A bad night at the paranormal hotel.


61 Dodge Patrol Car by Greg Gjerdingen (edited)

I had a rough night at the paranormal hotel.

For those of you that don’t know, the hotel where I work is a like a hybrid of a flea-bag hotel, a 1940s-style rooming house, and a budget motel for low-income travelers. (In form if not function, though, it is technically a modern multistory hotel, located just beyond the edge of St. Paul.) At the hotel, we get all kinds. I’ve seen a lot go down at this place. Some of it has been good; much of it has been sad; a little of it has been frightening. I call it the paranormal hotel not because it’s particularly haunted but because it’s such a strange place — one that absolutely captures the essence of the literal definition of paranormal:

Para- / par-ə / Prefix. ”Alongside, near, beyond, altered, contrary to.”
normal / nawr-muhl / Adjective. “Conforming to the standard; usual; regular; natural.”
-ist / Ist / A suffix of nouns. “A person who practices or is concerned with something, or holds certain principles, doctrines, etc.”

Last night, I had three distinct unpleasant encounters there. In this one shift, I was:

Blindsided by sideways, passive misogyny:

First, a regular guest decided to share his vacation photos with me. He’s always been quite courteous and dignified with me before. He looks and (usually) acts like any late-middle-aged, blue collar business owner from Minnesota. I didn’t think there’d be a problem with his pictures, but apparently he’d spent the week at a motorcycle rally in Florida, and the photos were of scantily clad young women. I was okay with the one of the girl wearing a peacock-feather-themed body paint instead of a shirt. (I mean, that’s interesting, right?) I was less impressed by the shots of him with a stripper’s groin pressed into his face. It felt icky to be shown such a thing by a man who is actually a stranger.

Why don’t more 60 year old men feel weird about having sexual fantasies about and (purchased) encounters with teenage girls? And why did this particular guy think showing his trophies to ME was a good idea?

I congratulated him on having a good time and disappeared to fold laundry.

Accused of racism:

Later, a woman who has a $700+ balance owing implied I was racist when I tried to collect some kind of significant payment from her. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been attentive to the clearly difficult situation her family is attempting to deal with. There are two polite and well-dressed brothers, who seem to have some sort of mental deficit, staying at the hotel. They are never a problem. There are two sisters who are struggling to come up with enough money to keep the two men fed and housed. All of the siblings in question are in their late 50s to late 60s. Last night, I called one of the women over to the desk so that I could let her know that my boss is getting close to the point of evicting the brothers. She promised that she was coming back in a couple of hours with a payment of more than $500. I was relieved — for the family and for my boss. (For the record, my boss has been more than just patient and understanding … he also heavily discounts the room.)

At roughly the appointed time, the OTHER sister, whom I’d previously only spoken to on the phone, came in to pay $60. I was confused and surprised. I told her that her sister had been in earlier and promised a larger payment. The woman standing in front of me said, “Sister? I don’t have a sister. You must have me confused with some other black person.”

I stood my ground, called her by her first name, and reminded her of some of our previous phone conversations. Then she told me that her sister would not have said such a thing and that she was in the car, so she could confirm that. She went out, came back in and said, “She never said that.”

I accepted the $60.

Confronted by direct, active misogyny:

About an hour before I was scheduled to go home, a tall, slim, construction-crew type guy came in to the lobby. The scent of whiskey clung to him. He was carrying a bag of fast food and a cell phone. He strode up to the counter and said, “I have a room here.”

After a few moments of reasonably civilized – if slurry – conversation, it became clear that he though he’d already paid for the room, via Priceline and his credit card. The moment I told him that we don’t list with Priceline, but only Bookings.com (where you can make a reservation but not where you can pay before checking in) things started to get ugly.

