Help wanted

There must be a lot of earthmoving going on in there.

Which is the only logical explanation, if you’re wondering why a local motel in the northern part of this city has a sign outside that says “Dump Truck Drivers Wanted.”

Which is a great way to advertise your motel, and what a three-hour stay might do to the earth under your feet. So it may not be that funny, after all. So maybe I should just stop snickering.

We tend to underestimate the marketing skills of motels. We don’t expect them to go beyond billboards advertising three-hour specials, with rates shouting for attention as if someone with the urge really stopped to consider the prices.

I am in the grips of passion, Maria, and I know I must have you now, but the other place we passed cost 20 pesos less. Going back on your tracks is unlikely, and not out of superstition.

Looking at those billboards, you’d think they were gasoline stations with pump prices and oil change rates… And maybe I should just stop there because I’m not going there, where the naughty possibilities are about to lead me. Suffice it to say that these are filling stations of an entirely different kind. You don’t have to start zero-zero, Sir. You can pretty much start anywhere you want.

So you can understand how refreshing a “Dump Truck Drivers Wanted” sign can be, marketing-wise. “Guaranteed No Brownouts” was getting a bit old. And a bit odd. People with the urge to enter a motel are worried about power failures of an entirely different kind.

And everybody’s having midnight specials. So that was getting a bit tired, too. And people were beginning to question why a motel should reward people who stay overnight instead of go home, unless it was for stamina. They should be charging these showoffs more and subsidize the rates of those who are honest enough to confess to needing just a short time.

And not one motel has ever taken up the very intelligent suggestion to advertise its great food. That would give people a great excuse for going there, so maybe they’ll stop ducking in taxis when they’re about to make that sudden turn. I went there for the fricassee. It’s like reading Playboy for the articles.

I used to wonder why motels didn’t make themselves more discreet. I mean, why all the lighted signs and billboards to welcome couples who are about to remove themselves from the state of grace? Don’t clients prefer the anonymity?

I got my answer last week and once again, I was wrong about motels. You see, I live in the southern part of the city, and there’s a very discreet motel nearby. If you didn’t know it was one, you’d never suspect it was there. No lighted signs. No shouting billboards. In fact, if you’re going there, you’re liable to miss the entrance. Even in daylight.

Which was exactly what happened to that taxicab we were following along that road. It missed the entrance. In broad daylight. So it stopped in the middle of the street, a few feet from the entrance. It didn’t know whether to back up or to make a U-turn. The cars behind were honking their horns. And the distressed lovers were ducking in their seat.

I know. But the embarrassment was only half the problem. Inside our own car, my wife and I were imagining the conversation of the lovers. We should have gone north, the man was saying. The woman would have none of it: Maybe it’s a sign, my love. Maybe it’s not God’s will.

And you thought a power outage was your biggest problem.

SunStar Cebu
18 November 2004

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