Bitch. Your presence will not be missed!

*People who are super mean and ugly do not get the liberty of having their name changed in this blog.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Summer 2015: Pigs, Balls, and Elk

Hello dear readers! After an almost a six month hiatus I am back! Back on the road, back in a National Park, and back to blogging. I'm sorry I took such a long break. I won't go into too much detail, but basically grad school threw a few unexpected roadblocks my way (which have yet to be unblocked) and I found myself stretched very thin between that unexpected problem, keeping up with schoolwork, and trying to stay on-task with my freelance writing. That being said -- now it is summertime and the living is easy! Or, rather, easy-ish since I still have to deal with that damn roadblock, but oh well. Now is no time to think about that! Instead, let's jump right into the new trials and tribulations of this nomadic twentysomething year old.

I left the state of Georgia two days ago with my father, a packed Odysseus (my car), and two Garmin GPS systems. Did you know that most GPS systems only contain maps for half of the country? My dad's had the eastern United States in it and mine had the western. My dad's GPS could not fathom anything past the Mississippi River and mine just floated in space while I drove through Atlanta, trying to make sure I made the correct turns. Dad and I went north of GA a little ways and then headed straight west to Estes Park, Colorado, where I will be working as a Front Desk Clerk at a hotel we will call the Elk Inn (and just to throw this out there now -- that is not a code name for the famous Stanley Hotel).

Our drive went pretty well until we hit Kansas and, while beautiful, I found myself missing the cornfields and random mosque sightings of Indiana. Kansas was sunny and warm -- about seventy degrees. By the time we reached Colorado the temperature had dropped a bit and I felt silly in my flip flops and running shorts, but not totally insane. The next morning it was almost forty degrees...and sleeting...

Colorado has not quite been what I was expecting. For starters, there is snow -- everywhere. Estes park is a little over 7,500 ft high. I hear it "snows all summer" at 8,000 ft, but that Estes can get a sprinkling here and there. My leg sank calf-deep in a snow bank today and word on the elk-lined street is that we are supposed to get a foot of snow tonight. This is a sprinkling?! I feel like the two kids from that YouTube video: It's raining. No, it's sprinkling. No, it is actually snowing.

When dad and I arrived at the Elk Inn I checked-in with my new boss and was given a very brief rundown of the next few days: I will be sleeping in a room in the hotel until I clear my drug test on Monday. My boss pointed to numbered squares on a map of the hotel. "You're going to be in this building," he said, drawing a blue highlighter circle around a rectangular building that was adjacent to the rest. "It's empty right now so it'll just be you in that building." I wanted to look at him and ask, "Have you learned nothing from The Shining??" Nevertheless, I accepted the key and went to check it out.

After this brief check-in, Dad and I drove around the corner to the employee housing. The housing is a long, narrow, rectangular building. There is a small sitting room and afterthought kitchen by the entrance and then rows of doors leading to bedrooms. I found my bedroom, knocked (because I have a roommate who has already been here for a month), and let myself in. The only word I can think to describe the room is "ramshackle." First off, the doorknob just hangs from its hole in the door. It's not actually functional. There were two double beds, but it was hard to tell which one was currently being used and which was not. The room was dark except for a small, dim lamp on a tiny table between the two beds. The bathroom fan was on even though no switch was thrown and the whole place was just dark, dingy, and looked like the kind of hotel room where drug rings are busted. My heart immediately sank and I started to think, This may not work out. On my way out of Drug Ring Central I ran into three other seasonal employees, two of which will be working at the front desk with me.

My housing! Just kidding. This is the condemned building behind the hotel that I thought was my housing and even tried to get into one of the rooms. Luckily, my actual housing is behind this building, but I am not sure which looks shabbier. 

Not wanting to waste our day, Dad and I grabbed some lunch and then headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. It started to snow as we pulled up outside the Visitor Center. Dad laughed and said, "Isn't this great?" I scowled and mentally calculated how long I would have to stay in Colorado in order to tell people, "See? I tried! It just didn't work out. Darn."