He showed me the screen of his cell which, indeed, appeared to show a confirmation message from Priceline. He was so convinced that he’d already paid, that I called one of my bosses to confirm that the policy hadn’t changed recently. While I was talking to her, the guy’s swearing intensified. Over-hearing his belligerent tone, my boss offered to speak to him for me. He listened briefly to her, then started shouting into the receiver. When he told her she should get her lazy ass down here to see his confirmation for herself, I knew the police were going to have to get involved. When he threw the phone back at me, I asked my boss to make the call. I knew she would be watching the security feed of everything that was about to happen, but also knew there was really nothing she could do for me besides calling the police and hitting the record button.

At that point, I just wanted him out of the hotel. I told him the cops had been called. If I couldn’t get him to leave, I wanted to prevent him from escalating too far before the police arrived.

In the next twenty minutes all of the following things happened, most of them repeatedly. (Also, there were a ludicrous number of f-bombs in his rant.)  I’ve listed the events in something like real-time order. (I admit, I’m a little fuzzy on the exact sequence.)

  • He told me stop “batting my eyes” at him and to stop grinning. ( I’m pretty sure I was doing neither. I suppose I was trying to not antagonize him further with my body language; I remember continuing to call him “sir” no matter what he called me.)
  • He called me a lazy bitch who didn’t understand what a real day’s work was because I sit in a chair all day.
  • He accused me of being a scamming whore who was stealing his hard-earned money.
  • He demanded that I give him his money back. Right. Fucking. Now.
  • He leaned as far over the counter as he could. as often as he could, in order to better loom.
  • He put his hands on the desk, and made as if to boost himself over the counter.
  • He began a litany of, “I’m just going come back there and get it.”
  • He said. “I’ll punch you right in your smirk, you cu**.”

By now I was standing well back from the counter, near the door into the hallway, in case he made good on his threat. I was keeping my gaze fastened to his face, to best gauge his next move, but I was also paying attention to the front door, where I hoped to see a cop appear at any second.

Instead, two young men came in. At first I thought this was a good thing. Then it became clear that they were with the psycho on the other side of my desk and that they were drunk too. Mercifully, they seemed to know that First Guy was out of control. Their efforts to calm him, however, back-fired. With an audience, First Guy got more verbally abusive than ever. I noticed that one of the semi-sane guys was holding onto a fistful of  First Guy’s tee shirt very tightly, literally and forcefully restraining him from coming over the counter.

I explained the situation to the other two men while First Guy continued to lunge at the counter and cuss at me.

Third Guy said, ” That’s okay. I’ve got money. I’ll pay for the room.”

I told them – in the most soothing, unconfrontational voice possible — that I would not be able to rent a room to any of them. Not after what had already happened.

Second Guy said I had to, because they didn’t have a car and had arrived in a cab which had left long ago.

I said I just couldn’t do it, and that the cops were on the way, and it would be best if they just left.

Third Guy said in a low, deadly growl, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

It didn’t take a genius to see that I was about to have two psychos on my hands.

That’s when the light from a cop car’s cherries strobed through the window. First Guy peeled away from the other two and walked out, brushing right past the cop that was coming in. The two semi-sane guys continued to stand at the counter, as if nothing had happened, trying to get me to rent them a room. The cop waited patiently behind them. I had to ask them to step aside so that I could speak to the officer. They went outside.

I told the cop what was going on. He went outside.

The next thing I knew, the cop car was pulling away. I ran to the two alternate entrances and locked them so no one could come in off the street without me knowing. I counted out the cash drawer and made an early drop. I spoke to my boss who wanted to know if I was okay. I stepped into the side room and let a few tears come. Then I went outside, very cautiously, to have a smoke.

Someone was standing behind a tree at the far end of the parking lot. I couldn’t tell how many people were there, nor could I be sure that it was any of the men I’d been dealing with. What I could determine was that the person or people were standing very near my truck. I realized I wouldn’t be able to leave at shift’s end without revealing which vehicle in the full parking lot was MINE.

How it all ended okay:

Now, I could have had the Mike the Boxer walk me to the truck when he came to take over the desk duties. And, if the mysterious figures WERE the drunks I’d been dealing with, they would not have been able to follow me home or anything, BUT I really didn’t want to set myself up for some future vandalism, on some future work-night.