Although snow-covered and feeling like the middle of winter, the Rockies are beautiful. We saw some elk, drove to about 9,000 ft, and felt the impact of the altitude after climbing up a small hill.

Some photos from Rocky Mountains Trip #1
After driving around winding roads for a few hours, Dad and I headed back to the hotel to rest a while before dinner. I decided to explore the hotel a bit and began following signs to the Fitness Center, but somehow missed it and ended up in the front lobby. This was fortuitous because two of the three people I had met earlier were working and I was able to chat with them. The guy asked me what I thought about the housing. I hesitated, trying to think of something nice to say, and the girl finally spoke for me: "It sucks, doesn't it?" I breathed a sigh of relief, happy that if I am going to be miserable, at least I can commiserate this misery with others. 

Also, brief side note -- while talking to my boyfriend on the phone, I stood at the end of the hotel's second floor hallway and watched people walking in and out of the hotel. The Elk Inn accepts pets and I watched this walk inside:

 Apparently this is a therapy animal: Ziggy the Piggy.

Dad and I ate at the Elk Inn's restaurant for dinner. I am allowed one meal during every shift that I work this summer so I was anxious to see what my options would be. Turns out they are fairly limited, but the food wasn't bad. Our waitress, also a new employee, was from Minnesota and asked if we would like the fried Rocky Mountain oyster appetizer that was on special. Islanders who are not known to pass up seafood, Dad and I said yes, but regretted this decision as the oysters tasted horrendous. Each bite was chewy and bitter and had an odd burnt flavour to it. Obviously, being over 900 miles away from the nearest ocean, we didn't expect much, but these were just plain weird. Still, they didn't taste like they had gone bad and we were compelled to finish the ten between us because a) who wastes oysters? and b) we didn't want to be rude (although I'll admit the islander in me was going, How did you mess these up so egregiously?). When the waitress asked how they were my dad responded, "Were those actually oysters?" The girl look confused. "I think so," she said. "Did they not taste like oysters?"

"They were a little strange," I admitted.

"And they were flat," Dad said, "oysters are normally thicker."

The girl nodded. "I've never actually had oysters before so I wouldn't know."

"Are they supposed to be fresh?" I asked, genuinely curious as to whether there were salt water refineries in Colorado. I remembered a couple sitting behind us at the restaurant from the previous night (our first night in Colorado) eating oysters on the half-shell. Maybe Colorado was trying to reap the benefits of expensive seafood.

The girl said she found the concept of Rocky Mountain oysters strange, too, but assumed they came out of the ocean and were frozen.

Dad and I then headed over to a grocery store to pick up some things for breakfast. We ran into the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine and by the time we headed back to the hotel it was snowing...again. The predication was a foot of snow by 4 a.m.

Before bed, I called my boyfriend again and told him about the rest of the day. I started to tell him about the Rocky Mountain oysters and he stopped me: "You didn't eat those, did you?"

"I know, I know," I said, knowing he's as much of a seafood snob as I am (basically meaning, if you're not within an hour of the ocean then you can't call it "fresh"), "we thought we'd give it a shot."

"Those aren't oysters."

"Not fresh oysters. They were probably frozen beforehand --"

"No. Those are not oysters."

"...what are they?"


After much "what? no they're not!" I looked it up on Google and found the horrendous truth: Rocky Mountain oysters are fried bull, goat, or cow testicles, depending on what's on hand.

OH. MY. GOD. First, let's talk about how strange it is to eat something so disgusting, and be aware as you are eating it that it is disgusting, and yet you still eat it because you don't realize what it actually is (sort of like a placebo effect, but much more nauseating). Also, WHY were the testicles served with a traditional horseradish cocktail sauce? The kind you always see served with shrimp? That was clearly put there to fake out Colorado tourists and newbies into thinking that these are actual from-the-ocean, out-of-a-hard-shell, pearl-producing oysters.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. My first day in Estes Park and I have learned that I will be living in a crack house, there's snow on the ground and I am still wearing flip flops, there are pigs in my hotel, and I have had more balls in my mouth than I ever preferred to. Do I hear the faint sounds of Blue Ridge banjo plucking?

Feeling super unsure and super cold outside of Estes.