I called my newly-licensed, 19 year old son, and he was still awake. This was a break, because I knew he was sick and he might have turned in early. I told him about the guys in the parking lot and explained that I wanted to just leave the truck where it was, safely anonymous, until morning. He was more than willing to come pick me up at the back door of the hotel at midnight. He was asking me if I wanted him to come sooner when the two less-threatening men came back into the lobby.
I said, ” Oh, it is them, and they are coming back in.”
He said, ” I’ll get Dad and we’ll be right there.”

It was Second Guy and Third Guy, of course. They said they had been waiting for a cab, but that it wasn’t coming so they needed me to rent them a room.

Because we live very close to the paranormal hotel, I’d only been talking to the two semi-sane drunks for a few minutes when my husband and son came in. My men-folk took a seat as if they were just a couple of guys waiting their turn. They exuded calm awareness. The drunk men were telling me that the other guy — the foul-mouthed, violent one — was gone so I should go ahead and rent them a room. They said he’d disappeared and the cops had never even seen him.

I was able to convince them that I could not and would not rent to them. After making a quick call to find out if a nearby hotel had a room for them, I directed them down the street. They weren’t happy with me, but they eventually accepted my decision. (At least I think they did. As far as I know, they did walk to the other hotel.)

Even though the danger had passed, we opted to have my husband drive my truck home so that no one would see me getting into to it. (We still don’t know where First Guy went.) My boy and I took the car, which they had parked around back.

Why this shift bothered me so much:

Folks who have been readers of the blog for a while know that I’ve been through some tough shifts at the paranormal hotel — shifts that were probably more dangerous than last night’s. This one, though, shook me deeply and, at first, I didn’t know why.

When we got home at about ten after midnight,  my husband and son needed to get to sleep, so they pretty much went straight to bed. I, on the contrary, was wide awake and totally keyed up. Luckily, my daughter (who lives 1,500 miles away) was available for a conversation about what had happened. She used to work as a clerk at an all-night gas station, so she really understood the feelings I was having. I realized while we were talking that I’d never felt targeted at the paranormal hotel before. I’ve been a witness to some terrible things, and I’ve intentionally inserted myself into some risky situations to help someone else, but I’d never been the sole focus of someone’s unreasoning rage in the way that I was last night.

It wasn’t until my daughter pointed out that verbal assault is still assault that my reaction made sense to me.

I think it was that word. That word which I just now decided to type out without using an * to take the place of  a couple of letters. Cunt. I used to think that the word cunt didn’t bother me so much. It’s just a word for female genitalia, right? I’m a feminist. Why would a synonym for a vagina be an insult?

Of course, it’s not. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the word itself. But when it is spewed, along with droplets of spittle, from the mouth of a man who really wants to punch you — specifically YOU — in the face, it’s terrifying.

Such is life at:


main photo credit: Greg Gjerdingen Licensed CC BY 2.0 (Attribution 2.0 Generic)
It has been cropped to square, and Pixlr-ized.
note: This post may have been re-titled and/or edited from its original form,
for inclusion on The Paranormal Hotel homepage.


20 Comments on “A bad night at the paranormal hotel.”

  1. Judith Nickels says:

    Renae, As disquieting as these events were, I am so glad you were not hurt or pulled deeper into these chaotic lives. One good thing, your advantage over those who had the power to cause such upset, is that you have the ability to write about these episodes in a concise and vivid way. I know you have a long to-read list, but when you get a chance I recommend taking a look at “The Gift of Fear, and other Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence” by Gavin de Becker. Best wishes.

    • Thank you, Judith. The book you recommend sounds fascinating. I was just looking at its listing over at Amazon. This is the first thing I saw:

      “True fear is a gift.
      Unwarranted fear is a curse.
      Learn how to tell the difference.”

      That’s intriguing and, in fact, it fit’s into a larger theme I’ve been exploring in my life. (I have a little anxiety issue sometimes – especially when it comes to worrying about my loved ones.)

      I’ve always trusted my instincts, and when it comes to genuinely dangerous situations, I think that’s worked out well for me. Refining my ability to tell the difference seems like a great next step for me.

  2. Oh my goodness be careful and keep close to those you love. But you’ve told your story so well… I’d like to ask for more but I don’t want to do that to you. Yikes Renae.

    • I do cling to the security of my family, Juliette. They are just so GOOD in a world that can be so bad.

      I don’t mind writing about this kind of thing. It distances me and puts me back in control. With this story, there’s just not much more to tell. After Halloween, I am planning to create a home page here at the blog for stories of the paranormal hotel. I’ve got several buried in the archives already and I think I’ll be more likely to add more stories, as they happen, if they have a home waiting for them.

      I worry sometimes that I’m being too dramatic when I want to write about what happens there. (That’s been kind of a theme in my life … the idea that I’m too dramatic.) I think I need to partition the serious essays from the more light, quirky, and flippant(?) stuff here.

  3. Auntie Doris says:

    There’s some wicked so and so’s in this world dear. You did well to keep your head during that experience. But you have written about it so well, so every cloud has a silver lining.

  4. Julxrp says:

    Glad to see you were not hurt. I hope you never find yourself in that situation again; but even if you do, the second time round isn’t nearly as bad as the first.

    • What an interesting thought.

      I’m not certain that will be true for me. (Though probably for most.) I have this way of muting this kind of thing when I think back to it. I’ve been trying to remember some of the really scary encounters I had when I was in my 20s and bar tending at a dive bar. I KNOW some bad stuff happened, but I don’t have visceral memories connected with them.

      On the other hand, I’m certain you’re right at a deeper, more subconscious level. At least for the next long while, I won’t be so shocked.

  5. And three against one to boot. Glad you are safe! But I’d invest in a taser if I were you. Anyone comes over the counter, hit ’em with a few volts.

    • I’ve thought about pepper spray. It’s funny how the tazer just doesn’t occur to me. I suppose that’s because there was no such thing back in my barmaid days. I think I will look into them. It might be a good idea for there to be one behind the counter.

      I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have touched it (if one had been available to me) in this situation. I’d be afraid that “threatening” him would have triggered him into coming over. Maybe if it were easily grab-able in the side room.

      Something to think about, certainly.

  6. zipcoffelt says:

    Stay safe, Renae.

  7. Ray Yanek says:

    This really disturbed me as well. This should never happen to anyone, especially a woman, especially at the hands of a man. Looking back not just at the C-word he used, but at all the words, makes me physically ill. This is exactly the kind of language and intimidation that occurs with spousal abuse, and just the abuse of women in general. You were right, this was verbal abuse in its purest, ugliest form and thank God it didn’t escalate. Stay safe and get the taser the other person spoke of!

    • It was just so … alien to me. I mean – thanks to the kind of work I’ve always done – I know that this kind of man does exist. For the most part, though, I have to say that even drunk men are usually better than this. I don’t judge so harshly when I see two people EXCHANGING this kind of vitriol. It’s rare to see someone escalate so quickly and profoundly all by himself.

      Now that I’ve written that, I think I understand a little better why this one shook me so much. It wasn’t anything like an argument that I could understand; it was sheer rage. That kind of thing has to come from a deep well. Anyone who has that well bubbling inside him is dangerous.

  8. G. B. Marian says:

    I’m glad to know you are safe, and I commend you for standing your ground and conducting yourself so professionally while you were in such a state of terror. And props to your menfolk for being so quick to help you when you needed it. Gods bless you and your family.

    • Thank you. It’s funny. I was certainly very aware and wary but I don’t think the real fear hit until afterwards. When you’re in it, you just do, you know? I am extremely grateful for my guys and for the fact that we live so close to where I work.

  9. Yeesh! What a night! That would scare the Cr** out of me! *hugs* I’m glad you’re okay, Renae!

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